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Dressmakers’ Tools

By Richard Sheaff

I recently came across a stunning example of Victorian “Artistic” decoration, on a dressmaker’s square, a 15-inch wide tool. It was registered in 1884 by B. C. Noel, and called “The Parisian Square”.

As so often happens in the world of ephemera, this object opened new doors to me, and I soon discovered that there are numerous other interesting tools used for dressmaking and other activities.

The Parisian Square is announced and explained in this 1884 clipping from The Yonkers Statesman:

There are quite a few similar French tinted real photo postcards out there, I find, but a quick search turned up no information on why most or all are titled “Viva Ste. Anne”. Perhaps she was the patron saint of sewing? Here is a little research project for anybody interested.

The “Dress Maker’s Magic Scale” is a visually interesting object, and came packaged together with a “Curvatures” scale and explanatory literature:

Another item of dressmaker ephemera is The Pickens Dressmaker’s Gauge, made of metal, copyrighted in 1915 by the International Educational Publishing Company:

These related items (below) were recently offered on eBay, described as patterns / tools to be used to make Civil War-era leg splints. (“James P. Wallace, MD, Inventor, and Proprietor”)

Sewing machines are a popular ephemera collecting category, but I suspect that dressmakers’ tools may be a new area worthy of some exploration by anyone interested!