Went on line and found oodles of interesting things.
Spoon Angels (patterns)
Fan Fair potholder pattern .... Ok, off track .... get back to dresses ....
The answer, found at Maggie's Crochet Blog:
"At first sight, crochet dress potholders appear to be doll clothes. These cute little dresses actually served a practical purpose in the kitchen from about 1945 through 1960. The war was ending and husbands were returning to the home ready to fix things up. Crochet was a popular craft and women took the domestic role of dressing up the kitchen, literally, with cute shaped potholders. The style was simple, the patterns were easy to make and quick to stitch, making them the ideal decoration that could also be used to prevent scorched tables or hands."
Follow the link to see her photos, patterns, too .... Link HERE.