Exercise 1.2 Substance and Story: Bed Jacket


There is no maker’s label on the article.

The bed jacket is cream cotton voile, with a very fine, open weave that renders it semi-transparent. Microscopic examination of the fibre shows that piece is made of cotton. The fibres show the characteristic twist of cotton.

Cotton reference.

Jacket fibre.

The threads of the embroidery are shiny and cream coloured. Each thread is made of many individual fibres.

Microscopic observation (200x) gave the following:


At this magnification, striations in the material are visible, but not well enough to leave no doubt. Further investigation with a burn test showed that the fibre burned completely away, even when the flame was removed, leaving very little ash, indicating the fibre is ‘artificial silk’ or rayon (Willard).

A textile such as this is best cared for by storing flat and loosely layering (to allow air circulation) with archival quality acid-free glassine or tissue in an acid-free archive box (Baker, 2008).

Production Method

The voile has been commercially woven.

The jacket is cut from one piece of fabric. The only seam is under the arms to the waist. The seams are machine sewn, with a narrow (¼”) enclosed (‘French’) seam. There is a matching tie, that threads through four large button holes at the back.


It is highly likely that Dorothy sewed this item, using her hand-crank Jones Family CS ‘Queen Alexandra’ hand-crank sewing machine the family still has in its possession. The machine is dated between 1916 and 1921 (Sewing Down Memory Lane); 1925 was the date of the last in the series.

There are two large hand-embroidered daisy motifs on each shoulder/lapel area. If the motif outlines were applied by embroidery transfer, there is no evidence of this remaining. The motifs are worked in satin stitch and stem stitch.

On the back, there are areas where the thread was carried between areas. The largest ‘carry over’ is about ½”. The embroidery is started and ended by leaving a short (¼”) tail that is woven back under the stitches. A couple of these tails are now hanging loose. As the thread is much thicker than the weave of the underlying voile, the individual holes where each stitich was made are visible.

The entire scalloped edge is finished with hand-embroidered button-hole stitch. The button-holes for the tie are also sewn this way.

No additional finish such as starch is present on the item.


See the notes about cotton in the write-up about the Collar. See the notes in the write-up about the Handkerchief for a discussion of rayon. The same notes apply here.

There is so much guess-work involved in tracing a textile such as this. If only Dorothy had kept a diary.


Visual Examination

The item is in very good condition, with only a few darkened areas from age and storage, and a couple of barely visible holes. The cloth is very lightweight and soft. The embroidery is pristine condition. This would indicate the item was not worn often. My guess is that it was sewn for Dorothy’s trousseau.

Again, I think this item dates from the 1920s. There are several examples with similar styling I’ve found that are dated from this era:

Front, Cotton, c. 1920s
Platform 785 Vintage (2009)

Back, Cotton, c. 1920s
Platform 785 Vintage (2009)

Silk, c. 1920s.
Zest Vintage

Silk, c. 1920s
Deja Vintage Boutique (2019)

Bed jackets were popular items in the 1920s, as can be seen in these articles:

Casino and Kyogle Courier, 1928

The Albury Banner and Wodonga Express, 1925, p. 14

(Click for a Larger Image)
Note: the bed jacket has a scalloped edge

Other Elements
The daisy bouquet is a traditional motif. Daisies symbolise innocence, purity freshness. They are often given to new mothers to symbolise ‘new beginnings; but, this would be just as appropriate for a new bride.

Flowers are an incredibly popular subject for embroidery in all eras.

I like to think Dorothy sewed this item for her trousseau. I chose this item, like the handkerchief, to accompany the wedding photo. The photo, the handkerchief and the bed jacket tell a story of preparations for joyful wedding a long time ago.

Baker, M. M. (2008). Caring for Your Textile Heirlooms.
Cooperative Extension Service, University of Kentuky, Department of Agriculture: Kentucky, USA
Viewed: https://fleming.ca.uky.edu/files/caring_for_your_textile_heirlooms.pdf, 12 May 2020.

Casino and Kyogle Courier (1928). ‘Fashion Notes – And So To Bed’ in Casino and Kyogle Courier, Sat 18 Feb,
Viewed: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/233782989?searchTerm=bed%20jacket%20pattern&searchLimits=l-state=New+South+Wales|||l-decade=192|||l-availability=y|||l-australian=y, 20 May 2020.

Deja Vintage Boutique (2019). Vintage 1920s Bed Jacket – Candy Pink Silk Beige
Viewed: https://www.etsy.com/au/listing/612598770/vintage-1920s-bed-jacket-candy-pink-silk?show_sold_out_detail=1&ref=nla_listing_details, 20 May 2020.

Flower Meaning (2020) The Daisy Flower: It’s Meanings and Symbolism,
Viewed: https://www.flowermeaning.com/daisy-flower-meaning/, 23 May 2020.

Grace Brothers (nd) ‘Kimonos, Dressing Gowns, Bed Jackets and Boudoir Caps’ in Grace Brothers General Catalogue, p. xx
Viewed: https://www.flickr.com/photos/50044013@N03/7131082319/in/photostream, 23 May 2020

Platform 785 Vintage (2009) ‘Vtg. 1920’s Short Embroidered Robe’
Viewed: https://poshmark.com/listing/Vtg-1920s-Short-Embroidered-Robe-5c79c518fe515174b3d972c3, 20 May 2020.

Sewing Down Memory Lane (nd) Date your Jones Sewing Machine,
Viewed: https://www.sewingdownmemorylane.com/date-your-machine, 23 May 2020.

Mrs Maud (1925) ‘Ladies Page’ in The Albury Banner and Wodonga Express, Fri 2 Oct, p. 14
Viewed: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/102326280?browse=ndp%3Abrowse%2Ftitle%2FA%2Ftitle%2F436%2F1925%2F10%2F02%2Fpage%2F10853972%2Farticle%2F102326280, 20 May 2020.

Willard, D. (Search Press) (nd). ‘Identifying fibre content of fabric’, in The Sewing Directory,
Viewed: https://www.thesewingdirectory.co.uk/identifying-fabric/, 20 May 2020.

Zest Vintage (nd) Vintage 1920s Robe / 20s Pale Pink Embroidered Silk Pongee Flapper Robe Wrapper / Silk Kimono
Viewed: https://gem.app/product/vintage-1920s-robe-20s-pale-pink, 20 May 2020.

During my research, I managed to find a pattern for a bed jacket made from one piece of fabric, though unfortunately not the one Dorothy used.

The Propeller (1925). Simple Dressing Jackets: How to Make Them in The Propeller, Fri 11 Sep, p. 8
Viewed: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/237001077?browse=ndp%3Abrowse%2Ftitle%2FP%2Ftitle%2F1225%2F1925%2F09%2F11%2Fpage%2F25387513%2Farticle%2F237001077, 23 May 2020.