Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design, Department of


First Advisor

Dr. Mary Alice Casto

Document Type


Second Advisor

Dr. Claire Nicholas

Date of this Version


Third Advisor

Dr. Katrina Jagodinsky


Smith, Alyssa, “Any Lady Can Now Learn to Cut Perfect Fitting Dresses: The Role of Pattern Drafting Systems in the Production of Women’s Dress, 1880–1900," (2022).


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Textiles, Merchandising, & Fashion Design, Under the Supervision of Professors Mary Alice Casto and Claire Nicholas. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2022

Copyright © 2022 Alyssa Smith


This research conveys findings from my MA thesis research focused on pattern drafting systems for women’s garments developed between 1880 and 1900. The study builds on the seminal work of Claudia Kidwell, who divided these systems into three categories: proportional, hybrid, and direct measure. To date, the study of this textile technology and how it positioned women and sewing in both domestic and professional spheres has received little scholarly attention, but pattern drafting technology transformed the possibilities for pattern creation and proportionate measurements, especially for home sewers. It also aided in the paper pattern and ready-made clothing industries. This research, therefore, contributes to the discussion of textile technologies, such as the sewing machine and paper pattern industries, through examination of an understudied technology. The goal of this research is to understand how pattern drafting systems, and the skills required to use them, were adapted to the ever-changing style of women’s clothing. It considers data collected from three methods typical of material culture studies and historiography: artifact analysis, content/visual analysis, and historical reproduction. Through this research more information come to light about the broader group of people potentially using these systems including dressmakers (professional and self-taught), home sewers and domestic servants. There was also a definite cost of knowledge associated with the different systems whether that be in relation to the quality or price for instruction. These systems were adapted over time to account for the changing styles and the needs of the users which can be seen through the increased and clarified instructions and markings printed directly on the systems and changes between different iterations of the same systems.

Advisor: Mary Alice Casto