1890s Style- Evening Wear, Part 1

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.

Fashion Plates 1890s

Revue de la Mode, February 15, 1890

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.

Fashion Plates 1890s

The Delineator, May 1891


Fashion Plates 1890s

L’Art et la Mode, 1891

Fashion Plates 1890s

L’Album des Modes, 1891

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:

Evening Dress c. 1892

Evening Dress, c. 1892; Kent State University Museum (1983.001.0173)

Evening Dress c. 1892

Close-Up, Bodice

Evening Dress c. 1892

Close-Up Side Profile

Evening Dress c. 1892

Close-Up, Side Profile

Evening Dress c. 1892

Three-Quarter Front Profile

Evening Dress c. 1892

Rear View

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:

Evening Dress c. 1890 - 1891

Evening Dress, c. 1890 – 1891; Metropolitan Museum of Art

Evening Dress c. 1890 - 1891

Side Profile

Evening Dress c. 1890 - 1891

Three-Quarter Rear View

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…)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.