And For Some Dress Inspiration From c. 1903

Looking for early 1900s day dresses but not the lingerie dress style? Well, here’s an interesting alternative from circa 1903:

Day Dress, c. 1903; FIDM Museum (79.25.12A-C)

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of detail on specific dress materials, except to say that silk is one of the materials, so short of a physical inspection, it’s somewhat speculation on our part but it’s probable that the fashion fabric is either a silk print or has woven stripes. Velvet is also indicated as another material and more likely present in the trim running along the bottom and middle hems, bodice front, and collar. Finally, lace is also indicated and that’s pretty obvious looking at the middle hem, shoulders, and collar.  Stripes have often been used as a dramatic style element and when used judiciously, they can take an otherwise average dress and make it into something fantastic as with the day dress.

The side profile really shows up the “pouter pigeon” look created by the S-Bend corset.

The train nicely shows off the vertical stiped effect. Daywear styles in the 1900-1905 time frame were dominated by lingerie/lingerie style dresses and this is what tends to stick in people’s minds when considering this period. The above dress stands out as a major exception and certainly provides some food for thought. Stay tuned for more! 🙂

More Fashion for Fall and Winter 1886

Previously, we’ve seen what was trending for Fall/Winter in the November 1886 issue of Peterson’s Magazine so let’s now take a further look at the December 1886 issue:

Peterson's_Dec 1886

Below is a description of each figure, from left to right:

Fig. I – Walking Dress, Of Dark Green Cashmere. The long wrap is made of striped woolen, plain in front and over the arms, and cut to figure to the waist at the back. It falls in full plaits over the tournure, and is trimmed with fur. The hat is of black velvet, trimmed with fur. The hat is of black velvet, trimmed with large full bows of yellow ribbon and two stiff feathers.

Fig. II – Visiting Dress, Of Red Camel’s Hair. The petticoat is of velveteen of a darker shade than the dress. The skirt is put on full around the bodice, and is draped in front diagonally. At the back, it falls in straight folds. The long bodice is made full in front. The skirt and cuffs are trimmed with fur, and a fur boa is worn around the neck. Hat of red velvet, trimmed with velvet and a stiff bird’s-wing.

Fig. III – Evening Dress, Of Yellow Silk. The skirt is short and laid in long box-plaits. At the back, it is quite full over the tournure. The front is trimmed with a wide panel of the silk, embroidered in light-brown. The very plain bodice has the same embroidery down the front, and is edged with large pearl beads.

Fig. IV – Evening Dress, Of Light Blue Surah. The skirt is laid in plaits at the sides and back. In front, it is plain, with a fall of deep white lace over it. The tunic is put on full to the bodice, is looped away from the lace with a bunch of white roses on the left side. At the right side, it is drawn further back, and falls in a puff behind. The bodice is plain, pointed back and front, and is trimmed with folds of the silk and knots of satin ribbon.

Fig V – Walking Dress, Of Black Figured Cloth. The bodice is cut long at the back over the tournure, then falls in straight full folds. In front, it is quite plain, but opens at the side over a velvet panel. The bodice in front is very long, plain, and pointed; The whole dress is trimmed with rosary-beads. large velvet bow.

Of particular interest from the above description is the use of Surah for evening dresses stands out. Surah is an even-sided fabric woven in a twill pattern from fine silk filaments or wool (today, polyester is also used). Often patterns are printed on it by the direct print/rolle method.1 This fabric has a smooth, fine hand and a bright, shiny luster. Below are two examples:

And just for interest, here’s an example of a dress from the period made of silk surah:

Day Dress, c. 1884-1886; Les Arts Decortifs (UF 50-6-1 AB) ©Photo Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris / Jean Tholance, tous droits réservés

©Photo Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris / Jean Tholance, tous droits réservés

©Photo Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris / Jean Tholance, tous droits réservés

Another fabric of interest is camel’s hair:

Camel’s Hair

Camel’s hair is typically woven in a twill pattern and can be 100% camel hair or more often, a blend of wool and camel’s hair. Camel’s hair has a soft, silky hand and was widely used in day dresses during the late 19th Century.2

So what was trending from Paris in December 1886? According to Peterson’s:

Walking-suits are now shown in soft-finished cloth and in vigogne [vicuña], the favorite colors being silver-gray, dark brown, and prune-color. A costume in silver-gray cloth has a long full tunic, draped at the back over a plain underskirt bordered with a wide band of Astrakhan-fur. The short tight-fitting jacket is sleeveless, and is bordered with a band of gray Astrakhan, the whole front of the wrap being composed of Astrakhan. This jacket is worn over a blouse-waist in white crape [crepe], finished at the wrists and throat with bands of gray and silver passementerie. Sometimes, the blouse-waist is composed of scarlet crape with similar trimming. The tunic is sloped forward in front, and terminates there at the waist in two long scarf ends, turned over each other, and each finished with a large gray-and-silver tassel.

Another very graceful and artistic walking-dress is in seal-brown vigogne and golden brown Sicilienne. The vigogne overskirt reaches the edge of the hem in front, and is sloped upward at the sides, and looped at the back over a perfectly plain Sicilienne under skirt. The dress is cut Princess, and has a vest and sleeves of the Sicilienne, ornamented with gold passementerie. Over this is worn a dolman-shaped wrap, finished in front with long ends that turn over each other, and at the waist at the back with a wide band of gold-and-brown passementerie, simulating a belt, and seeming to confine the dolman to the figure.

For visiting or reception wear, Worth is making costumes in satin and velvet. The skirt of one that I saw has a very short satin overskirt in front, the back being formed of long wide. flat plaits, and the velvet underskirt being laid in plaits in front, and gathered at the sides half-way down its length. The corsage is in satin. A novelty in the make of this dress was that the drapery was all lined with black brocaded satin.

The above notes are interesting in that it mentions the use of vigogne. or vicuña, and Sicilienne as dress fabrics. So what are these?

Well, first we will start with the vicuña whose wool is one of the rarest natural fibers in the world.  Vicuña wool comes from the Vicuña, a camelid found in the high alpine areas of the Andes Mountains in South America. The Vicuña is related to the llama but has not been domesticated. The wool is extremely fine and has excellent heat retention in relation to its weight. The wool is expensive because Vicuña can only be shorn once every three years and they live in the wild and thus, were usually killed and then shorn to the point where they nearly extinct in the 1960s (today, they have been revived and are not killed).3

Vicunacrop.jpg

Today, Vicuña wool is still very expensive, averaging roughly $21,000 for just an off-the-rack suit coat.

Given the wool’s relative rarity, I would suspect that a good portion of the wool being marketed as Vicuña in the late 19th Century was probably a wool blend with cheaper fibers making up the bulk of the fabric. 🙂

As for Sicilienne, it was a variety of poplin fabric composed of silk and wool fibers. The fabric was a unbalanced plain weave with silk filament as the warp fiber and wool as the weft fiber. The individual wool fibers are thicker and heavier than the silk filaments thus creating a pronounced ribbed appearance. According to some references, the wool was cashmere. We hope you have enjoyed this little trip into 1886 and hope you all have drawn some inspiration. There were a variety of fabrics and colors available to Victorians and many of the same fabrics are obtainable today (although you may have to pay a premium as in the case of the Vicuña 🙂  ).

Stay inspired!


1. [Tortora, Phyllis J. and Ingrid Johnson, Dictionary of Textiles, 8th Edition.]

2. [Ibid.]

3. [Ibid.]



Fashions For Fall and Winter 1886

Living in California, it is easy to forget that there are places where it is not sunny and warm all year round (such as Sweden 🙂 ). However, an an effort to remedy this deficiency, today we’re taking a look at a few fall and winter fashions from about 1886. Below is a fashion plate of daywear from the November 1886 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:

Peterson's_Nov 1886

The dresses are described from left to right as follows:

Fig. I – Visiting Dress, Of Dark-Brown Corded Silk. The skirt is laid in many narrow pleats with side-panels of right watered silk. The dolman is of brown corded silk lined with dark-green satin and trimmed with fur. Bonnet of dark-green velvet, with upright quill-feathers.

Fig. II – Walking Dress, Of Green Cashmere. The underskirt is of dark-green velvet; the cashmere is draped and quite long in the front, and falls plainly at the back, over a large tournure. The bodice is of green velvet, like the skirt, with vest and sleeves of the cashmere; the best hooks underneath green velvet sides. hat of dark-green velvet, trimmed with ribbon the shade of the cashmere.

Fig. III – Carriage Dress, Of Dark-Blue Poplin. The plaited underskirt is plain; the overskirt is made quite full, is edged with a band of beaver-fur, and is looped on the hips. The mantle is of beaver-fur, had broad tabs at the back, with “wings” on the sleeves, and the whole is edged with balls of beaver-fur. Felt hat, trimmed with blue velvet, and feathers the color of the beaver.

Fig. IV – Walking Dress, Of Wine-Colored Woolen Goods, with raised spots dotted over it. The underskirt is of plain silk; the woolen material is plaited to the bodice, and slightly draped at the back to show the silk underskirt; a band of velvet ornaments the front of the skirt, as well as forms a ceinture [belt] around the bodice, the collar, and a lapel on the left side of the front of the bodice. Hat of black felt, with a soft crown of silk and trimmed with loops of spotted foulard and a stiff aigrette.

Fig. V — Walking Dress, Of Chestnut-Brown Rough Woolen Material. The skirt is plain in front, with panels of the same color, striped crosswise by a plush stripe; at the back, it hangs quite plain over a large tournure. The bodice has folds of the striped plush material, with a velvet vest; velvet bow-and-ends on the left side. Large felt hat, trimmed with chestnut-colored ribbon.

The above designs gives an interesting cross section of what was current in daywear in late 1886. The predominant fashion fabric is wool although silk is also used in varying degrees; only the “visiting dress” is almost completely made of silk. All of these designs are functional and provide a starting point for the home sewer or commissioning a personal design. The colors are subdued, reflecting the fall/early winter season.

Turning to fashion trends, the December 1886 issue of Peterson’s Magazine gives an overview of what was trending in Paris (note: we have edited the passage for clarity):

The new materials of the season are very rich and handsome, and are proportionately expensive. Heavy faille or bengaline, figured or striped with plush or with velvet, contest the palm with figured or plaid velvet—or, more magnificent still, with velvet figured with large scattered flowers in uncut velvet, these flowers being outlined with gold thread.

One pattern shows large overlapping velvet blocks on a satin ground. Another has waved lines of velvet, a quarter of an inch wide, on a heavy corded silk ground. There are materials in two-inch wide stripes, alternately of satin and velvet, or satin and plush, or velvet and plush, the latter style being extremely rich in effect. All these are in solid colors.

Then there are velvets plaited with uncut velvet in two shades of the same color as the groundwork; and striped velvet, with narrow stripes imitating gold embroidery sunk in the velvet; and stamped-velvet stripes, alternating with satin stripes figured with plush or velvet.

For wraps, are shown velvets in subdued cashmere colors, the hues being very delicate and artistic, and the prevailing tints being dull-blue and faded rose. In the striped materials just described, the solid colors are all in subdued tones- garnet, seal-brown, heliotrope, and dark-gray being the fashionable shades of the season.

These stuffs are very expensive- costing, even in Paris, from five dollars to fifteen dollars per yard.1 But there will not be a great quantity of these costly fabrics employed in any one toilette. They will be used for the plain undershirt, and the short overskirt or pauter-drapery [portiere drapery]2 and sash at the back will be composed of plain material matching the groundwork, as will also be the corsage. Cashmere, striped or figured with velvet or with plush, is shown for less dressy costumes, and is far less expensive.

From the above, faille and bengaline figured or striped with plush or velvet with plaid, palm or flowers are trending.

Faille

Bengaline

Bengaline and faille are similar fabrics in that they are both a plain weave fabric with more warp yarns than weft yarns. The warp yarns on both are usually silk (more properly termed filaments) while the weft yarns are thicker, thus creating the crossways rib effect. For Bengaline, the weft yarns are usually cotton while with faille, both warp and weft yarns are usually silk. However, both fabrics have been made completely with silk or cotton. The best way to tell them apart is that Bengaline tends to have thicker, more pronounced cross-ribs. Both are lustrous fabrics and wear well and the best part was that the cotton-silk blends are less expensive than pure silk, thus offering silk’s benefits at a cheaper price.

And there there is cashmere:

Given the high cost of cashmere (even back in 1886), there is a good chance that the “cashmere” was actually some sort of wool blend (after all, this was before the Wool Products Labeling Act of 1939).

And just for interest, below are the subdued tones that are trending for wraps (subject to the interpretation of the computer):

Garnet1

Garnet

Seal Brown1

Seal Brown

Heliotrope1

Heliotrope

Dark Grey1

Dark Gray

And finally, just to demonstrate that high fashion was actively being marketed to the middle class, below is an advertisement from a concern located in Kansas City, Missouri. 🙂

illustratedcatal00bull_0100

Advertisement, c. 1886

We hope you have enjoyed small view of the fashion world of 1886- it’s not often that we can drill down to the specific details but with the increasing availability of scanned versions of the major fashion magazines of the time, this process has been made a lot easier and we hope to have more postings of this nature in the future.


1. [Approximately $130 to $357 a yard at 2020 prices.]
2. [The term “Portiere Drapery” is taken the French word portière which is a hanging curtain placed over a door or over the doorless entrance to a room.]



The Ensemble Dress From Maison Worth, Redux

In a previous post, we commented on the ensemble dress, a sub-style that was popularized by Charles Worth consisting of a combination day and evening dress consisting of a base skirt and two separate bodices for day and night wear. Today we feature another example of this style that was made around 1888, starting with the day bodice:

Worth Combination Day/Evening Dress, c. 1888; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1093a–e)

The overskirt and bodice of this dress appear to have been constructed from an apricot silk, most likely taffeta or faille, combined with an underskirt constructed from a champagne silk satin covered in a gold floral brocade pattern. Here are some close-ups of the fashion fabric and the front underskirt:

Inset on each side are panels of gold silk satin covered in jeweled white lace which set-up the floral brocade underskirt. Compared to the skirts, the day bodice is fairly simple, constructed of the same apricot silk with a lace-up (or faux lace-up) front trimmed with an asymmetrical jeweled collar that starts out dense on the left side and thins out as it makes its way around the neck and down the front right side. Finally, the bodice features three-quarter sleeves trimmed in lace.

And now for the evening bodice:

Worth Combination Day/Evening Dress, c. 1888; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1093a–e)

The evening bodice appears to be constructed of the same apricot silk as the day bodice and overskirt. Decorating the bodice front, shoulders, and neckline is a somewhat asymmetrical jeweled decorative pattern- note the ribbon bow on only the left shoulder. Below is another side view:

While this ensemble dress is somewhat more understated than some of Worth’s other ensemble dresses, it’s still a solid contender, presenting practicality with understated elegance.



Taking a Turn Around Hjo, Redux

Our trip to Sweden gave me an opportunity really put my 1890s wardrobe through its paces and it was a total success. The weather and location were perfect and it all came together nicely.


Enjoying a twirl outside a gorgeous 1898 Swedish country house and hoping it doesn’t rain! I had fun today wearing (finally) my new 90s gown with all the restored extant embroidery. We come home to the US on Monday, then I can post the photos from the original museum gown before it was restored and answer questions like: “how did you get your sleeves to stay that big” and other fun thoughts one learns along the way. It’s fun to wear history when one can, but it’s a piece that will require gentle care. The hat is a deaccsession museum piece…another piece that requires gentle handling. The parasol I recovered in silk, then used one of my original lace covers.

NOTE: The video actually plays with the correct side up.