The Bustle Dress – A Brief Overview, Part 6

Emile Claus, Mrs. Claus, 1886

In our last post, we covered the mid-1880s which saw the transition to the Second or Late Bustle Era. In today’s post, we cover the rest of the decade and maybe bled over a little into the early 1890s since fashion often doesn’t precisely follow the calendar.  😉 Just to give a little perspective, below are a series of fashion plates from Peterson’s Magazine spanning the years from 1885 through 1889.

Peterson’s Magazine, August 1884

Peterson’s Magazine, November 1885

Peterson’s Magazine, August 1886

Peterson’s Magazine, June 1887

Peterson’s Magazine, June 1888

In the above plates, although specific bodice and skirt styles may vary, along with fabric and color choices, the emphasis is always on the train. And just to give a little more detail, here’s some views from 1887 issues of Der Bazar (aka Harper’s Bazar):

Fashion plates are great but as we all know, these tend to portray the ideal and not necessarily what people wore. So to add some perspective, here’s some period photographs that depict the Late Bustle Era silhouette:

Archduke Josef Karl of Austria and spouse, Archduchess Clotilde, neé Princess of Saxe Coburg and Gotha.

Miss Ethel Bond, 1886; Musee McCord (II-81334)

And finally, let’s take a look at some extant garments starting with this 1888 afternoon dress from Worth:

Worth, Afternoon Dress, 1888; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.664a, b)

The silhouette is distinctly later 1880s and nicely illustrates one of the major styles that utilizes contrasting under and overskirts. The overskirt is made from a dark brown silk jacquard with a cream-colored silk taffeta underskirt. Below is a close up of the outerskirt fashion fabric:

The bodice also utilizes the same fabric as the under and overskirts with the opening so to reveal the lighter colored fabric as a faux vest. Trimming the collar, inner bodice and underskirt is what appears to be brown-colored corded lace.  Below is a close-up:

Below is a three-quarter rear view of the dress:

With this afternoon dress, Worth masterfully employs the design elements and it definitely embodies the late 1880s look.  Next, Worth also employs the same design aesthetic in this circa 1888 combination day/evening dress (pictured here with the evening bodice):

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

This dress has the same silhouette as the afternoon dress and employs a similar scheme of contrasting under and overskirts as well as a differently contrasting bodice. The front underskirt is a good/ivory silk taffeta or satin with gold floral appliques. On both sides, one can also make out jeweled inset panels that are set in the underskirt’s folds. Below is a close-up of the front underskirt:

Turning to the bodice, the evening bodice is constructed of a solid dark gold/yellow-colored silk taffeta that’s decorated with jeweling on the front and along the neck and shoulders. Below is a closer look at the bodice:

The side profile pictured below gives a good view of both skirts and the jeweled inset panels, a suitable feature that only further enhances the design effect.

In contrast to the front underskirt, the overskirt is relatively plain, a solid dark gold/yellow-colored silk taffeta that matches with the bodice fashion fabric. The train is a double layer and has no adornment. This is an interesting dress in that it places its most dramatic effects to the dress front and bodice. The plainness of the overskirt can especially be seen below:

The above two examples illustrate both the daytime and evening late 1880s silhouette quite nicely. Of course, we could easily pull out a dozen more examples but the point’s been made. 🙂 In terms of style, one could say that the 1880s and the Late Bustle Era ended on a high note and as with all fashion, it would begin to experience another period of change where the rear was de-emphasized and greater focus was on a more upright figure that was in many respects similar to the Mid-Bustle Era. But in the years to come, the focus was to shift to the shoulders with gigot sleeves and the waist and hips with the wasp-waist or hourglass figure- but that was a few years off. We hope you’ve enjoyed this multi-part survey of the Bustle Era and in the future, we hope to expand on more.



In The Works…

Of course she’s still in pins, but what’s a little hand finishing the night before we leave for the Tombstone house? This silk faille is a dream to sew with…can’t wait to see this in my violet parlor room. 🙂



A Pingat Day Dress- Circa 1880s

P

ingat is not a name people today associate with dress styles. Sure his atelier made them but in today’s fashion literature, he’s more associated with outerwear than anything else. Recently, we came across some interesting pictures of a circa 1880s Pingat day dress that was sold on an auction site:

We were unable to obtain more high-resolution pictures but they’re still detailed enough to get a good idea of the style. First though, we wanted to try and date this a bit more specifically than simply being “1880s”- auction websites are notorious for poor dating. Based on the dress silhouette, our best estimate would be the 1881-1884 time frame. The rear skirt has some fullness in the back and the bodice back is also shaped to further accentuate the skirt’s fullness. However, at the same time, the skirt’s fullness doesn’t read “large” like what one sees with late 1880s skirts; of course, a lot of this comes down to staging and it would be interesting to have seen what sort of bustle the skirt could accommodate. At the same time, the skirt just doesn’t read the natural form/mid-bustle era style characteristic of the 1877-1881 time frame. Also, it must be noted that the bodice doesn’t completely cover the hips, which also tends to support the mid-1880s time frame. In the end, we’re going to qualify this all with the usual “our best guess” disclaimer. 🙂

As for the dress itself, it appears to have been constructed from a blue-striped white/ivory silk satin with no extra trim- it could have had some lace but if so, it’s long gone. The above picture of the label gives a nice close-up view of the fashion fabric. Below are close-up pictures of the bodice front and back:

The collar just seems to naked without some lace… 🙂

This dress is hemmed with two rows of knife pleating of fabric that’s similar to the fashion fabric only that the stripes appear to be more closely spaced together. It’s also an interesting effect having the knife pleating stripes running perpendicular to the fashion fabric stripes. Finally, separating the two rows of knife pleating is ruching. Viewing the dress at a distance, one cannot help but a bit disoriented by all the striping running in different directions. 🙂

This is a very nicely designed day dress and it could have even worked for a reception dress. However, the most interesting part about this dress is that it was actually a combination day/evening dress as can be seen from this evening bodice:

Unfortunately, there are no other views of the night bodice so we don’t know much but judging from the voluminous lace running down the back, it’s clear that the night bodice was intended to provide a contrast to the more tidy day bodice. Maybe one day some more pictures of the night bodice will surface. Overall, this is an interesting dress and it uses stripes to maximize its impact while at the same time, the optical effect of the stripes is a bit jarring. We hope you’ve enjoyed a view of this very unique dress.



Style Analysis- The Early 1890s

When starting out to study any fashion era, it’s easy to get lost in the details- the old phrase of not seeing the forest from the trees comes to mind here. 🙂 But this situation is easy to overcome by approaching things in a systematic manner. To help, we found the following method to be very helpful in approaching l1890s styles.  Some key elements to look for when classifying garments are:

  • Silhouette- What basic shape is the garment or dress (since that is mostly what we are dealing with)? The easiest characteristic to look for is the bustle- is there one? Maybe a vestigial one? Does it have a sharp, shelf-like appearance or is it softer?
  • Skirt- Is it straight or does it have a train? Many formal dresses has some sort of a train, usually extending out from the bottom of the dress (for example the “fan train” or “mermaid tail” commonly found with Mid-Bustle dress designs). Is there just one skirt or a combination over and underskirt?
  • Bodice- Is there just a single bodice or is it a combination of an outer bodice/jacket and an under bodice/vest? Are the sleeve caps extended or blend in with the bodice body? The leg-of-mutton sleeve is an extreme case of this and reaches its height during the 1895 – 1897 time frame (although there were always exceptions).
  • Fabrics- What is the basic fashion fabric? Wool? Silk? Cotton? Some sort of a combination? Woolens were very common for day dresses and especially those meant to be more “practical” such as with the house dress. Cashmere was (and still is) a better grade of wool and of course, silk was used for more finer dresses for wear in public or for some sort of social event. China silk, dupioni, shantung, taffeta, faille, and bengaline were some of the more popular choices for silk fabrics. Brocades and velvets were also employed although often only as contrast fabrics. There was a wide variety of yardage used and one could easily write a book on it.
  • Trims- What sort of trim is there? Knife-pleated fabric along the hemline? Netting? Embroidery? Buttons? The possibilities are almost endless.

The above is only a very cursory review but it provides a good roadmap in analyzing fashion and especially if one is designing their own dress or simply classify a dress.

In this post we’re going to apply the above scheme a bit towards understanding the development of one of the key trends of 1890s fashion- the development of the jacket-bodice/jacket and skirt style. To begin, below are some examples of extant garments from the early 1890s that should give a better idea of what to look for. We start first with wedding/day dress from 1891:

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Wedding Dress, 1891; Minnesota Historical Society (9444.10.A,B)

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Side View

The above was made as a wedding dress and has provenance as such but it also illustrates one of the more typical day dress styles that are characteristic of the period. This dress was obviously meant to worn in public and could have been used for visiting or as a dress to be worn at home to receive visitors; the beadwork gives it a simple elegance. Style-wise, we see that the bodice is acting as a jacket (somewhat) and some sort of shirt-waist or vest was worn underneath (the display mannequin just has some black velvet filler).

Here’s another example, a little more elaborate day dress from circa 1887-1891:

CI55.40.1ab_F

Day Dress, c. 1887 – 1891; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.55.40.1a, b, e)

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Close-Up

CI55.40.1a_d

This is clearly a much more fancy dress than the first one but it does share the same over-bodice/jacket style. If you look at the top two pictures carefully, you can see that the fashion fabric is a light brown faille or taffeta. The fabric lining the inside of the collar and trimming each side of the bodice appears to be a peach-colored chiffon and it acts as a contrast to better show off the beading.

Below is another example, this time a visiting/reception dress from circa 1891:

504083D

Visiting/Reception Dress, c. 1891, attributed to Mme. Lambele de St. Omer, No.30 E. 21st St, New York; Smith College Clothing Collection (1985.5.4ab)

504084D

The above dress utilizes a combination of rust-colored silk faille, rust/gold brocade, and a claret-colored velvet. The brocade overskirt skirt is covered with rust-colored silk tails leading down from the bodice/jacket and underneath is a matching silk underskirt. The bodice is styled as a jacket, suggestive of a bolero with its high sleeve caps and wide lapels/revers. The sleeves are made of velvet and contrast with rust-colored silk on the rest of the jacket/bodice. The vest is also made of a rust-colored silk. Also, it must be noted that the skirt does have a small bustle made of spring steel. Besides the classic bolero style effect, we also see the overskirt being topped off with a waistband of the same brocade material giving the appearance of a sash wrapped several times around the waist, giving the effect of an obi found on a kimono. It is interesting that the brocade pattern runs at a 90 degree angle to the pattern on the skirt.

Each of the above dresses attempts to utilize color and trim in different ways. The first dress is a mono-colored and uses the leaf-patterned embroidery to provide a contrast. The second dress uses two different colors- a light brown/khaki color as the base combined with peach-colored chiffon accents covered with elaborate beadwork. Finally, with the third dress, we see the use of three different colors (rust, claret, and gold) in three different fabrics to achieve its effect. The third dress is far more ambitious and it succeeds.

In the above three pictures, we have seen three very different dresses that still share come common style elements. In particular, each dress’s bodice is styled as more of a jacket than a true bodice and it continues a trend that stared in the 1880s and would culminate with the development of “tailormade” walking suits during the mid to late 1890s. While an under-bodice or vest was usually worn underneath, a shirtwaist could also be used. Below are some early examples of the walking suit style:

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

Walking Suit, c. 1892; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1982.82.6a, b)

Walking Suit, 1892; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.53.72.9a–c)

Front Close-Up

Ultimately, all the above dresses feature a jacket and skirt style but each executes it in a different manner and this trend was present throughout the 1890s. Where before dresses tended to consist of a bodice/skirt or princess line styles, they were now supplemented by the jacket/jacket-bodice and skirt style. One of the end results was a style that was extremely practical for everyday wear which reflected women’s increasing involvement in public life.



Fabric Trends- Spring 1890

Fabrics are a major part of fashion and often are the center of focus of a dress design. In terms of style, a fabric could be said to consist of three elements: 1) the fabric’s specific type and construction; 2) the fabric’s decoration (i.e. does the fabric have some sort of decorative motif or is it plain?); and 3) the fabric’s color. This is illustrated in this commentary from the April 1890 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:

In the way of dress materials, the newest is a gauze with wide woven stripes in a fabric much more transparent than the ground of the material, these stripes being figured in large patterned designs in the thicker stuff. The effect thus produced is very pretty, and, when the gauze is made up over a colored satin underskirt, the toilette thus composed will be charming.

Interesting, that could be referring to Edwardian styles. 🙂 As for silks, brocades were definitely in vogue:

The newest silks are brocades, having very small sprays of flowers in their natural colors scattered over a black ground. Some of the designs are very tasteful as well as novel, and especially one representing a single stalk of the fuchsia with its pendent blossoms, and another showing one of the crimson clover. These floral designs are repeated on the foulards of the season- snowdrops or ears of wheat being represented on the black grounds, and fuchsias on cream-white or pale silver-gray.

Here are some fashion plates from Peterson’s that help illustrate this a little:

Peterson’s Magazine, March 1890

Peterson’s Magazine, May 1890

And here are some extant examples of garments that incorporate one or more style elements noted above:

Worth, Evening Dress, c. 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.59.20)

Worth, Ballgown, 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.68.53.11a, b)

 

 

Worth, Afternoon Dress, c. 1890; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2015.688.a-b)

Sara Mayer & A. Morhanger, Day Dress, c. 1889-1892; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.270&A-1972)

 

 

Worth, Dinner Dress, c. 1890-1895; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.636a, b)

The above examples are only a small sample but they serve to underscore some of the fashion trends that were underway during the later 1880s/early 1890s.