Trending For February 1887- A Snapshot

The late 1880s saw the penultimate development of the bustle silhouette along with a variety of dress styles that incorporated this silhouette. The 1880s are especially well documented with the rise of the fashion press and while the styles portrayed often depicted idealized forms, they were rooted in reality. Moreover, the fashion press is useful for tracking shifts in trends and even while the late 1880s bustle style was in full flower, there were signs that this was not to remain the case for long as illustrated by the following comment from the February 1887 “Our Paris Letter,” a monthly column in Peterson’s Magazine describing the fashion trends in Paris, notes:

The diminution of the tournure, the falsely- so-called “dress-improver” appears to be definitely decided upon. Worth is using all his powerful influence in that direction, as he dislikes very much the ungraceful stiffness imparted to the upper portion of the toilette by its undue dimensions. The newest articles of this description are composed of ruffles of hair-cloth- the genuine “crinoline”- and the sides are simply laced together underneath, neither steel springs nor whalebone being used in the rubric. The most stylish toilettes have simply a silk cushion, stuffed with horse-hair, set just in the back of the skirt-band, and three rows of steel springs are set in the lower part of the skirt to hold it out. This is merely a return to the combination which was in vogue before the present- or, rather, the recent- exaggeration of his detail in feminine dress.

From the above, it would appear that the the sharp, angular “shelf bustle” was on its way out, at least in Paris, and bustle pads with steel springs were going to be the new thing. As for other trends, let’s take a look at this fashion plate from the February 1887 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:

Petersons_Feb 1887

Peterson’s Magazine, February 1887

The above plate is described as follows:

FIG. I. – VISITING-DRESS, OF YELLOWISH GREEN CASHMERE. The back of the skirt (which falls in straight folds) is made of plain cashmere. The front drapery is of India silk of the same color, figured with red palms. A wide ribbon sash, of the color of the cashmere, and striped crosswise with emerald-green velvet, is tied in long loops, and forms panels at the sides. The full bodice is of the figured silk. The extremely stylish jacket is of emerald green velvet, faced with silk the color of the back of the skirt, and is ornamented with large buttons. Hat of yellowish – green felt, trimmed with ribbon of the same color and a red bird, and faced with emerald-green velvet.

The Directoire style jacket with its wide lapels definitely sets this out apart from more conventional day dresses.

FIG. II. – WALKING-DRESS, OF DAHLIA-COVERED SPOTTED CLOTH. The underskirt is of velveteen. The upper skirt laid to fall in wide plaits, and is shorter in front than at the back. The drapery at the back is short at the top, but falls in jabot-plaits almost to the bottom of the skirt. The close-fitting jacket is braided, and trimmed with gray fox-fur The muff is of the material of the dress, decorated with a bow of ribbon. Hat of purple velvet, trimmed with a yellow bird.

This one interesting in that it takes the jacket style to an outdoor style with the fur trimming. It’s unknown if there was a waist or under-bodice for wear indoors.

FIG. III. – WALKING-DRESS. The long cloak is made of fawn-colored striped cloth. The sleeves are very long at the back, wide, and trimmed with velvet. A band of velvet passes over the shoulders, and narrows at the waist. High collar of the velvet. Bonnet of red plush, with white plumes.

This one appears to be a cloak with extremely wide sleeves.

FIG. IV. – VISITING -DRESS, OF OLIVER-GREEN-COLORED SILK AND STRIPED VELVET. The under part of the skirt and side panels is made of the striped silk and velvet. The full front and back drapery is of plain olive-green silk. The bodice is also of the plain silk, laced, and the little close-fitting jacket is of green velvet, with elbow-sleeves, and trimmed with green jet-bead passementerie. Hat of olive-green velvet, trimmed with green feathers and a white bird.

This seems to be a fairly standard style but it’s really hard to tell from the fashion plate what exactly is going on. The description is very interesting and the fashion plate doesn’t do it justice which is very unfortunate.

FIG. V. – HOUSE-DRESS, OF POPPY-COLORED SILK. The underskirt is made of cream -colored silk, striped with red velvet. The overskirt opens on the right ride, and is faced with cream-colored silk, brocaded in red velvet. The plain red silk is arranged diagonally, in full plaits, oil the skirt, It is draped far back on the left side, and in loose folds at the back. The bodice opens over a cream-colored diagonal-plaited vest, and is trimmed on the right side with a velvet revers. Velvet collar.

While this is termed a “house dress,” this is a pretty loose definition and would easily work as a afternoon/visiting dress suitable for wear at social occasions. The bodice is executed in the a jacket-bodice style with wide lapels/revers running down the length of the bodice. Overall, in terms of style, one still sees the late 1880s bustled silhouette but it looks somewhat more restrained in this particular fashion plate. Of course, this being a fashion plate, some license is to be expected so perhaps one should not read too much into it; one must also consider other evidence such as original photographs and extant original garments. Nevertheless, it is still interesting and gives a hint of what is coming in the 1890s.

Turning to fabrics, one sees the velvet and velveteen being used and combined with silk and cashmere for winter day wear. This is to be expected, considering the time of year. The only exception to this is the house dress in Figure V. Finally, based on the above descriptions, computer color-matching, and some subjective guess-work, below are some of the more dominant colors:

While the above is by no means an exhaustive overview of fashion in 1886- 1887, it is helpful as a means of determining what sort of fabrics, color, and silhouette should be employed in designing a late 1880s day dress that is suitable for fall or winter. The key points to keep in mind are that the fabrics used were of heavier weights (although nowhere near upholstery or curtain weight) and colors tend towards the darker tones. We hope that you have enjoyed this little window into the styles of early 1887 and while fashions moved slowly during the 1880s (as compared to today), they were still moving, let by fashion leaders such as Worth.

Redingote Redux

Redingotes…just when you thought we’ve exhausted this topic, we managed to find another interesting redingote dress design that we just had to share. 🙂 Today’s find is from the December 1890 issue of Demorest’s Family Magazine and was offered for sale as a sewing pattern as the “Francillon”:

Here’s the accompanying description:

An essentially stylish garment, tight-fitting, with a plain redingote back combined with the style of front shown. The illustration represents it made in broché serge of a rich garnet tint, with revers, standing collar, and sleeve-facings of black velvet, a vest of garnet silk brocaded with gold filigree gold clasps at the throat and waist, and a narrow border of black Persian lamb on the collar, revers, and sleeves. The hat is of pearl-gray felt, trimmed with gray, ostrich-tips and faced with garnet velvet.

The design is equally suitable for inexpensive materials, and being a thoroughly protective garment is adapted for the most practical uses, it being easy to make it more simple by the omission of the revers and the full vest.

In the “Francillon,” one can see the Directoire style influence in the wide lapels/revers  which should come as no surprise as both styles existed together back in the late 1700s. The fabric choice, broché serge, is an interesting one that it’s a wool twill fabric fabric (serge) with an ornamental pattern that’s has the appearance of being finely stitched or embroidered (i.e. a brocade); in actuality, the pattern has been woven (broché and brocade are often used interchangeably). Below is a modern day version:

Metallic Gold/Peach/Beige Soft Wool Brocade

For recreating historical garments, redingotes such as the above are ideally suited in that a variety of fabrics and trims can be used and these can be as utilitarian or fancy as the maker desires. For us, the redingote is an especially interesting garment because there’s normally not much use for them in Southern California- the weather usually doesn’t get very cold so there’s little incentive to make these. Of course, one could utilize lighter fabrics such as tropical weight wool or linen but in the end, this style is probably going to be observed more than actually recreated, at least for us. 🙂

More On The Redingote…

In our last post, we noted that there were two basic redingote styles during the late 1880s/early 1890s: the functional coat meant to be worn as outerwear and the redingote as part of a complete dress style. In this post, we’re going to focus on the redingote as a dress style. For a little history, the redingote’s origins go back to the 18th Century and the term itself is a French corruption of “riding coat.” Initially, the redingote was a closely fitted coat with a flared skirt and was intended to be worn while horseback riding. Over time, the redingote evolved to something more formal that was worn for a number of social occasions. The redingote was inspired by men’s styles and as such they were typically made by a tailor as opposed to a mantua-maker. For a little historical context, here are some illustrations:

Redingote, c. 1790; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.2009.120)

Now let’s take a look at some redingote styles from the late Nineteenth Century starting first with this style featured in the April 1881 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:

Below is a full description of the style:

No. 2 Is a walking costume for a young lady, the material of which is summer camel’s hair cloth, light twilled flannel, de laine, de beige, albatross, cloth, or any of the endless variety of spring fabrics, may be used for this style of dress. The skirt, has, first a narrow knife-plaiting two and a-half inches deep. Over this, a side plaiting, or more properly a kilt-plaiting, a-half yard deep, on to which a puff is laid, six inches
from the bottom. This puff is gathered with a cord in the edge.

The polonaise is a revival of the old fashioned Redingote—cut with loose fronts and a tight-fitting back—belted in at the waist to fit the figure. This garment is double-breasted and finished with a rolling collar of silk or velvet. The belt, cuffs, loops, and ends, forming the garniture of the polonaise, are all made of silver silk or velvet, to match, or else of a contrasting color, or darker shade of the same color.

From the illustration may be seen about how far in front to leave the garment open. The edges arc simply piped with the silk. The fullness in the back is arranged in irregular pouffs. A similar bow of loops and ends is placed at the back, just below the waist line. The bows may be made of ribbon, if preferred. Ten to twelve yards of double width material will be required. For collar, cuffs, and belt, three-quarters of a yard of silk or velvet. One yard extra for loops or four yards of ribbon. Two dozen buttons. Fancy buttons are most fashionable.

Besides the technical details, what’s interesting is that the idea that the polonaise is a revival of the redingote. This is an interesting proposition although we’re more included to think that it’s more of a blurring of styles. From the example above, it would seem that the redingote itself has been modified to be more loose towards the bottom and treated as more of an overskirt.  Moving forward, we see another Redingote style in the September 1888 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:


Unfortunately, there’s no description but it’s clear that this style runs fairly true to the classic 1790s style with a double-breasted front combined with skirt opening up to reveal a patterned underskirt. And for a little variation, there’s this style from the October 1890 edition of Peterson’s Magazine:


The above dress is described as a:

…handsome street or traveling gown. It is made of gray cashmere or camel’s hair. The petticoat, of two tints of gray in stripes, is kilt-plaited [pleated] on the left side, up to the waist. The overdress is the newest style of redingote polonaise, the front of which has a few plaits near the waist to give a slight fullness. The back of the skirt is very full. The trimming for this gown is of gray plush or fur, as the individual taste may decide…

The above redingote is styled as more of a robe than a coat but the effect is similar. Another variation of sorts can be found in these two dresses by Pingat:

Reception Dress, Emile Pingat, c. 1885; Shelburne Museum (2010-75)

Three-Quarter Rear View

Pingat, Promenade Dress, 1888; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.7758a, b)

Rear View

Right Side Profile

These two dresses are very similar in style and look back more to the mid-Eighteenth Century with  the cut of the coat and trim details. The redingote dress style was an interesting style variant in the 1880s and 1890s and while in many respects it reflected its 18th and early 19th Century predecessors, it also added new elements such as the robe. Unfortunately for us, there are not a lot of extant examples out there so we’ve had to work through fashion publications and the fact that patterns were offered through publications such as Peterson’s and Demorest’s suggests that there was a demand for these designs by the public. In the future, we’ll be posting more on this subject and hopefully in the meantime, we’ll have found more interesting examples to show you all. 🙂

Trending For The Late 1880s/Early 1890s- Redingotes

In this post, we continue the outerwear theme, but this time with the redingote. Like the Directoire style, the redingote had its origins in the early 19th Century and so it only makes sense to also see its revival, albeit in a more limited form. So what defined this style? Some insight can be found in the January 12, 1889 issue of Harper’s Bazar in a description of Parisian fashion trends:

The garment most worn this winter, which hitherto has been as mild as that of Nice, is the redingote; and if severe weather should suddenly set in and oblige us to take refuge in furs, suspending the usefulness of the redingote, it will resume its ascendancy again next March. Made as it is now, it closely resembles a man’s coat. The revers are cut and rolled in the same fashion, the sleeves are similar, and the bodice of the street dress over which it is worn, usually of cloth, or Cheviot [a variety of wool fabric], or sometimes faille, bears the same relation to it as the masculine waistcoat to the coat.

The redingote, which is almost as long as the dress, is worn with different dresses, but if it is slashed in the back the breadths of the dress are usually of the same color, only the bodice front and skirt being different, as for instance, a black redingote over a dress which has back breadths of black faille. The great and unfortunate popularity which it has attained is entirely owing to our unusually mild temperature. All the fur-lined long cloaks and small wraps are as yet unemployed although doubtless their turn will come.

Beside the redingote cloak there are many pretty redingotes which form part of the dress, of brocade, or of Pompadour silks; these have revers turned back on the front, sometimes meeting at the waist with the open space above filled in by a lace plastron; below the waist, it spreads apart again, displaying a skirt of glacé silk, with embroidery or passementerie, or of a crêpe de Chine embroidered.

Simpler but not less pretty is a redingote  of plain or changeable silk opening on a plastron and skirt front of ancient silk— some old silk of the eighteenth century, which may possibly have been employed for furniture drapery in the interim, and is now restored to its original use. There is a perfect rage for old-time silks at this moment, and when one does not possess a sufficient quantity to make an entire skirt front, still there must be enough at least to furnish a gathered plastron and a collar and cuffs for a dress restored to its original use.

The above is interesting in that it differentiates two styles of redingotes: one that was a full-on coat; and one that was part of a dress style. The coat style is fairly straight-forward and functional as noted in the December 1891 issue of Demorest’s Family Magazine:

Probably there is no garment more convenient and comfortable for cold weather than a redingote: it is thoroughly protective, the arms are free, and it constitutes a complete walking-costume in itself. The “Lorenza” is a perfectly plain, double-breasted garment with a lap in the middle seam in the back, and is adapted to all seasonable materials suit able for outer garments. The illustration represents tan-colored, rough-surfaced cloth, trimmed with seal far. The hat is of brown velvet with brown ostrich-tips and a bow of orange-colored velvet.

Here’s an illustration of the Lorenza pattern redingote:

For a better idea of what they looked like, here’s one extant redingote that I found on the Augusta Auctions website:

In viewing the above redingote, it appears that it’s most likely late 1880s vintage: it’s structure is clearly shaped to accommodate a bustled skirt. This is an interesting combination of functional and decorate styles and definitely fulfills its function as outerwear. In our next post, we’ll explore the “dress redingote” style a bit more so stay tune! 🙂