And For A Little More From 1878…


Edmond-Louis Dupain, “Elegant Lady Walking Her Greyhounds on the Beach”

We have been hitting the Mid-Bustle Era pretty hot and heavy of late so we’re going to give it a rest for awhile. But just to sum up things, we thought that we would show a few final images of day wear from 1878… 🙂


Frank Leslie’s Lady’s Magazine, June 1878

In the above plate, we see two of the most basic dress styles: the cutaway over-bodice/vest combination and princess line (left and right, respectively). The dress on the left is especially interesting in that that the over-bodice is designed to suggest a cutaway coat who “tail” takes the shape of a long train, somewhat reminiscent of the Regency Era. At the same time, there is no bustle to be seen for either dress and the silhouette is cylindrical and upright. For the dress on the left, the over-bodice is combined with a vest in a contrasting, yet complimentary color, that is also the color of the over-bodice lining. Celadon and gold/yellow are a good color combination for a dress and show up very nicely in almost any type of light. Finally, the train, more properly termed demitrain,  is short (by Victorian standards) for day wear as opposed to a more formal full train.

For the dress on the right, with its lack of defined separation between the bodice and skirt, the princess line emphasizes uninterrupted vertical lines. To take advantage of this vertical “canvas,” panels of contrasting fabric were often used consisting of a front panel and panels on each side. These panels could either be in contrasting colors or the same color but in a different fabric. With the above example, we both panels are an ivory/blush color but the panel running down the front of the dress is a brocade (presumably a silk brocade). On the sides, we also see the same brocade used again for decorative effect. Finally, to finish things off, there is the ubiquitous demitrain.

Le Monitor 1878

In the above plate, we see two more day dress styles which were clearly intended for going out in public. The dress on the left has a minimal train and the dress on the right has no train at all. In the left dress, we see another attempt to accentuate the vertical lines through the use of contrasting black and yellow stripes on the skirt; the use of cascading ruches on the back of the train also adds to this effect. The bodice is a solid color and extends downwards to cover the hips and the overall effect is slimming. The bodice body and sleeves are in contrasting colors of black and yellow (canary yellow?) and the lack of decoration gives a tidy appearance.

The dress on the right is also interesting with its pagoda-like skirt set in three layers. There is no train (or so it would appear from the plate) and once again we see a slim, cylindrical silhouette. In many ways, the skirt is reminiscent of Classic Greek styles. However, the most striking feature of this dress is the fabric which appears to be a multi-colored plaid that with the exception of the bodice top front, is set at an angle. With the row of decorative ribbons running down the entire length of the dress front, the effect is striking although a bit disorienting (one could almost argue that it looks like a modern day military camouflage). Finally, the use of a red waist belt helps to tie the look together. This design is pretty fantastical and we would suspect that it was more of a concept piece rather than anything that was actually made but we have been wrong before… 🙂 In many ways, it could be said that this dress was a harbinger of the styles that were to develop during the Teens.

Le Monitor 1878_2

Journal Des Demoiselles_1878_1

Journal Des Demoiselles, September 1878

The dresses portrayed in the above two plates portray several style variations that were often employed to include over-bodices that could be shaped so as to have a coat-like appearance with a real or faux vest or shirt-waist worn underneath. Also, we seen variations in how trains were arranged: it could be gathered in at several spots, ruched all the way down, or gathered into large masses of fabric. The variations are almost endless. Finally, while most skirts tended to be of one color, there were exceptions such as with the black and white striped lower skirt in the first plate.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our posts on the Mid-Bustle Era and hope that you will find them a source of inspiration for future designs.

Louis Catala

Luis Alvarez Catala, “Woman Before a Mirror,” 1878

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