Trying to wrap up all the fiddly fittings so I’ll have something fun to wear for Wyatt Earp Days (Memorial Day Weekend) in Tombstone…so many projects to finish before then!
Auction websites and provide some of the most interesting examples of period garments but they can be aggravatingly lacking in specific details as to provenance and construction. Here’s an interesting day dress from the mid to late 1880s that’s meant for warmer weather that we found in the Augusta Auctions website:
This dress is constructed from a salmon-colored cotton chambray material for both the under and over-skirts as well as the bodice. White/ivory rick-rack lace in a floral pattern covers the outer sleeves, shoulders, and overskirt, as well as forming two rows of trim on the underskirt. The bodice is a fairly conventional front-buttoning style and has a plain, unadorned collar. Note how the rick rack lace forms a capelet around the shoulders.
In terms of silhouette, this dress definitely belongs sometime in the mid to later 1880s although the lack of defining undergarments hinders a more definite conclusion. However, the gathered train at the waistline would tend to rule out an earlier Mid-Bustle Era style.
Here are a couple of close views of the fashion fabric. The weave pattern is interesting and suggestive of a cotton fabric.
The dress’ color has faded but underneath the button line one can see a darker shade of color- salmon or pink, it can be interpreted either way. Here one can also get a close view of the lace and make out the floral design. Now, a closer view of the fashion fabric itself:
We had doubts about this fabric being a chambray but this close-up view of the fabric and especially the hole would suggest that the weft fabric has white fibers- the fashion fabric with the hole is part of the overskirt and it appears that this was photographed on the bias. Ultimately, the most striking thing about this dress is that although it’s relatively plain in materials, construction and color; however, it then compensates (or perhaps over-compensates) with a large quantity of lace. Nevertheless, this dress fills a mid-range style position that was more towards the low end of middle class.
Fashions of the 1880s have always been a source of fashion inspiration for us and we’re constantly in search of interesting examples. We recently came across this example of a dress done in a pseudo-waistcoat and jacket style that utilizes horizontal and vertical stripes in harmonious manner. The pictures were obtained off the net and might have been on an vintage clothing auction website at one time but it’s a bit ambiguous; thus, nothing was obtainable on its provenance.1For reasons unknown, the copy associated with the dress is for a completely different dress and the confusion has been perpetuated by endless copying from one Pinterest board to another. Usually we can work out the original source of the pictures but this one completely eludes us at this time.
The dress appears to be constructed from a solid ivory-colored material combined with a medium old gold/brown and black pin-striped material. The front of the skirt combines broad horizontal ivory-colored knife-peated stripes with narrow black and old gold/brown vertical stripes. Below is a close-up of the bodice where we can see that it buttons up the front.
Here’s a better view of the striped fashion fabric and cuff. The black stripes could maybe be a black velvet on a base of old gold/brown-colored fabric, perhaps a corded silk faille. The cuff is finished with two separate layers of gold and dark brown silk satin. The cuff is then finished with a knife-pleated chiffon-like material.
Below is another close-up, this time of the rear skirting. One can see that the stripes have been carefully lined on on the seams.
And side and rear profile views:
The train is interesting in that it’s in the solid ivory fashion fabric and trimmed in gold and brown silk satin. This provides a somewhat stark contrast with the striped fashion fabric. The dress silhouette reads mid to late 1880s although the lack of proper undergarments makes for a somewhat limp rear silhouette- there would be a bit more of a train. The photo below gives a better view of the train:
This is a great example of mid to late 1880s style and we really wish that there had been background information about this. However, we can make some educated guesses in regard to style, silhouette, and materials. If, and when, we find out more, we shall up this so in the meantime, enjoy the pictures! 🙂
Today we take another quick look at early 1880s style with this day dress:
Although the museum description indicates early 1880s and the silhouette itself definitely reads Mid-Bustle/Natural Form Era although we think that this might be more of a late 1870s style on the basis of the prominent two-fabric combination in the bodice. Turning to the dress itself, it 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.
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.
Ths dress is an interesting example of Mid-Bustle Era style and while not a lot is know about it, it definitely combines the Mod-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. Also, at the same time, while there’s contrast, the colors themselves harmonize well. We hope you’ve enjoyed this example and it demonstrates nicely that fashion styles tend to evolve, often blending old and new elements, than change abruptly.