Today we take a look at what was trending for November 1878, at least according to Peterson’s Magazine:
Fig. I- Walking-Dress of Olive-Green Camel’s Hair, made short; the over-dress is drawn back and fastened with a large bow; the dress is trimmed with a band of olive-green silk, with raised velvet figures of a darker shade. The wrap Is of the same material as the dress, plaited [pleated] back and front into a largo yoke; the sleeves are wide and long; gray felt bonnet, trimmed with olive-green velvet and rich, red ostrich tips.
Fig. II- Visiting Dress of Emerald-Green Velvet; It is of the princess shape, made without trimming on the skirt, and the train is laid in full plaits beneath a band of a lighter shade of satin, which is confined at the side by a largo buckle. The front and sleeves are trimmed with gold-colored hanging buttons. Large collar and cuffs of guipure lace.
Fig. III- Visiting Dress of Gray Silk, Trimmed With Narrow Garnet Velvet; the lower-skirt has one deep plaited flounce, the upper-skirt is long, edged in front with a narrow plaited ruffle, and falls fan-shaped at the back; the waist is high and open in front ; the sleeves reach to the elbow ; mantilla of black lace.
Fig. IV- Reception Dress of Yellow Silk, Princess Shape; worn under a dress of black Spanish net which is woven to fit the figure.
Fig. V- Carriage-Dress of Slate-Gray Silk; made rather long, without trimming on the back, and with a chenille fringe on the front. The cloak is of blue-black velvet, trimmed with a band of fur. Hat of gray felt, trimmed with gray velvet, and a long, curling, ostrich plume at the back.
With its green camel hair, the walking dress in Figure I is perfectly suited for the winter. It’s difficult to make out the details from the plate but it appears to be a combination of an outer paletot and dress made from the same camel hair fabric. Unfortunately, there’s not too much more that can be made out.
Figure II is interesting visiting dress in that it is made in the princess style from an emerald green velvet. There is a minimal amount of decoration as would be expected for a day dress and the skirt and trail is pleated with the pleats secured by a band of satin. The collar and cuffs are of guipure lace, a type of lace that connects toe motifs with bars or plaits rather than netting.
Next we have another visiting dress only thing time made from a gray silk and trimmed in narrow bands of garnet velvet. Because of the black mantilla covering up the bodice, it is difficult to make out what style the dress is in but we will assume that it is a fairly typical combination. The bodice is probably worked in the cuirass style and the skirt presents the usual narrow silhouette with a fan-train.
The princess style dress makes another appearance in Figure IV, this time in the form of a reception dress. The dress itself is plain and its decorative effect is from a form-fitting black net that fits over it.
Finally, with Figure V, we a carriage dress in a slate-gray with a cloak of black-blue velvet worn over it. As with Figure I, it is difficult to make out just exactly what the dress looks like but it is probably safe to say that it is similar to a promenade dress in that it was meant to be worn when out in public (i.e. in a carriage) and/or one is going to pay a formal visit:
For a carriage-dress, or for more formal visiting, the skirt can be longer, the colors of the dress a little lighter, or brighter, if it is desired (though the rich dark ones are in quite as good taste), the mantle or sacque more trimmed, the bonnet or hat gayer, the whole toilette with a more holiday look. Yet the costume for the promenade, or visiting, of which we have just spoken, is quite suitable for a carriage-dress Peterson’s Magazine, February 1878, p. 159).
It would seem that the “carriage dress” in its purest form is a hybrid between an promenade dress and a more formal reception dress in that the train is a bit longer than the promenade dress since minimal walking would be expected yet at the same time, it was a dress to be worn outside so it is a bit more substantial than a more formal indoors reception dress in terms of materials. Of course, we are no doubt splitting hairs here and as Peterson’s points out, it is perfectly acceptable to simply wear the same dress that one would wear if paying a visit out in public. 🙂
Now, admittedly the fashion information in the above plate is bit thin so we are going to try and fill in some gaps. In regard to Figure I, below is an larger image of a similar style from the November issue of Townsend’s Monthly Selection of Paris Costumes:
The shape of the paletot (or Chambord) is very distinct with wide sleeves that open out so that the sleeve bottom hangs in the form of a rectangle. The advantage of this style is that with the loose sleeves, it is easy to put on and take off- just the perfect garment for visiting. Finally, just to note that the dress worn with this is a princess style dress.
In closing, while using fashion plates and other images may seem to present a somewhat distorted view of fashion, we would argue that it only serves as a starting point and especially for those who wish to design their own recreations. Naturally, we advocate using this original documentation in conjunction with what surviving extant garments there are (the Met alone has quite a collection and we lean on it a lot for our ideas). Also, original photographs are also very useful and often can provide a “reality check” for one’s ideas. We hope you find this informative and we hope that it will provide you with inspiration. 🙂