In our last post, we took a quick look at fashion in the more formal lines for January 1890. Now, as most of us know, fashions do not always change lock-step with the beginning and ending of decades, often times it’s more of a slower transformation and especially in an era that predates the “instant fashions” of today.
Today, we will pick things up a year later and the probably one of the most significant changes we see is that dresses are once again acquiring a more narrow silhouette reminiscent of the earlier Mid-Bustle Era. Trains are still found but these seemed to have been restricted more to evening/reception dresses and ball gowns. The extreme “shelf bustle” look of the mid 1880s was definitely out.What we also see is that the faux robed look of January 1890 had diminished, reduced to just one style variation (but in future posts we will be taking a look at this some more just for completeness).
Below we see a fashion plate from the January 1891 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:
Fig. I – EVENING-GOWN, OF BLACK NET. The skirt is short and full, as all lace dresses should be. On the panel on the right side, are large trails of poppies with green leaves. The gathered bodice and high full sleeves are studded with smaller flowers. The sleeves are caught together on the outside of the arm by satin bows.
Fig. II – EVENING-GOWN, OF WHITE BENGALINE. The front of the skirt is slightly draped. The train is long and square. The only ornament of this stylish simple dress is a cascade of bows-and-ends of watered ribbon, of the color of the gown. The bodice is made of watered silk of the same color. A “tucker” of white crêpe-lisse fills up the low corsage.
Fig. III – WALKING-DRESS, OF CHESTNUT-COLORED CLOTH. The plain skirt has panels of a darker shade of brown velvet. The bodice is slightly pointed, is rather loose at the left shoulder, and fastens under a trimming of brown velvet. Small Medici collar, of velvet. Long tight sleeves of dark-green velvet under long pointed ones of the cloth, edged with brown velvet. Toque of the cloth, bound with brown velvet and trimmed in front with dark-green ostrich-tips or with a rosette of green velvet.
Fig. IV – VISITING-COSTUME, OF GREEN BROCADE, figured with branches of lilac. A band of gray fox fur passes around the neck and trims the cloak down the front. The sleeves are high and are cut in one piece with the cloak; they are trimmed with the fur, which falls to the bottom and passes around the lower edge of the cloak. Muff of gray fox, with a bow of green ribbon on the top. Large hat of green velvet trimmed with lilac-colored feathers.
Fig. V – VISITING-DRESS, OF GRAYISH-WHITE CLOTH, worn over a skirt of gold or garnet silk. The cloth skirt is quite plain. The bodice is close-fitting at the back, has a full silk vest of the color of the cloth, and is trimmed with steel passementerie. Long tight sleeves, with straight over-sleeves hanging loosely, put in with deep plaits on the shoulders, and reaching to the bottom of the dress. They are lined with silk of the color of the dress, and are trimmed with steel passementerie. Small hat of gray cloth, trimmed with loops of ribbon to match skirt, and an ostrich-tip.
Figure I is a good illustration of what was trending in dress styles with its slender, upright silhouette. Although it’s difficult to make out, the dress it made of black net which presumably covers a black base fabric of some sort. Off-setting the overall black are large poppies and leaf appliques.
The evening dress in Figure II is a bit of a throwback to the early 1880s with its long train and full, draped skirt. The use of bengaline is a practical choice and this could either be in full silk or a cotton/silk mix. A watered silk ribbon bows and ends trims the side of the dress (it would appear that it’s asymmetrical, just on one side of the dress). Note- while the plate description indicates that the dress is made from a white bengaline, the plate portrays the dress as a yellow. Perhaps the color was originally an ivory or cream.
The walking dress in Figure III illustrates some of the new fashion directions was the bodice style known as the Louis Quinze jacket which was basically an asymmetrical bodice that gave a double-breasted effect. There is a clearly defined opening on the right side. It is unclear what the chestnut-colored base fashion fabric is, most likely it’s a wool of some type, and the both bodice and skirt are trimmed in a dark brown velvet. Another element that was beginning to be employed was the “Medici collar” of which this dress has one in a brown velvet that matches the rest of the dress. Allowing for the age of the plate, below are approximations of the color scheme:
And with Figure IV, outwear is featured (which makes sense, considering that this fashion plate is portraying winter fashions) consisting of a full-length “cloak” that follows the basic silhouette of the dress underneath. The fashion fabric is a green brocade with lilac-colored feathers as the design. The lower part of the cloak is gathered into the waistband, giving a skirted effect. Also, the edges of the cloak are trimmed in a grey fox fur that complements the fashion fabric.
Finally, with Figure V we see a fairly plain visiting dress made of a “grayish-white cloth” overskirt (once again, presumably a wool) combined with a gold or garnet silk underskirt (very little of this is visible in the plate). The bodice is an open style with a vest underneath, both matching the overskirt and While the outer color appears to be somewhat uninspired, it is interesting because light colors are not normally associated with winter yet they are being used here in the form of the gray/white (i.e., light gray). The trim is of a steel passementerie and it is noted that the sleeves are long and narrow. Finally, as an added decoration are a pair of decorative over-sleeves also decorated in steel passementerie.
To supplement the above, the following are some general comments that are also found in Peterson’s in regard to skirts:
Skirts are close-fitting in front, full at the back, and still too long for comfort or neatness in walking. Bias bands near the bottom of skirts are frequently the only trimming, but rose quillings and rows of braid are popular.
The above does not come as any major surprise- dress silhouettes had been moving in this direction for a few years. But in regard to bodices, things there were some new developments:
Bodices have been made in such great variety for so long that there can be but little that is new to say of them. Fancy has had full sway, and, if the bodice has been unbecoming to the figure, it has been the fault of the wearer only. The one thing that is new is the gradual adoption of the deep basque, extending all around the edge of the bodice, much like the Louis Quinze jacket cut short to the hips; but this style has been seen as yet on only one or two imported garments. It is not so becoming to stout women as the fashion now in vogue, with points back and front, with the slope above the hips; but for slender people it is a good mode.
In some respects, the above notes that bodice styles have been relatively static and especially in noting bodices with “points back and front.” However, the Louis Quinze jacket (sometimes the dividing line between “bodice” and “jacket” seems to be blurred) was a new development and while it’s somewhat downplayed in that the “style has been seen as yet on only one or two imported garments,” the fact that it is discussed on some detail seems to counter this. Peterson’s also adds that:
Jackets of the so-called Louis Quinze shape are the newest wraps; these, to be quite correct, should have deep basques, large pockets, wide cuffs, and a jabot of lace at the neck. This style is varied, however, to suit many fancies : so we see them with high full sleeves, high Medici collars, small cuffs, jackets of all style, and double-breasted; and they look well, too, if not quite a copy of the original.
The Louis Quinze jacket never caught on as a major fashion trend, it was only one of many styles that developed during the 1890s but it does demonstrate that the basic bodice-skirt combination so characteristic of Victorian dress was beginning to change and in some ways, it could be argued that the development of a more “jacket style” bodice pointed the way towards the development of the tailormade suits that were to be become increasingly popular with women as the decade progressed.
We will be exploring further into the world of 1890s fashion so stay tuned! 🙂