Close-Up: Early 1880s Style

Today we leave fashion plates and illustrations behind and turn towards some extant examples of early 1880s styles from various collections with an emphasis on bodices- our newest fixation. 😉 First up is this circa 1881-83 day dress from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET Museum):

Day Dress, c. 1881-1883; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.43.44.4a, b)

This dress rather closely follows the early 1880s silhouette with a short bodice combined with an over/underskirt combination. The bodice is constructed of a burgundy-colored silk velvet.  The overskirt is also constructed of the same burgundy velvet that divides into two sections: one loosely covering the hips and extending down in point, down almost all the way to the hem and the other creating a long tail. Unless one looks closely, the bodice and overskirt appears as one, creating the illusion of a polonaise. The underskirt is constructed of a multi-colored vertically striped fabric with insets of the burgundy velvet- it’s hard to determine just what it is and the description on the MET Museum website offers no clues. The striped fabric is in several colors in various shades of brown along with ivory.

The bodice front is trimmed with jewel appliques on both sides of the front opening, suggesting that this dress was meant for visiting or formal daytime occasions.

Here’s a side profile view and unless one looks closely, it would appear that the bodice is a polonaise style.

The rear view is interesting in that the overskirt draws up shorter than the underskirt. Also, in the rear, the underskirt hem is the same burgundy velvet as the overskirt and bodice. Finally, note that the cuffs and the rear bows appear to be an olive-colored silk moire. Overall, it’s an interesting dress with some design features although the color combinations aren’t really optimal, in our opinion.

Next up is this circa 1882 day dress that, like the first dress, features a faux polonaise bodice style effect:

Day Dress, c. 1882; The Sigal Museum (164.v.1)

This dress appears to be constructed of a combination of gold/champagne color silk satin and a silk brocade with a purple-gold-silver pansy pattern. The brocade is a very busy pattern and from a distance appears more of a black and green (of course, it could also be the lighting and appearance on a computer monitor). The bodice is cut so that the solid champagne/gold satin is featured prominently, making up the main front and back panels with the back panels descending downwards mimicking a tail coat. The center fronts and the upper sleeves are made up of the brocade and provides a harmonious contrast. The neckline is trimmed in a combination of ivory lace, silver satin ribbons and dags of the brocade- it’s an interesting style effect.

Here’s a close up of the bodice and it’s obvious from the seaming that the bodice is actually joined to the rest of the dress- it’s subtle but easy to miss at a distance. The dress itself continues with this solid and brocade fabric theme with a ruched solid front combined with side panels and train in the brocade. The dress is layered but not in the usual over/underskirt manner but rather with vertical draped layers. Finally, the train the brocade is also used for the train.

Here’s some views of the side profile and one can see the vertical draping which emphasizes vertical lines, a characteristic of Mid Bustle style. Moreover, the pointed draping at the sides mimics the points usually associated with many polonaises; in the rear we can see some fullness leading down to the demi-train.

Ths dress is an interesting example of Mid-Bustle Era style, combining the Mid-Bustle aesthetic of vertical lines while at the same time drawing upon the use of two somewhat contrasting fashion fabrics- in this case, a solid paired with a brocade with a small, busy pattern. While there’s some contrast, the colors themselves harmonize well.

Finally, no examination of early 1880s fashion would be complete without this dress, immortalized by the artist Albert Bartholomé in a portrait of his wife (who soon after tragically died):

This dress is interesting in that it takes the polonaise bodice style to an extreme: in the front, we see a tightly sculpted profile that extends a third of the way down the body, ending in a “v” and drawn towards the rear with increasing fullness culminating in a large pouf of material topped with a large bow. One could argue that with this style, we see a hint of the return to the large bustle style that was to occur in the late 1880s. But, nevertheless, at this point, the train is only a minor distraction from the tight cylindrical profile of early 1880s fashion- it was all in flux and sometimes various elements of early and later styles were intermixed in varying degrees.

And the portrait in which the dress appears…today this is on display at the Musèe d’Orsay in Paris. It’s far more powerful viewing it in person- the photo doesn’t do it justice.

Albert Bartholomé (French, 1848–1928)
In the Conservatory (Madame Bartholomé), ca. 1881
Oil on canvas; 91 3/4 x 56 1/8 in. (233 x 142.5 cm)
Musée d’Orsay, Paris, Gift of the Société des Amis du Musée d’Orsay, 1990

The above three dresses illustrate some interesting aspects of early 1880s fashion, especially with the use of draping and harmonizing materials to create faux bodice effects. If it’s one thing that we’ve learned examining fashion plates, illustrations, and pictures of extant garments, it’s that there were an infinite variety of styles out there and certainly a lot of food for thought for those seeking to recreate their own garments of the era. Stay tuned for more! 🙂



And For A Little More Early 1880s Style…

Edouard Alexandre Sain, The Red Parasol, Private Collection

Today we continue our exploration of early 1880s style with a special emphasis on bodices. To illustrate the variety of bodice styles that were out there, here’s a small sample from the April 1880 issue of Peterson’s Magazine, starting with, what is described as a “walking costume of blue-stripe serge:”

Here’s some more detail from Peterson’s:

The demi-long train is kilt plaited, and the round tunic which ends in a point is caught up at the back, and finished with several rows of machine stitching. The deep basque bodice has a pointed waistcoat and revers, and is ornamented with buttons.

As befitting a walking dress, this dress is very simple and unadorned, consisting of an over/underskirt combination combined with a basque bodice. As with many bodices of this period, the bodice is one piece that mimics a coat and vest combination. The skirt is plain with a little fullness to the rear that creates a thin train of sorts that’s continued with a pleated demi-train on the underskirt. Overall, the effect is that of a woman’s tailored suit.

Next up are are visiting and house dresses, also featured in the April edition of Peterson’s:


And here’s the accompanying description of the two dresses:

[Left] Visiting dress of almond-colored Camel’s hair: The skirt has four plaited flounces edged with brown cashmere, shot with gold color. The over-dress opens part way down the front, is very plain, and slightly draped at the back; it is of almond-colored camel’s hair; the jacket with the added basque is of the brown cashmere, threaded with gold color. A brown straw bonnet trimmed with almond or with gold color would be very appropriate with this costume.

[RIght] House dress of gray bunting, trimmed with very gay plaid bandanna, or cotton material; the skirt is l:ilt-plaited to the knee, and the kilting is trimmed with two bands of cotton bandanna; the full tunic forms two points at the sides, and a draped breadth at the back. Bodice with a simulated waistcoat. Cuffs and collar of the bandanna.

As with the walking dress, both of the above dresses have basque bodices that have been cut as jackets. The bodice on the visiting dress on the left is long, extending past the hips and is reminiscent of the Louis XV style. On the other hand, the bodice on the house dress is much shorter, just covering the hips and follows relatively more sculpted lines. For skirts, both feature outer/underskirts; the outerskirt on the visiting dress is draped, falling open to feature rows of pleating on the underskirt. For the house dress, the skirts are both closed and lay directly on top of one another with the outerskirt falling away in an open “v” towards the bottom, revealing rows of pleating on the underskirt.

The polonaise was another popular style and like the basque, it could appear in a variety of styles as see with these illustrations from the February and March 1880 issues of Demorest’s Family Journal:

As can be seen from the above sampling, there were a wide variety of polonaise styles available on the market, all aimed at a mass market in pattern form.  In our next post, we’ll be looking at some extant dresses from the early 1880s that illustrate the wide variety of basque and polonaise bodice styles.

 



And A Little Something From Maison Worth

And for a extra little color, today we feature this Natural Form/Mid-Bustle Era day dress from Charles Worth in shades of orange:

Worth, Day Dress, c. 1878-1883; Augusta Auctions

The silhouette is quintessential late 1870s/early 1880s consisting of a long cuirass bodice with three-quarter sleeves that covers the hips along with an over/underskirt combination. Judging from the long train, it suggests that this dress was meant for more formal day occasions, whether at home or in public. The base fashion fabric for the bodice, overskirt, and train appear to be a wine-colored striped silk taffeta (perhaps?) overlaid with a burnt orange floral pattern. The colors are analogous, providing a palette of warm colors. The underskirt and front bodice insert appear to be a champagne-colored silk satin, trimmed with lace and ribbons on the skirt. The champagne color provides a cool color contrast that only serves to emphasize the bodice and outerskirt.

Here’s a nice view of the train and while it’s substantial, it’s still a demi-train (it’s fairly subjective here). Below is a close-up view of the fashion fabric. From the vertical ribs, it appears to be silk gold flower appliques laid over a silk burgundy stripe fabric. The fabric is fascinating and we would definitely want to study it up close in person.

The red-orange fashion fabric is definitely the centerpiece of this dress and gives it a special, unique appearance. While it’s tempting to classify this as “Fall colors”, it would be a mistake to do so in that Victorians were somewhat flexible when it came to associating colors with specific seasons. But, nevertheless, this is an excellent example of using color to define a dress style and it definitely carries a great impact.  🙂

 



History Mirror Monday

Too much for a country stroll? Let the fun begin starting with #historymirrormonday! 🙂

 



Out And About

First Victorian Outing in eighteen months with friends in the early California citrus orchards at Rancho Los Camulos. Dappled shade, good friends, champagne, and the gift of a few good hugs. And..a new dress. All is right with the world. 🙂