Smocked dress History

Smocked dress History

Traditional smocks were all cut to the same design, using geometric shapes, to facilitate the full use of the fabric, altering proportions to suit the wearer. Decorative work was used for shirts, dresses, bodices, cuffs and necklines, where fullness had to be reduced and shaped.

Hiring day smocks, stating the wearers’ skill or trade (for men and women), wedding smocks and church smocks were not uncommon, and were often beautifully smocked with a range of decorative stitches and embellished with embroidery. The embroidery was usually done in feather stitch, chain stitch, blanket stitch and stem stitch, often in the same colour as the base fabric.

Originally, smocking developed to give elasticity to fabric that was non-elastic and became widespread for both decorative and practical purposes. The best known examples are of agricultural workers overgarments, made from linen or jute cloth, often oiled or waxed to repel rain. The stitching on these garments became decorative as well as practical. Smocks were made for specific functions as well as labouring work.

These days, smocking is in reality a means of decorating garments with attractive embroidery. Some designs still use the ability of smocking to give elasticity, but for purely decorative purposes, work smocks having long age disappeared from industrial use.



Following the gathering and drawing up of the fabric to the desired width, the decorative stitches can be worked on the surface or the reverse of the fabric to achieve the desired effect before the garment or work object is completed.Several different sizes of dots are available to suit different fabrics and designs, or use powdered tailors chalk and a thin metal template and ‘pounce’ the dots onto the fabric. These days it is also possible to gather principally by machine, adjusting the spacing of the rows to suit the fabric or design.  Smocking involves gathering the fabric by hand, following applied ‘dots’ placed on the back of the fabric. These dots are in lines, both vertical and horizontal so the pleats created are regular in size and depth. These can be iron on dots, available in blue, yellow and silver.