In our last post, we noted that there were two basic redingote styles during the late 1880s/early 1890s: the functional coat meant to be worn as outerwear and the redingote as part of a complete dress style. In this post, we’re going to focus on the redingote as a dress style. For a little history, the redingote’s origins go back to the 18th Century and the term itself is a French corruption of “riding coat.” Initially, the redingote was a closely fitted coat with a flared skirt and was intended to be worn while horseback riding. Over time, the redingote evolved to something more formal that was worn for a number of social occasions. The redingote was inspired by men’s styles and as such they were typically made by a tailor as opposed to a mantua-maker. For a little historical context, here are some illustrations:
Redingote, c. 1790; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.2009.120)
Now let’s take a look at some redingote styles from the late Nineteenth Century starting first with this style featured in the April 1881 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:
Below is a full description of the style:
No. 2 Is a walking costume for a young lady, the material of which is summer camel’s hair cloth, light twilled flannel, de laine, de beige, albatross, cloth, or any of the endless variety of spring fabrics, may be used for this style of dress. The skirt, has, first a narrow knife-plaiting two and a-half inches deep. Over this, a side plaiting, or more properly a kilt-plaiting, a-half yard deep, on to which a puff is laid, six inches
from the bottom. This puff is gathered with a cord in the edge.
The polonaise is a revival of the old fashioned Redingote—cut with loose fronts and a tight-fitting back—belted in at the waist to fit the figure. This garment is double-breasted and finished with a rolling collar of silk or velvet. The belt, cuffs, loops, and ends, forming the garniture of the polonaise, are all made of silver silk or velvet, to match, or else of a contrasting color, or darker shade of the same color.
From the illustration may be seen about how far in front to leave the garment open. The edges arc simply piped with the silk. The fullness in the back is arranged in irregular pouffs. A similar bow of loops and ends is placed at the back, just below the waist line. The bows may be made of ribbon, if preferred. Ten to twelve yards of double width material will be required. For collar, cuffs, and belt, three-quarters of a yard of silk or velvet. One yard extra for loops or four yards of ribbon. Two dozen buttons. Fancy buttons are most fashionable.
Besides the technical details, what’s interesting is that the idea that the polonaise is a revival of the redingote. This is an interesting proposition although we’re more included to think that it’s more of a blurring of styles. From the example above, it would seem that the redingote itself has been modified to be more loose towards the bottom and treated as more of an overskirt. Moving forward, we see another Redingote style in the September 1888 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:
Unfortunately, there’s no description but it’s clear that this style runs fairly true to the classic 1790s style with a double-breasted front combined with skirt opening up to reveal a patterned underskirt. And for a little variation, there’s this style from the October 1890 edition of Peterson’s Magazine:
The above dress is described as a:
…handsome street or traveling gown. It is made of gray cashmere or camel’s hair. The petticoat, of two tints of gray in stripes, is kilt-plaited [pleated] on the left side, up to the waist. The overdress is the newest style of redingote polonaise, the front of which has a few plaits near the waist to give a slight fullness. The back of the skirt is very full. The trimming for this gown is of gray plush or fur, as the individual taste may decide…
The above redingote is styled as more of a robe than a coat but the effect is similar. Another variation of sorts can be found in these two dresses by Pingat:
Reception Dress, Emile Pingat, c. 1885; Shelburne Museum (2010-75)
Three-Quarter Rear View
Pingat, Promenade Dress, 1888; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.7758a, b)
Right Side Profile
These two dresses are very similar in style and look back more to the mid-Eighteenth Century with the cut of the coat and trim details. The redingote dress style was an interesting style variant in the 1880s and 1890s and while in many respects it reflected its 18th and early 19th Century predecessors, it also added new elements such as the robe. Unfortunately for us, there are not a lot of extant examples out there so we’ve had to work through fashion publications and the fact that patterns were offered through publications such as Peterson’s and Demorest’s suggests that there was a demand for these designs by the public. In the future, we’ll be posting more on this subject and hopefully in the meantime, we’ll have found more interesting examples to show you all. 🙂