Going to the opera, or any formal occasion, required the right outerwear and especially in colder weather. Outerwear during the late 19th Century could range from short capelets all the day to full-on coats and naturally, each couturier had ideas on outerwear styles. Here’s just one style, in this case a circa 1890 opera case that was made by Jacques Doucet:
This cape is constructed from a gold silk floral patterned brocade and trimmed along the collar and shoulders with fur. The capelet and lining appear to be be a yellow/gold silk, probably a satin but it’s hard to tell from the picture- unfortunately, there are no further details on the construction or materials used.
Now, although couturiers often convinced their clients that garments were custom designs made just for them, this wasn’t always the case as with this second opera cape that was also made by Doucet about the same time:
Unfortunately, no other photos are available but it’s safe to say that it appears to have been constructed of a copper and black silk brocade with a floral paisley-like pattern motif. The collar and shoulders are also trimmed in fur and the top capelet is in a gray/lavender silk satin- it’s probably the same as the lining if the first example is any guide. The above two capes are an interesting style and definitely worthy of reconstruction. 🙂
In our last post, we discussed some of the styles that were trending in early 1890 starting with the Directoire and Redingote styles. Today we move on to take a look at the jacket-bodice and pseudo-robe styles. This example from the early 1890s gives a good close-up view of the jacket-bodice style:
The jacket-bodice combines a fairly standard form-fitting jacket with a faux vest that’s reminiscent of an 18th Century waistcoat. The faux waistcoat extends well jacket to reveal elaborate embroidery work that flows up the open front, ending at the neckt in a Mandarin collar. The close-up below provides a nice view of the embroidery:
The “faux vest” could often took the form of shirring made to look like a waist as with this circa 1890-1893 Worth day dress:
With this dress, the shirring runs down the opening in the outer bodice and then picks up again with the skirt front. The white shirring provides an interesting contrast to the black floral patterned dark green silk satin, especially in that the fashion seemingly sucks up light and the white shirring throws out light; the eye can’t help but be drawn to the dress front and then up to the wearer’s face. Below is a close-up of the bodice front:
And for another take on the jacket-bodice style, here’s a circa 1890 afternoon dress made by Worth:
This dress combines a bolero style jacket constructed from a black and orange-brown patterned velvet with a lighter copper-colored silk satin vest/underbodice combined with an outerskirt of the same color. The underskirt utilizes the same black and orange-brown patterned velvet trimmed with embroidered flower appliques along the sides and bottom. With this dress, the contrast is one of harmonizing yet different fabrics.
One interesting variation on the jacket-bodice style is this circa 1890 reception dress that has the jacket acting as more of a redingote style:
The jacket/coat is a black and olive green striped silk taffeta with gold/red floral motifs. The underskirt is a solid black silk taffeta trimmed with black jet beading. Finally, the collar is trimmed with black ostrich feathers. Below is a side profile:
Sometimes it’s difficult to neatly classify dress styles but this one to us emphasizes the outer jacket/coat as more of an unified bodice/overskirt rather than simply a coat over a skirt.
Finally, we take a look at the pseudo-robe style. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of extant examples but here’s an early 1890s dinner dress made by Worth:
Looking at large sash and knot combined with the plunging neckline this dress is reminiscent of a kimono and the floral pattern silk jacquard further reinforces the Japonisme style. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of extant examples of this style.
We hope that you’ve enjoyed this all-too-brief over of fashion in early 1890 and we’re always on the search for fresh content so stay tuned! 🙂
In many respects, this dress style follows the lingerie dress style that was prevalent for warm weather daywear during the early 1900s, an area that Doucet excelled. This dress is constructed of layers of semi-sheer fabrics (probably batiste and/or organza) combined with lace and features a multi-layer train that alternates the fashion fabric with the lace. However, the centerpiece of this dress is the use of a decorative floral motif featuring bees. The bees themselves appear to be embroidered appliques and are artfully arranged running up the dress front to suggest bees buzzing about flying out of the vegetation. One can definitely see that vertical lines are emphasized, especially with the dress front designed as a front-opening robe; the swarm of bees run all the way up the dress front and around the neckline to the back. Compared to many lingerie dresses of the period, the use of lace is fairly restrained and is not allowed to detract from the bee decoration. Below is a rear view:
The rear is also interesting in that the bees are set along the hem of the our dress layer to suggest low-lying vegetation and when viewed together with the front, the effect is very three-dimensional. This is more than a simple static decorative motif being applied to a dress, this has been well thought out. The dress itself is fairly simple design, acting as a canvas for the decorative design. This dress is definitely an inspiration for future recreated designs. 🙂