Classic Children’s Clothes to Cherish – and To Pass Down

Classic Children’s Clothes to Cherish – and To Pass Down – something I’m finding I’m pretty passionate about.  Though dear Daughter turned her nose up at many of her smocked little dresses, saying she’d never use them on her own kids, these 2 garments my heart just HAD TO KEEP!  I freshly laundered and pressed them and guess what?  She NOW thinks they are just pretty precious and said she WILL put them on my granddaughter.  Guess actually having a little girl has changed her mind!  Anyway – it was a real treat to dig them out of the ‘Special Clothes’ Box and to examine my sewing skills of 35 years ago.  Join me on a trail of sewing memories……

Sewing Classic Clothes for Children by Kitty Benton

I still remember catching a glimpse of this beautiful book in a small private bookstore – had to be back in the early 1980’s.   I know I saved and invested in it, dreaming of all the lovely clothes it would help me make for the daughter for which we were praying.  We had been blessed to adopt our son as an infant in 1979.  The agency through which we worked wanted families to have 2 children, so we knew we were ‘on the list’.   Since asked, of course – we (or perhaps I should correctly say I) specified that a girl would be wonderful!  And yes, the book is STILL available – of course, on Amazon.  Check it out HERE.

Kitty Benton_book

I had done ‘American Smocking’, but had never tried English Smocking over folds, so with this book in hand, I gave it a try.  Here is my first ever sampler.  I believe the book even included some iron-on transfer dots for gathering up into the pleats over which the stitches were worked.  At any rate, this book and the sampler have been on my sewing room bookshelf ever since!


Alice in Wonderland Pinafore

I can tell from my measurements written in the book, that one of the first things I made using it was the Alice in Wonderland Pinafore my baby girl is wearing in this Easter 1983 portrait along with her big brother.  And yes, I made his suit! A memory from making one of his first little jackets and getting the buttonhole on the wrong side was deciding that I HAD to come up with a way to remember which side the buttonholes go on for a little boy (or men, for that matter.  My solution:  “Women are always right – therefore the buttonholes go on the RIGHT side of women’s clothing.”

Londa's children in clothing she made for Easter, 1983

Checking in at the Smithsonian website for why men’s buttonholes are on the left front…the answer agrees with what I learned in a college ‘History of Costume’ class…”Because male soldiers also often drew their weapons with their right hand, building their clothes with the buttons on the right side would have made it a lot easier to adjust and unbutton with their free left hand, Garber writes.” Read about it HERE.

Intrigued with my dressmaking skills that many years ago, I was impressed with how the Swiss embroidered lower trim into one of the skirt tucks.  Yep – wonderful directions in the book for doing so!

                                   pinafore_front   pinafore_back   tuck_directions 

I also remember now that the ruffles on this pinafore were my introduction to shaping shoulder ruffles from wide to narrow.  This principle learned from this book, carried over to my Heirloom Bonnet pattern ruffles when I started my pattern line 8 years later.

 curved_shoulder_ruffles   heirloom bonnet

Easter Dress Construction Details

The dress under the pinafore is also quite charming – a sweet teeny floral pattern on lightweight batiste….  Here are a few of the construction details:

  1.  Use of the selvage as the innermost edge of the self fabric double ‘facing’ at the back yoke as shown below.  This double layer takes the place of interfacing. the bias double neck ruffle stands up because it was placed on the outside, and finished to the inside with bias tape.

self fabric interfacing

2.  Back in those days, a serger had not yet entered my life, so I used miles and miles of Seams Great – a lightweight, nylon tricot binding that one could curve around an edge and zigzag on.  And YES – it is still available!  Find it HERE on my website.

3.  For tiny armhole finish, I simply trimmed close and zigzagged with a narrow zigzag, with a pretty long stitch length.  See it below.  This is a nice, soft finish for little arms IMHO.

armhole zigzag finish

First Birthday Smocked Dress

Since my first granddaughter will be turning 1 on August 7, it was her Mama’s 1-year dress that really sent my heart to the Special Clothing Box.

I honestly hadn’t remembered that I’d created it using this great book, but as you’ll see, I obviously had!  This is a very special dress, and one we’ll stage a photo of Kenzie in on her first birthday with the same stuffed dog her Mama had in a portrait – but you’ll obviously have to wait for a blog post update to see THAT photo! However, I did slip it on our ‘Kenzie’ the always moving baby last weekend – much to her distress.  However, I think she looks terrific in this sweet classic, smocked dress of her Mama’s created from Liberty of London cotton fabric  My daughter_insmockeddress   Kenzie_smocked_dress

So, here’s the dress in the Kitty Benton book.  And, you can see that I followed the smocking plate design to a T right from the book!   smocked_design_from_book

Honestly, I was amazed when I peeked inside the dress to see how beautifully I had lined/finished it on the inside!!!!!


Once again, concerned for my little girl’s comfort, I used the soft Seams Great to create the sleeve elastic casing.


And……..’Classic’ for Today Looks Like:

I’ve made next to nothing for my little granddaughter since she has SO MANY CLOTHES!  But, it didn’t take long for me to say  YES to creating whatever Mama asked…so here is the first ‘fitting’ on her Tutu.  You ca find the How-To’s all over Pinterest for these tutu’s.  It is just tulle attached to elastic with a larks head knot.  However, I found that making it nice and ‘poufy’, made the elastic stretch out.  More on THAT in another post once I finish this ensemble!

Here’s where I am at this writing, with an embellished Onesie and Shoes still to create…..

The Onesie shown was ordered from Amazon and hung off her little body terribly – and I HATE it.  Stay tuned to see what I design appropriate for a sweet,  petite little 1-year old!

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4 Responses

  1. Carolyn F. says:

    Our daughters must be about the same age and I made smocked and heirloom dresses for mine, too. I still have them all. When she got married three of her little nieces were flower girls and wore dresses I had made for my daughter when she was their age. The colors complimented each other and the wedding colors beautifully. I made her wedding dress also. Now she has a daughter and we have photographed her wearing a couple of her mother’s baby dresses. She wore her mother’s Baptism dress when she was Baptized. I made suits for my boys, too. Your son’s plaid looks very much like a suit I made my oldest one. I still have the suits, too. Such fun memories.

  2. Sofia Adams says:

    I sew a shirt for my 4 years old daughter and done embroidery on it. that was looking super cute on her 🙂

  3. eliza says:

    Women are always right! Now why didn’t I think of that. Brilliant. Thank you

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