Some Mid-1880s Day Dress Style

When it comes to later 19th Century fashion, certain dresses are remarkable either because of their cut and silhouette, colors, or fabrics. Today we present this circa 1885 day dress that combines all of these elements:

Day Dress, c. 1885; Five Colleges and Historic Deerfield Museum Consortium (HD V.114)

In terms of silhouette, this dress follows a fairly typical mid-1880s style and there’s no surprises there but when we turn to the fashion fabric itself, it’s a completely different matter with wide vertical stripes combined with narrow stripes, all in the same  shade of purple.

The fashion fabric consists of a combination of wide vertical and narrow horizontal purple stripes over a dark ivory background.

And just for comparison, here’s are two examples of what was more the norm for striped dresses of the period:

Day Dress, c. 1880; The Museum at FIT (P92.21.1)

Day Dress, c. 1880s; From the collection of Alexandre Vassiliev

In contrast to the purple striped day dress, the above examples are all constructed of striped fashion fabrics, the stripes of different colors. While combining horizontal and vertical stripes was not unknown during the late 19th Century fabrics, it usually involved combinations of different colors. Let’s take a closer look at the dress details:

Upon closer examination, we see that the fashion fabric appears to be a Bengaline, or perhaps a Fouillard, and that the the light areas between the stripes is a variegated ivory and black. Also, it’s interesting to note that the horizontal purple stripes are of a slightly darker shade of purple and that each “stripe” is actually three rows of pin-striping. When viewed at a distance, these pin-stripes merge in one strip.

And here’s a very tight close-up of the dress fabric. Note the cross-wise horizontal rib characteristic of Bengaline. Judging from the luster and drape, we estimate that this is a silk Bengaline or perhaps cotton and silk- it’s hard to say without further analysis. It’s also interesting that the horizontal stripes are not all one color but rather appear to have rows of a lighter ivory (?) alternating with the purple rows.

Some may find this dress to be visually jarring and that we our initial reaction. However, upon closer examination, we found that it contained some subtle nuances such as with the variegated ivory/black background and the three pin-striped horizontal stripes. Also, the fabric weave further enhances the stripe style.  This dress is certainly an interesting style that amply demonstrates that style is found in the details. 🙂



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Mid-1890s Spring Style

With the arrival of Spring, we tend to think in terms of linen and cotton and such as with this circa 1890s day dress:

Day Dress, c. 1895; Augusta Auctions Website

While the Augusta Auctions website describes this dress being made of cotton, it could have just as easily been linen but either way, it definitely reads as a warmer weather garment. This dress is of a style that consists of a skirt combined with what could be termed a waist worn over the skirt top. Of course, it also raises the question of when does a bodice become a waist or vice-versa? This dress seems to occupy that middle ground where sometimes it’s hard to determine; the bodice/waist is a little heavier than what we normally associate with the waist yet at the same time, it’s a bit more loosely structured that a standard dress bodice (or course, make no mistake, a corset was worn underneath).1For some more discussion on waists, click HERE. Here’s a couple more examples of this particular style:

The above French fashion plate illustrates this style nicely, albeit with a little variation; it’s clear that this was more of a youthful style and was especially useful when it came to outdoor activities:

And it would appear that this was a popular style as far back as the late 1880s with this pattern promotion in March 1889 issue of Demorest’s Family Magazine:

Below are some more views of the dress:

As can be seen from these pictures, the basic fashion fabric is a green/putty colored cotton with ivory stripes dress. White/ivory colored Guipure lace trims the bodice/waist. Finally, the shoulders are trimmed with black silk satin bows along with black silk satin belt and cuff stripes.

This is a simple yet elegant dress for the Spring and Summer and we especially envision this as the perfect seaside dress. 🙂



Modes Robe De Jour Vers 1895

Fashion in the 1890s saw an explosion in dress styles and especially when it came to skirt and jacket combinations. Here’s just one interesting example of a circa 1895 day dress1In some instances, “day dress” and “jacket/skirt combinations” are used somewhat interchangeably. from the Musée de arts decoratifs Paris :

Day Dress, c. 1895; Musée des Arts Décoratifs (26009 AB)

This dress has an interesting color palette consisting of a light gray silk taffeta bodice combined with darker gray silk velvet sleeves for bodice/jacket; and the same light gray taffeta for the outerskirt and train combined with a red and gold silk brocade underskirt. Even more striking is that the lapels on the bodice/jacket are also in the same red and gold silk brocade- the effect is stunning. Below is a close-up of the bodice:

Here, one can make out the stylized pockets surrounded by gold embroidery. Also, the top of a faux vest in the same red brocade can also be seen with a waist underneath. It’s very likely that  it’s all one unit giving the effect of multiple layers. Here’s a close up of the brocade:

Below are a couple of profile pictures:


Judging from the pictures, it would appear that the outer and inner skirts are really of one unit and represent an interesting evolution of the over/underskirt combination found on later 19th Century styles. Also, while the bustle style had mostly disappeared by the 1890-91, it still lingered on a bit in a more muted form with padding. Finally, here’s a three-quarter rear view that shows off the train:

This is an interesting dress in that it takes the basic walking suit of the 1890s and then takes it a bit further with using contrasting colors to create an over/underskirt style that’s reminiscent of what was more common in the 1880s. Colorwise, we seen the use of analogous colors with the two shades of gray (although they’re technically neutral) and the use of red as a contrast. It’s not a combination that one normally encounters and it definitely stands out. But what’s more interesting is that the dark gray is on a velvet which absorbs light thereby creating a dull luster while the light gray silk taffeta does the opposite.  We hope to come across more interesting examples of this style so stay tuned. 🙂



At The Atelier- Design Creation, Part 6

In out last post, we assembled the pieces for both the exterior fashion layer and the interior lining/facing layers for the Eton jacket.

In full disclosure, we’d like to say that this project has been an interesting learning experience in that it’s demonstrated to us that there is a lot more involved to drafting a pattern than simply drawing lines on paper following some formula, cutting out the pieces, and putting it together. A lot more. The one thing that nobody really ever discussed in pattern drafting and overall development is that once a pattern is constructed and tested out with one or more toilles, there’s still the matter of working out just how exactly the garment is going to be constructed. Of course, it’s assumed that one just knows all the relevant techniques and that bears little or nor discussion but the reality is with historical garments, there’s a lot that’s become obscure or even lost over the years. Fortunately, there are a number of references out there so it’s not an impossible task but it’s one that’s going require a lot of practice and work to master. So with that said, let’s proceed to the next steps…🙂


We now arrive at one of the most crucial stages- assembling the jacket body.

A lot more pressing is in order but overall we’re pleased with how it came together.

And now onto constructing the cuffs:

The decision to utilize turn-back cuffs was purely an aesthetic one and we could have just as easily used a number of different styles… 🙂 Here’s  the  cuffs pinned to the sleeves:

 

And voila, sleeves!

And finally, the sleeves are attached and set in the proper position. All that remains is some final touch-ups.

(To be continued…)