And For More On Waists…

In our last post, we discussed the development of the waist (or shirtwaist) during the Mid 1890s and how waists were more than just simple blouse-like garments. Today, we take a step back where we find that even in the late 1880s, the waist was developing as part of a complete outfit. One example of this can found in the March 1889 issue of Demorest’s Family Magazine where a pattern called the “Sybil Waist” was offered for sale:

According to the description:

The least expensive washable goods, cashmere, veiling, and other light qualities of woolens, surah and India silks can be made up after this model, which will be very popular for summer wear either with various skirts, or with one made of the same goods. It is the same back and front, and, if preferred, the part below the belt can be worn under the skirt, which can be lifted high enough to make the waist as short as desired.

Surah in light colors, sometimes striped in two colors. as pale blue and pink, or cream with pink, or blue, is now being made into waists of this style for summer wear with different skirts. Some have fine tucks, as illustrated; others have the spaces shirred; and still others are smocked, or honey-combed. The pattern will admit of either of these arrangements. For simpler materials and washable goods, the tucks are preferable; and a full skirt of straight breadths, with a broad sash tied in a large bow at the back, combines nicely with it. Though most effective, it is not essential that velvet should be used in combination.

The above style is interesting and reinforces the idea that the waist was not simply a separate fashion item but also, it was part of an integrated outfit. Here is an example of extant dress similar to what was envisioned with the Sybil Waist:

Day Dress, Cotton, c. 1890s; Augusta Auctions

The waist’s style is very similar to the Sybil Waist- collars, cuffs, and decorative details can vary but the basic style is pretty much the same.

The above example was found on the Augusta Auctions website and while the dating is imprecise, it seems to fit into the early 1890s pretty nicely. The dress and waist/bodice are made of a cotton fabric and it definitely leaned more towards “casual wear.” In a similar vein, below are two more extant waist examples:

Shirt Waist, c. 1890s; FIDM Museum (2003.793.7AB)

Shirt Waist, c. 1890s; Museum of Fine Arts Boston (2006.1180)

Waists are an interesting element in 1890s style and the idea of entire dress outfits that incorporates the waist as an integral element represented a new and interesting fashion development and provides a fertile field of reconstructing historical fashions.

One thought on “And For More On Waists…

  1. I love that first “Sybil waist”. I recently made a couple skirts with different waists that I could interchange, and I think I need one of those too. 🙂 Now if someone would just take up the job of making some of those gorgeous white shirtwaists for sale…..
    Val

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