Smocking: A History Part 2

Smocking: A History Part 2

Last week at the end of Smocking: A History Part 1, I left off with the smock as a men's work garment declining in popularity. At the same time, women's fashion was rejecting the corset, primarily for health reasons, and embracing a looser, flowing style of dress. Smocking worked perfectly to help control the fullness!

Dress from Liberty & Co. V&A Museum

Dress by Liberty & Co. V & A Museum

Liberty, which was founded in 1875, began to offer a dressmaking service and its 1894 fashion catalog showed several designs that included smocking.` In 1887, Weldon's published the first of four books on Practical Smocking stating: "When the rage for artistic dressing set in a few years ago, smocking was revived and brought into requisition for the ornamentation of ladies and children's summer costumes, for lawn-tennis dresses and holland blouses; and so greatly has it increased in favour that it is now a recognized style of fashionable dress." Inspired by the Kate Greenaway dresses, (see smocking on the child's outfit in the picture at the top of the post). Liberty followed up with a catalog called "Artistic Dress for Children."

Child's dress with smocking V & A Musuem 1890

Child's dress 1890 - V & A Museum

Smocking continued to be fashionable in the early twentieth century and the Butterick Pattern Company mentions it in a booklet published in 1902.

Caught Unawares

Captured Unawares, Caroline Patternson

With WWI styles changed and while smocking was still depicted, the styles were now simpler, and the Liberty 1916 catalog showed smocking used in working garments and children's clothes. By 1924, Mrs. J.D. Rolleston, states in The Embroideress, that smocking was applied "almost exclusively to garments worn by artists and children, the agricultural laborer and the shepherd having abandoned their beautiful smocks altogether, but they have left us a legacy of which we should be proud and which should form the basis and inspiration of all our modern smocking."

Smocked outfits from the 1930s V & A Museum

Children's outfits from 1930-35 V & A Museum

Smocking on women's blouses and children's outfits was extremely popular in the 1920s and 30s, again with Liberty leading the way. According to the Book of Smocking by Diana Keay, "it was the ambition of every mother to dress her daughter in a tana lawn dress with rich deep smocking."

Smocked Liberty Dress V & A Museum 1994

Smocked Dress made from Liberty Tana Lawn 1994 V & A Museum

Smocking continued to be popular in the 40s and 50s. In the 1950s factories making children's clothes sent the dresses out to workers to be smocked by hand. In 1956 Read introduced is Smock Gathering Machine which gathered 16 rows at once, and the chore of gathering the fabric into pleats could now be done by machine! Iron on smocking dots were offered with patterns for those who did not or could not own a pleater or "smock gathering machine." Instructions also explained that the sewing machine could be used to "mark" the fabric by running long basting stitches that all started in the same place, remove the basting and use the resulting holes in the fabric as marks to gather up the pleats. Smocking was taught by The National Federation of Women's Institutes in England, and The Chella Thornton Smocking Book was published in 1951 in both the United Kingdom and Canada. .

Penelope  Smocking Book

Penelope produced two pamphlets, and Grace Knott published English Smocking in 1962 in Canada.

The Chella Thornton and Grace Knott smocking books

In the 1970s artists discovered smocking and its textural qualities and started to use it in artistic designs apart from clothing. The Smocking Arts Guild of America was formed in 1979 in the United States to help preserve and foster the art of smocking, and smocking continued to be popular through the 70s and 80s. Smocking has always been connected to clothing and therefore in most situations to execute a smocking design, one needs to know how to sew and construct a garment. With the limitation, and then removal of sewing as a curriculum from most schools, smocking has not been as popular now in the 21st century. For those of us who love this art and want to continue to see it thrive, we face the difficulty of helping those who wish to learn, not only how to smock but also how to sew! It is my hope with a renewed interest in handmade items and a rejection of uniform, mass produced clothing, that there will be a renewed interest in smocking. The internet has raised new possibilities, making this art form accessible to those who want to learn how to smock, and hopefully will carry on the tradition. It is the goal of Pink Hollybush to help and encourage those who want to try this lovely form of stitching, to be successful in doing so! If you would like to learn how to smock, sign up for our Get Started Smocking Series and check out our Learn to Smock Course!

#smocking #sewinghistory #embroidery #Butterick #SAGA #sewingforchildren #sewingforwomen