Follow the Thread

a textile & costume history blog from the Design Center at Thomas Jefferson University

Student analysis and object re-design: child’s dress, early 20th c., by Alexandra Marie Tierney


This post is part of our series featuring final student projects from our History of Costume and Textile course.

Student Bio: Hello! My name is Alexandra Marie Tierney and I am a second-year student studying Fashion Design at Thomas Jefferson University. For my whole life I have always enjoyed creating, whether that be painting, crocheting, sculpting, or sketching.  Until my senior year in high school, I had no idea what direction I wanted to go after graduating. I then realized that I have always had a passion for fashion as well as art, so being a fashion designer seemed like the obvious choice for me. Now that I am in the field of fashion design, I can proudly say that I made the right choice. 

Analysis: Child’s Dress, early 20th century 

There is very little provenance information about this particular dress. It was probably donated from the Philadelphia or New Jersey area and it is from the early 20th century. Only having these few details made it a difficult object to analyze. What can be observed from the garment is that it was machine stitched and kept in good condition from when it was created. The only signs of wear are indicated in the lace that is attached to the garment as it has yellowed over time. 


This dress has no side seams.  There is a singular piece of fabric that makes up the skirt and creates a seam in the back. To fasten the dress there are small buttons. The skirt is gathered at the top underneath the bodice. The bodice itself has a tremendous amount of detail. There are two gigantic bows that are attached on the waist seam and from the neckline to that seam are two sections of pleats. Surrounding these pleats are three strips of lace. The neckline has lace trim as well. There are two rectangles of fabric, also trimmed with lace, that cascade over the sleeves. The sleeves themselves are puffed at the shoulders and finished off with more lace trim. There is a lining attached to the bodice portion and the turn up for the hem is two inches. 

Object Re-Design: 

I created two looks for my redesign of this dress. They are both menswear to play on the fact that young boys used to wear dresses as well as the fact that pink used to be a color associated with boys before it came to be defined as a more feminine color in society. 

Look 1: 

For the first look, I used the silhouette of the dress as inspiration for the jacket. I achieved a cropped look to replicate the high waistline of the dress. The collar of the jacket is also reminiscent of the rectangles of fabric attached near the collar of the dress. As for the design on the jacket, I chose a fabric that had a similar color to the dress and created a pocket and a design for the back of the jacket. Another pink and white fabric was used as a lining for the jacket.  

Look 2: 

The second look was created from the details of the dress as well as the silhouette. The t-shirt is cropped for the same reason that the jacket is and because of the large bows on the dress, there is a bow stitched flat to the front of the shirt. The skirt was created using a sheer pink fabric and put over top of pants to give a more masculine feel to the entire outfit.  

Both outfits were inspired heavily by the look of the dress rather than the general history of it. The blend between traditional masculinity and femininity was something that I wanted to explore in this redesign, and it is something that I hope to experiment more with in my future of designing clothing. 

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