And For A Little 1890s Day Dress Style

One of the most interesting things about 1890s styles is the use of color and fabrics. Today we feature a day dress that was made in 1892, or close thereabouts:

Day Dress 1892

Day Dress, c. 1892; University of New Hampshire Library 157a,b)

Day Dress 1892

What  immediately caught our eye was the near-florescent colors of the base fashion fabric and the trim. The fashion fabric appears to be a dark blue velvet trimmed with a combination of the dark and  light blues and salmon red . In terms of silhouette, appears to be more early 1890s where the leg-of-mutton sleeve are prominent but haven’t reached the out-sized proportions later seen by 1895. Also, the dress “bodice” appears to be a jacket and waistcoat style although in reality, it’s probably just a one-piece construction. Here’s close-up of the bodice:

Day Dress 1892

What is interesting is that the colors are in excellent condition, given the age of the dress and the luster is amazing- it’s almost iridescent. Granted that lighting and camera angle can alter a garment’s visual appearance but it’s still amazing.  Here’s some close-up views of the trim:

The trim is especially interesting and especially towards the bottom where one can see grape-like bead clusters that give an effect is that of garden vines. Below are a couple of views of the skirt design:

The lining appears to be a combination of blue silk taffeta and a blue-red cotton(?).

The pictures do not give justice to this dress and it’s difficult to determine the specific construction. For the skirt, below is a full description from the University of New Hampshire Textile Library website:

The skirt has the effect of multiple layers but with just one waistband. A six-gored foundation skirt of blue silk is smooth-fitting in front and pleated at the hips and back, and is slightly longer in back than in front. Over this, four panels of the voided velvet hang from the waist to nearly the floor, free-floating except for a few tacking stitches to keep them from flopping over and with dark red silk facings just wide enough to cover the inside edges.

The panels are wide enough to show three of the voided pattern bands each, and at the bottom of each band is a grape-like cluster of silk-wrapped and crocheted balls in graduating sizes, left free to dangle. The two front panels are sewn together but have the same decorative buttons and loops as the bodice. Beneath the panels, more blue velvet is sewn to the foundation layer in flat panels and box pleats to make it appear that there is an entire underskirt of velvet. In back, a 96.5 cm/38 in. wide panel of floor-length blue velvet, partially sewn in at its sides, is cartridge pleated to a short band and hooks to the waistband to cover the center-back opening of the foundation skirt and provide fullness. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn.

The construction details are fascinating and we wish that we were able to examine this dress in person- one can only go so far from pictures alone. We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief view of a fascinating early 1890s day dress. Stay tuned for more!



And For A Little 1890s Bodice Style

Today we show a little 1890s bodice style with some interesting designs that we recently came across. First up is this somewhat de-constructed 1890s bodice from the John Bright Collection:

Bodice, 1890s; John Bright Collection.

Unfortunately, beyond a vague “1890s” date, there’s nothing specific so it’s hard to pin down the specific year. However, the basic shape does read 1890s, possibly mid-1890s. Below is a close-up view of the bodice front. Note the tight armscyes of the armholes. It would be interesting to know what sort of sleeves were attached. 🙂

It’s hard to make out the fashion fabric but it’s most likely on the order of a black silk taffeta with white/ivory-colored passmentarie combined with lace along the center front (presumably to cover the front opening). On the waist is a band of black silk satin with a large bow on the left side. Below is a close-up of the collar which combines a black silk satin straight collar with petals in the back. The petals are each decorated with an embroidered floral pattern reminiscent of 18th Century motifs.

Close-Up Of Collar

For comparison, below is a similar bodice style constructed with a faux vest in the front:

Bodice, c. 1895-1897; Minnesota Historical Society (9520.11)

In many respects, the above mid-1890s bodice is fairly similar and we could easily see it with a gigot sleeves. Of course, it could have just as easily reflected the more restrained sleeve styles of the early and late 1890s:

Bodice- 1893

Bodice- Late 1890s

Either way, this bodice style provides a nice “blank canvas” for a variety of fabric, color, and trim styles.



A Little Fashion In Detail

Spending an afternoon with some fuchsia silk faille, antique sequins, jet, and “Fashion in Detail.” I’ve seen this piece at the V&A in London up close…time to take that inspiration and put it to use.  🙂

And a view of the inspiration:

Guiquin, L, Bodice, 1895; V&A Museum (T.271&A-1972)

 



Some More 1890s Style

When it comes to fashion, the 1890s have always been a source of fascination for us and to us, it’s been one of the most misunderstood periods for fashion; visions of a never-ending parade of women with excessively large Gigot sleeves and  extreme wasp-waists created by tight-laced corsets. It was an era of excess with lots going on and for many, it’s a major turn-off and especially when compared to the free-flowing unstructured (to a point) styles that came later in the 1910s and 20s.

However, it could also be argued that the 1890s marked the beginnings of major fashion shifts that were to come to full flower in the following decades and especially with day wear. The 1890s saw the introduction of functional day wear styles that reflected women’s shifting roles in society and especially in going to work outside of the home and participating in outdoor activities such as bicycling. Also, design-wise, we see a simplification of dress styles that relied less on trim and excess yardage (especially compared to the 1870s and 80s) and more on the decorative effect of the existing fashion fabric. Naturally, as with all of fashion there were exceptions to every rule and many styles of the 1890s retained elements of previous ones but we’re painting with a broad brush here. With that said, let’s proceed…


Today we take a look at one unique example of 90s style:

Day Dress c. 1894 -1896

Day Dress, c. 1894 -1896; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1979.346.25a–c)

Day Dress c. 1894 -1896

Front View

Day Dress c. 1894 -1896

Rear View

Day Dress c. 1894 -1896

Close-Up Of Collar

Day Dress c. 1894 -1896

Close-Up Of Sleeve

This dress ensemble was an ensemble made for  James McCreery & Co. (1867 – 1954), a major New York dry goods retailer that was active during the late 19th Century. The dress has the silhouette typical of mid-1890s styles to include the gigot sleeves and cinched wasp waist. The purple fashion fabric is a wool combined with black silk velvet for the sleeves. The same velvet is also used as trim along the skirt hem and stripes along the bodice front and back. Also, depending on how you view it, the sleeves are trimmed with stripes of the purple wool fabric. Finally, note must be made of the striped black and white waist that’s visible under the upper bodice and at the sleeve cuffs- this is probably a faux waist that’s part of the overall dress.

However, what is most notable about this design is that the front bodice is cut asymmetrically, a feature that’s emphasized by the black and white trim panels running along the front bodice edges. The bold front bodice treatment balances out the black gigot sleeves, serving to create a style that’s both balanced and bold. Interestingly enough, the Metropolitan Museum of Art website terms this as a half-morning dress but to us, that really just doesn’t seem to be the case but that’s just our opinion. But wait, there’s more! Although there’s no information from the Met website, it appears that this was an ensemble that also came with a black velvet jacket and separate waist:

Day Dress c. 1894 -1896

Day Dress c. 1894 -1896

 There isn’t a good picture of the waist but it appears to be made of a white silk with gold embroidery and this is also carried over into the wide collar seen on the jacket. As with the bodice, the jacket is cut asymmetrically at the top. Compared to the bodice in the first set of pictures, the look is definitely more restrained and almost unexceptional. Perhaps that’s where the “mourning” aspect comes in but we seriously question that. 🙂

The above dress is an interesting example of one of the better dress designs to come out of the mid-1890s and especially since it did not directly come out of the Paris couture house (although they did license designs for the American market) with a specific designer name. We would certainly love to know more about the design and how it got its initial inspiration but we fear that this information is probably lost to the ages. We hope you’ve enjoyed this little excursion into the 1890s and we hope to have more styles to feature in future posts. 🙂



The Bridesmaid Dress

Bridesmaid dresses have been a staple of weddings for over 100 years and even today are a fixture for most weddings. For the typical wedding involving two or more bridesmaids, it is standard for the bridesmaids to be wearing dresses of a uniform style and color, thereby providing a canvas for the the bride to show brightly (after all, it is HER day… 🙂 ). However, the bridesmaid dress is often of a style that pleases nobody and in recent years there’s been a lot of resistance to the idea to the point where they’re being dispensed with for some.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th Centuries, wedding customs evolved and by the early 1900s, the typical wedding that we know today had taken form to include the distinct bridesmaid dress. Here are some examples:

Wedding Party c. 1900

Judging from the dress and hat styles, this was probably taken sometime around 1910 or so and what’s striking about it is that the bridesmaid dresses s are fairly uniform. While they appear to be of one style and made from the same material, there are variations in the trim on each woman’s skirt.

And here’s a few more from roughly the same time:

Victorian wedding group by lovedaylemon, via Flickr

In this picture, the bride is almost indistinguishable from the bridesmaids except for the hat.

It’s an interesting to see that uniform bridesmaid dresses were a thing a hundred years ago. In future posts, we’ll look a little further back so stay tuned! 🙂