Silk is always a choice for dresses for antique dolls– whether dolls from the 1700s or from the 1930s– there were dolls that came in silk dresses. These were the top of the line dolls, as even then, silk was expensive. Though expensive, silk was for many years the only choice if you didn’t want a wool or cotton dress. Fine ladies’ dresses and the fancy dresses of little rich girls were made of silk, so the finest quality dolls representing either also wore silks.
In sewing heirloom doll dresses in silk, it is important to know there are many varieties and weights of silk. Some is heavy and used for home decor. Some so delicate it will almost float to the floor if you drop it. Silk weight is usually described as momme, or MM. Here is a description of that:
“What is momme weight? In simplest terms, momme weight describes the weight of 100 yards of silk, 45 inches wide, in pounds. So, if a fabric is listed with a momme weight of 8mm, it means that 100 yards of the fabric weighs 8 pounds. Many silk dresses and other silk clothing items will be around 8mm in weight. Higher quality silks tend to be 14, 15 or 16mm or higher. Most of LovaSilk bedding is 19mm or 19 pounds in weight per 100 meters.”
If you buy silk, that still doesn’t tell you much until you feel the different weights in your hands. To help you out–plain china silk, which you have heard of, is usually very thin and soft and is 5 mm weight. If it is just a little more substantial, it would be 8 mm. that is not too horrible to work with for doll dresses— but 10 is easier and still very delicate.
For doll dresses, I frankly don’t like to work with any silk but dupioni, which is not a smooth but a slubbed silk. This too can vary in weight so a good idea to request samples if you can’t feel it. I have made mostly dresses for antique china or bisque head dolls with silk, but also made dresses for Cissy and the composition Patsy doll. Patsy did have some original factory dresses in silk, but the ones I have see were plain weave 8mm china silk. Click here to see an antique style dupioni silk dress, and here to see a dupioni silk Cissy dress, Click here to see an antique style dress of embroidered dupioni silk. The picture heading this post shows Patsy in her silk dress and the one accompanying this text shows an antique style silk dress and hat I made.
Feel free to leave questions or comments below.