Saturday, February 24, 2018

title pic A Beautiful Victorian Cotton Dress Worn by Karen Grassle as Caroline Ingalls

Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on May 20, 2011

Flowered calico dress worn by Ma Ingalls in "Little House on the Prairie"

Of all the dresses Caroline Ingalls wore for the “Little House” television shows, one of my favorites is a  printed floral cotton sateen number that she only wore once!  For the pilot episode, which debuted in March of 1974, Caroline wore some pioneer dresses never seen again, and this outfit was no exception.  This beautiful Victorian dress was had a full, gathered skirt, fitted bodice, and lace inset with a velvet bow at the upstanding collar.  And the fabric is my idea of the perfect flowery print!  The delicate pink roses and stems are scattered over the peach sateen background, and you can almost hear the fabric swish, it looks so crisp. 

If you study the darts and shaping of Caroline’s brown wool dress, you will notice that these two ensembles were constructed in much the same way.  It would appear that the front of this pastel bodice alone would have been eight separate pieces before they were sewn together at the darts.  Here are photographs of actress Karen Grassle during the Christmas scene where Mr. Edwards brings the Ingalls girls their surprise Christmas presents.   If you’d like to watch this scene, click here

Caroline Ingalls smiles at Mr. Edwards during the family's Christmas celebration.

Caroline Ingalls smiles at Mr. Edwards during the family's Christmas celebration.

The Ingalls Ladies stare at Mr. Edwards who arrives covered in ice and nearly frozen.

The Ingalls Ladies stare at Mr. Edwards who arrives covered in ice and nearly frozen.

But just because Karen Grassle didn’t wear it again doesn’t mean that the dress never went to use!  In fact, a “Little House” extra wore it over six years later when Almanzo Wilder was in the show!  Ironically this episode shows Laura sewing the same dress for a snooty new girl in town! 

Karen Grassle and Melissa Gilbert on Little House on the Prairie

Caroline Ingalls admires Laura's sewing in "Little House on the Prairie" Season Six

 I don’t like the episode very much (“Anabelle”), and in the five years I’ve owned it I only watched the episode once.  NBC’s depiction of Laura and Almanzo’s relationship throughout Season Six was completely inaccurate to the real-life story described in Laura’s books, and would have been highly improper in the 1800s.  The real Laura Ingalls was incredibly shy, and had a hard time overcoming her nervousness around strangers.  In striking contrast, Melissa Gilbert’s portrayal of the teenage Laura was outgoing and even forward at times.  Similarly, the tv episodes showed Almanzo Wilder (Dean Butler) not wanting much to do with her until the very last few episodes of Season Six, whereas in real life Almanzo appears to have taken a liking to her when she was at the tender age of twelve!  But it was wonderful to see the dress again in this episode, even if it was worn by Laura’s antagonist.  Stay tuned for more “Little House” dress studies in the near future!

Almanzo Wilder with his friend Christy wearing Caroline's dress in "Anabelle" from season six

Almanzo Wilder's would-be friend "Christy" wears the dress earlier worn by Karen Grassle as "Caroline Ingalls" in the pilot episode.

Almanzo Wilder in the "Little House on the Prairie" TV series

In this shot, Christy wears yet another "duplicate" outfit: Miss Beadle's blue eyelet blouse often seen in other episodes.

Happy Sewing!