The styles of the Mid-Bustle/Natural Form Era were a definite contrast from what had come before and by 1880 we see this in full flower. The early 1870s fashion silhouette of the fully trained bustle dress had given way to a slender, tightly sculpted cylindrical silhouette that had minimal, if any, bustling or padding. The above fashion plate from the May 1880 issue of Peterson’s Magazine clearly shows this style while at the same time showing a variety of individual styles within the overall trend. Here’s a another fashion plates:
The first thing that immediately catches the eye in the above plates is that the bodices are long, covering the hips in varying degrees- with the train disappearing, bodices could extend downwards, unimpeded. The next element that’s striking is the use of various forms of draping and ruching on most of the skirts. Yes, a few are plain and smooth but overall, it would seem that the skirt front was now a palette for displaying various decorative schemes. One especially popular style the “Louis XV” style which incorporated many late 18th Century style elements:
Bodice style could also take up a polonaise style with the bodice back forming part of the train, or at least helping to place emphasis on it (in varying degrees):
Finally, just to distinguish between basque and polonaise, below are images of two patterns that were offered for sale in the January 1880 edition of Demorest’s Family Magazine:
Now let’s look at some extant dresses:
Style-wise the above dress is similar to the plate in that the bodice is cut in a polonaise style, emulating a coat and underlying waistcoat/vest covering an narrow underskirt; the horizontal rows of pleating on the skirt further emphasize the skirt’s cylindrical silhouette. Note that the bodice back extends down to form part of the train. With its demi-train so it’s fair to say that this dress was meant for more formal public events. Here’s another dress that captures a similar style:
This one’s shows a little variation with the skirt combining both horizontal rows of overlapping contrast fabric along the bottom hem along with asymmetrical draping further up. The rows of contrast fabric are continued onto the demi-train. It could be argues that the bodice of more a basque style since it’s obvious that the the outer “jacket” is merged with the inner “waistcoat” are actually one piece and it doesn’t appear that any part of it extends further down to form a train. It’s a subtle difference but obvious if one looks closely. In future posts, we’ll be discussing early 1880s fashion more and exploring the various individual styles that were out there.