Something Unique in Cycling Suits…

One finds the most unique things when doing fashion research and today is no exception. In my study of 1890s fashions, I came across this interesting extant example of a cycling suit:

Cycling Suit, 1890s; FIDM Museum

When I first viewed this, I thought I was looking at something from the late 1960s or early 1970s…the flower-pattern fabric just simply screams that era. 🙂 This is something that we’ve never seen before. We’ve examined quite a few 1890s era cycling suits, both in person and through photo research, but never have we seen this sort of a fabric used. As a rule, fabrics were usually solids or some sort of a pattern, similar to what one would have found in men’s sack suit It certainly makes you wonder- was this a one-off or simply a variant that never took off in popularity? We’d definitely would like to know more…It certainly makes a bold statement and must have turned heads when it was worn. Unfortunately, a online search of the FIDM Museum collection turned up nothing so we’ll have to employ other research methods. Stay tuned for more…this is certainly an interesting puzzle and we’d like to know more.

Some 1890s Bodice Styles

In the course of researching some 1890s dress designs, we came across some interesting bodices that stretch the limits of mid-1890s style. First up is this bodice that utilizes the silhouette to create a floral display:

Bodice, c. 1895-1897; Minnesota Historical Society (9520.11)

While it’s not easy to determine from the picture, this bodice is made from a silk floral brocade combined with inset silk satin insets on the bodice front. What is most striking is that the gigot sleeves have been utilized as a canvas to show off the floral design to its greatest effect. Next is this example that utilizes the bodice’s asymmetrical design to show off the embroidery pattern to it’s best advantage:

The embroidery pattern follows the line of the edge of the bodice’s front opening  along with accents on the bodice bottom and sleeves. The bodice’s black silk satin also serves as a neutral background that further shows up the bright colors of the embroidery. Here’s a close-up of the embroidery pattern:

Another interesting 1890s bodice style was the bodice jacket; this was essentially a bodice that was worn in combination with a waist. Here’s one example from Redfern:

Redfern, Bodice Jacket, 1892; National Gallery of Victoria- Melbourne (D187-1974)

This example is pretty spare, its only decoration is black floral embroidery running along the wide white-colored lapels. Definitely illustrates the idea of “less is more”. The next, example takes the wide lapel idea even further, combining it with an enlarged ivory silk faux waistcoat/vest that overshadows the bottle green velvet jacket. This is interesting in that we see an inversion where the inner garment is larger than the outer garment. Definitely an interesting effect although rarely seen.

Close-up of front.

Detail of front bottom corner of bodice.

The above examples are only a small illustration of the variety of bodice styles that were available during the 1890s and should certainly serve as a source of inspiration for those who desire to recreate the fashions of the 1890s.

1890s Style- It’s All About The Sleeves…

Gigot (aka leg-of-mutton) sleeves were a defining feature of mid-1890s style and as with all fashion trends, they could get somewhat excessive. Here is some commentary on this trend from the October 7, 1894 edition of the Los Angeles Times:

Today the big sleeve is declared possible in any material, its chief uses being to broaden the shoulders and give the waist that effect of a wasp-like slimness so much desired. Diaphanous textiles, too, have taken the place of tho stately gilt and sliver spun brocades, and the girl whose wardrobe docs not Include at least two bodices of transparent stuffs can safely be said to be outside the pale of fashion.

The foundations of a sleeve in any of the gauzy webs now fashionable, does not begin, as one would naturally think, with a simple silk lining. It Is a complicated and awe-Inspiring affair, and often calls for considerable thinking, no matter how accomplished the builder. First, there is a smallish lining in some soft, dainty silk: this covered by a huge one, puffed, folded and pleated in heavier silk or satin, which in turn, is interlined with stiff tarleton or crinoline, and perhaps padded at shoulders or bunched with
concealing looseness at the lower arm…

On this ballooned or mutton-legged structure, the chiffon or mousseline de sole ties in bows or knots or fall in graceful, drifting folds, or is, perhaps, cunningly captioned with hidden tackings to look for all tho world like a furniture covering!

It’s interesting that the trend is said to have started with using heavy silk brocade, often in metallic, but then expanded to using lighter fabrics, that utilized a complex construction process. Ultimately, sleeve styles were part of a greater whole, serving to help define an overall look which, in this case, was the wasp-waist:

In the course of creating our designs, we have drawn on a wide variety of period sources and especially ones that speak to us across the years such as in the case of commentary from those who were living in the era. As we come across more interesting items of this nature, we’ll be sharing them with you all here. 🙂