For a change of pace, we’re now going to take a look at 1890s evening wear. As with 1890s day wear, evening wear styles also were characterized by the “x” or “Wasp Waist” silhouette and, for a brief period during the Mid 1890s, the gigot or leg-of-mutton sleeves. Moreover, 1890s evening wear styles were focused on the fashion fabric itself and the minimizing of extraneous trims.
At the opening of the decade, we see see a continuation of later 1880s trends but by 1889, bustle size had dramatically shrunk to little more than a pad, if that. At the same time, the train still remained.
From the above plate, we see both an over/underskirt combination as with the dress on the left and a solid one-piece skirt on the right. As the decade progressed, we would see a reduction in the train and a shift to a single gored skirt.
With the above three plates, not only do we seen skirts in transition, but also with the sleeves. Pure ballgowns still maintained a minimal strap-like appearance but for other formal wear styles, we begin to see more fuller sleeves, often extending to the mid-arm. However, things were still in a state of flux…
Here’s one example of a somewhat minimalist ball gown, c. 1892:
With the above ball gown, the emphasis is definitely on the train which is made from a yellow silk satin with a metallic embroidered pattern. The skirt itself consists of an underskirt of yellow silk satin covered by a yellow chiffon overskirt. Interestingly enough, the bodice front and back are of two fabrics: on the back is a silk satin that matches the train and on the front made of the same yellow chiffon as the overskirt.
Finally, here’s one more example, this time an evening dress from circa 1890 – 1891:
As with the first example, the emphasis is on the train; the entire dress and bodice is made from a yellow silk satin with an simple repeating embroidery pattern consisting of wavy lines. The sleeves are full, acting as a counterpoint for the train and are made from a burgundy/wine colored silk velvet. With the sleeves, one can see the beginning of what would later become the trend towards the massive gigot sleeve characteristic of the Mid-1890s.
(To be continued…)