1890s Style- Chartreuse & Black

Today we shift gears a bit and move towards something more formal with dinner dresses. As the name  implies, the dinner dress was a fairly formal dress that was meant for formal dinner gathers (although there’s no reason why it wouldn’t be worn for more informal at-home dinners).1While specific dress terminology such as “dinner dress” or “afternoon dress” or “visiting dress” were used, we suspect that these categories were not as rigidly observed in practice and that there was a lot of overlap between the dress types. Here’s an interesting example of a dinner dress from circa 1894:

Dinner Dress, 1894; Maryland Historical Society Fashion Archives (1978.95.63a,b)

Colore-wise, this dress uses a three-color combination of black, chartreuse, and yellow with black being dominant. The outer and inner skirt are made of a black silk taffeta as well as the upper sleeves and part of the front bodice. The lower sleeves, revers, epaulets, and hem trim  and constructed from a chartreuse velvet which makes for a striking effect, presenting a contrast in luster and fabric textures while at the same time lessening the severity of the black. The yellow silk ruching on the bodice front quickly catches the eye, centering focus on the dress front. Finally, running down the front of the dress is a chartreuse and white floral pattern. Compared to the black and chartreuse, the yellow presents a color contrast that pops. Essentially, the chartreuse and yellow at as analogous colors set upon black which is neutral. Below are some close-ups:

Here’s another view of the floral pattern running down the front of the inner skirt. Also, one can see one of the chartreuse velvet sleeves trimmed with jeweling at the cuff. Below is a picture of one of the epaulets. Note the use of jeweled trimming around the edge and that it’s lined with the same patterned fabric as seen on the front of the inner skirt:

The blending of revers and epaulets is an interesting style feature and variations of this were present in many dresses of the period. The upper sleeves exhibit the leg-of-mutton or gigot style which are accented by the epaulets, creating a pagoda-like effect. Like many dresses that we’ve viewed online, we would love to have examined this one in person and who knows, maybe that chance will come someday.  We hope you’ve enjoyed this! 🙂

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