And Now For Something From the Mid-Bustle Era…

Today we feature another dress from the Fashion Museum Bath’s collection. This time, it’s a day dress from the late 1870s/early 1880s, aka the Mid-Bustle Era/Natural Form Era:

Day Dress, c. 1878-1881; Fashion Museum Bath

With its emphasis a slender cylindrical silhouette, the dress is definitely of the Mid-Bustle Era. The dresse’s fashion fabric combines what appears to be a stripped light gray/ivory silk jacquard with a blue floral pattern that crosses both the gray and ivory stripes. The sleeves use the same fashion fabric on the sleeve caps and cuffs combined with what appears to be a plain gray silk moire that color matches the gray in the fashion fabric. For the skirt, the same fashion is cross-grain cut on the weft, creating rows of horizontal stripes and draped to create a series of swags. Also, as with so many dresses of the era, a line of bows run down the center of the skirt. Finally, along the bottom, we see a deep row of knife pleats on the same gray silk moire fabric as used on the sleeves.

From the above picture, one can make out the train with appears to be the same plain gray silk moire as the sleeves and hem. Below is a close-up of the neck and upper bodice. As can be seen, the fashion fabric has been artfully cut on grain, with outer bodice being all of gray while the inset is of ivory. The neckline is square, trimmed in ivory lace.

This detailed view of the upper bodice reveals several things about the dress. First, one can make out the opening which runs down the bodice front and ends at the waistline (which is a high waistline). Given the solidity of the skirt, it can be reasonably concluded that this dress was one-piece and while perhaps not “princess line” in the purest sense of the definition, it still leans that way because of the one-piece nature of the dress. Compared to more subtle designs from couturiers like Worth (who absolutely detested emphasizing the waistline in his designs), this one’s pretty obvious but doesn’t detract that much from the overall design. Ultimately, this is an interesting in that it clearly illustrates how many of these dresses were constructed, particularly how they opened up. Stay tuned for more! 🙂



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