Mid-1890s Style: Evening Gowns

For fashion, the 1890s was all about “going large” and that was especially true during the years 1895-1897 when fashion reached extreme levels with massively sized gigot or leg-of-mutton sleeves, narrow waists and large gored skirts. This trend was especially evident with evening gowns1The terms “evening gown” and “evening dress” are used somewhat interchangeably. For the purposes of consistency, we have chose to use the term “evening gown.” as can be seen below with these fashion illustrations:

Evening Gowns, 1895; Le Moniteur de la Mode

This style is interesting in that it utilizes a prince line combined with the hourglass “X” silhouette and gigot sleeves.

Illustrations are useful but nothing beats the real thing. Here’s some examples of extant evening gowns from the high 90s:

Evening Gown, c. 1895; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1979.346.59a, b)

Rear View

And for some close-ups of the shoulder/sleeve:

Close-Up Of Shoulder

Shoulder Detail

Why do these shoulders give off a Dynasty 1980s vibe? 🙂 Below is something a little different with a different sleeve color and fabric:

Evening Dress, c. 1895; Nordiska Museet

The black velvet sleeves offer an interesting contrast to the silk bodice and skirt not only in colors, but also in luster. The sleeves seems to suck up all the light around them while the silk skirt and bodice do just the opposite. The gown pictured below also does a similar thing although it’s a bit muted:

Worth, Evening Dress, c. 1896 – 1897; Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti via Europeanafashion

Here we have a contrast between the brown velvet bodice inserts and the gold silk bodice and skit. The eye is definitely drawn towards the bodice and by extension, the face. The circa 1893 gown design by Maison Worth below also offers an interesting contrast:

Worth, Evening Ensemble Dress, 1893; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.622a–c)

The silver gray and gold floral design skirt and outer bodice make an interesting contrast to the red silk inner bodice and skirt insert panels. Here the contrast is between colors rather than luster. Now for something a bit different, there’s this circa 1895 gown design by Maison Rouff:

Maison Rouff, Evening Dress, c. 1895; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.2339a, b)

Three-Quarter Rear View

And again, there’s contrast but this time between the ecru lace skirt and ivory silk bodice, also trimmed in ecru-colored lace- here the contrast is between textures. Also, the cut of the bodice is interesting, more reminiscent of an 18th Century design with its waistcoat silhouette. Finally, we see an inversion of the velvet/silk contrast theme in this circa 1887 gown, also from Maison Rouff:

Maison Rouff, Evening Dress c. 1897; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.332a, b)

Three-Quarter Rear View

With the above gown, the skirt and outer bodice is made from a salmon/peach silk velvet combined with a gold/champagne belt and under bodice. However, most of the gown is dominated by the salmon/peach silk velvet while the gold/champagne belt and under bodice give a pop of color. Also, the bodice is small in relation to the skirt with the skirt dominating. The above is only a small sampling of the variety of evening gowns that existed but it should give an idea of some of the period aesthetics. Stay tuned for more posts! 🙂

And For A Little More…

And to follow up from yesterday’s post… 🙂


Her shatter-y insides do not detract from her beauty. There’s no evidence of a petersham with a designer’s stamp, but all her stays are present. The embroidery and net are in delightfully great shape, but only if they are separated from that damaged silk. I have a new design in mind…

And for just for an idea of what I’m going for…

Art Nouveau styling in early celluloid palettes come to life when laid across some violet silk:

 

Something New…

She’s from Paris circa 1898 (ish), perhaps only worn a few times before coming to live with me. Did she dine at Maxim’s, or drink champagne at the Moulin Rouge? There’s got to be a story behind all the sparkle! The skirt’s lining is lost, and her bodice insides are a bit shatter-y. I have restoration plans in store for her, with perhaps a few changes. 🙂

And For A Little Portraiture…

And just for something different today, here’s a portrait from 1891 of Madame Albert Cahen d’Anvers. Portraiture from a particular historical period can often give us an idea of what was worn then, or at least an idealized version of that clothing. In this case, we see an elegant evening dress combined with a long opera cloak. The gold color of the cloak lining nicely contrasts with the silk ivory evening dress. It would be nice to have been able to actually view the dress itself but unfortunately it’s no longer in existence (as far as we can determine) so we’ll have to content ourselves with the portrait.

Léon Joseph Florentin Bonnat, Portrait de madame Albert Cahen d’Anvers, 1891; Bayonne, Musée Bonnat

Here’s a closer view:

Léon Joseph Florentin Bonnat, Portrait de madame Albert Cahen d’Anvers, 1891; Bayonne, Musée Bonnat