Living in California, it is easy to forget that there are places where it is not sunny and warm all year round (mostly). However, an an effort to remedy this deficiency, today we’re taking a look at a few fall and winter fashions from about 1886.
Below is a fashion plate of daywear from the November 1886 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:
The dresses are described from left to right as follows:
Fig. I – Visiting Dress, Of Dark-Brown Corded Silk. The skirt is laid in many narrow pleats with side-panels of right watered silk. The dolman is of brown corded silk lined with dark-green satin and trimmed with fur. Bonnet of dark-green velvet, with upright quill-feathers.
Fig. II – Walking Dress, Of Green Cashmere. The underskirt is of dark-green velvet; the cashmere is draped and quite long in the front, and falls plainly at the back, over a large tournure. The bodice is of green velvet, like the skirt, with vest and sleeves of the cashmere; the best hooks underneath green velvet sides. hat of dark-green velvet, trimmed with ribbon the shade of the cashmere.
Fig. III – Carriage Dress, Of Dark-Blue Poplin. The plaited underskirt is plain; the overskirt is made quite full, is edged with a band of beaver-fur, and is looped on the hips. The mantle is of beaver-fur, had broad tabs at the back, with “wings” on the sleeves, and the whole is edged with balls of beaver-fur. Felt hat, trimmed with blue velvet, and feathers the color of the beaver.
Fig. lV – Walking Dress, Of Wine-Colored Woolen Goods, with raised spots dotted over it. The underskirt is of plain silk; the woolen material is plaited to the bodice, and slightly draped at the back to show the silk underskirt; a band of velvet ornaments the front of the skirt, as well as forms a ceinture around the bodice, the collar, and a lapel on the left side of the front of the bodice. Hat of black felt, with a soft crown of silk and trimmed with loops of spotted foulard and a stiff aigrette.
Fig. V — Walking Dress, Of Chestnut-Brown Rough Woolen Material. The skirt is plain in front, with panels of the same color, striped crosswise by a plush stripe; at the back, it hangs quite plain over a large tournure. The bodice has folds of the striped plush material, with a velvet vest; velvet bow-and-ends on the left side. Large felt hat, trimmed with chestnut-colored ribbon.
The above designs gives an interesting cross section of what was current in daywear in late 1886. The predominant fashion fabric is wool although silk is also used in varying degrees; only the “visiting dress” is almost completely made of silk. All of these designs are functional and provide a starting point for the home sewer or commissioning a personal design. The colors are subdued, reflecting the fall/early winter season.
In terms of fashion trends, the December 1886 issue of Peterson’s Magazine gives an overview of what is trending in Paris (note: we have edited the passage for clarity):
The new materials of the season are very rich and handsome, and are proportionately expensive. Heavy faille or bengaline, figured or striped with plush or with velvet, contest the palm with figured or plaid velvet—or, more magnificent still, with velvet figured with large scattered flowers in uncut velvet, these flowers being outlined with gold thread.
One pattern shows large overlapping velvet blocks on a satin ground. Another has waved lines of velvet, a quarter of an inch wide, on a heavy corded silk ground. There are materials in two-inch wide stripes, alternately of satin and velvet, or satin and plush, or velvet and plush, the latter style being extremely rich in effect. All these are in solid colors.
Then there are velvets plaided with uncut velvet in two shades of the same color as the groundwork; and striped velvet, with narrow stripes imitating gold embroidery sunk in the velvet; and stamped-velvet stripes, alternating with satin stripes figured with plush or velvet.
For wraps, are shown velvets in subdued cashmere colors, the hues being very delicate and artistic, and the prevailing tints being dull-blue and faded rose. In the striped materials just described, the solid colors are all in subdued tones- garnet, seal-brown, heliotrope, and dark-gray being the fashionable shades of the season.
These stuffs are very expensive- costing, even in Paris, from five dollars to fifteen dollars per yard.1 But there will not be a great quantity of these costly fabrics employed in any one toilette. They will be used for the plain undershirt, and the short overskirt or pauter-drapery [portiere drapery] and sash at the back will be composed of plain material matching the groundwork, as will also be the corsage. Cashmere, striped or figured with velvet or with plush, is shown for less dressy costumes, and is far less expensive.
From the above, faille and bengaline figured or striped with plush or velvet with plaid, palm or flowers are trending.
Bengaline and faille are similar fabrics in that they are both a plain weave fabric with more warp yarns than weft yarns. The warp yarns on both are usually silk (more properly termed filaments) while the weft yarns are thicker, thus creating the crossways rib effect. For Bengaline, the weft yarns are usually cotton while with faille, both warp and weft yarns are usually silk. However, both fabrics have been made completely with silk or cotton. The best way to tell them apart is that Bengaline tends to have thicker, more pronounced cross-ribs. Both are lustrous fabrics and wear well and the best part was that the cotton-silk blends are less expensive than pure silk, thus offering silk’s benefits at a cheaper price.
And of course, cashmere:
Given the high cost of cashmere (even back in 1886), there is a good chance that the “cashmere” was actually some sort of wool blend (after all, this was before the Wool Products Labeling Act of 1939).
And just for interest, below are the subdued tones that are trending for wraps (subject to the interpretation of the computer):
And finally, just to demonstrate that high fashion was actively being marketed to the middle class, below is an advertisement from a concern located in Kansas City, Missouri. 🙂
We hope you have enjoyed small view of the fashion world of 1886- it’s not often that we can drill down to the specific details but with the increasing availability of scanned versions of the major fashion magazines of the time, this process has been made a lot easier and we hope to have more postings of this nature in the future.
1. [Approximately $130 to $357 a yard at 2015 prices.]↩