Outerwear For The 1890s…

ca. 1890’s, [cabinet card, portrait of a woman with a camera] sooo glad we don't have to wear all this any more


ately, it seems that outerwear has been on my mind, especially after yesterday’s post. 🙂 Although the weather here in Southern California has been unseasonably warm, it’s post-Labor Day and Fall is coming- I just feel it- and hence my looking forward. In the course of writing my post on 1880s outerwear, I came across some illustrations of the jacket styles that were coming into vogue during the 1890s, especially in view of the trend towards cycling suits and similar practical garments that developed in response to the shifting position of women.

1890s Jacket Styles 1890

Fashion Plate, Winter 1890

Jackets are interesting in that while they’re obviously meant as outerwear against the elements, they also seem to act as a sort of “over-bodice” for dresses and in some fashion illustrations, it’s hard to tell if they jackets or bodices. It’s an interesting conundrum, to say the least. While this style developed during the 1880s, jackets became especially pronounced during the 1890s, being commercially produced in a wide variety of styles as pictured below:

Womens' Jackets 1899 - 1900

Short jackets were especially useful for women engaging in outdoor activities such as cycling as can be seen from these examples:

Cycling Jacket 1898 - 1900

Cycling Jacket, c. 1898-1900; Rrijksmuseum BK-1973-402)


But jackets were not just limited to activewear, but they could also be high-fashion as with this example from the House of Worth:

Afternoon Jacket Worth 1895

Afternoon Jacket, Worth, 1895; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.75)

Afternoon Jacket Worth 1895

Style-wise, jackets reflected the prevailing styles to include in this case, leg-of-mutton sleeves. Here’s are some pictures of the jacket being worn as part of a total outfit:

Afternoon Jacket Worth 1895

Afternoon Jacket Worth 1895

And, just to show the range of design/style possibilities, here’s another example from an unknown source:

Jacket c. 1890s

Jacket, c. 1890s; North Dakota State University Emily Reynolds Historic Costume Collection (1986.07.55)

Jacket c. 1890s

Jacket c. 1890s

Jacket c. 1890s

Rear View

Although a specific date is not given, I would estimate that this jacket was made in the late 1890s, probably 1898-1900. The tailoring is exquisite and the appliques and embroidery are spectacular, if not a bit over-the-top, and style treatment on the front is simply amazing, especially since it creates the illusion that there are is a separate vest and jacket (they’re actually all one unit). It’s too bad that there’s no known picture of this jacket being worn as part of a complete outfit.

The previous two examples are quite elaborate with detail but simpler versions did exist and they would definitely make a perfect addition to almost any 1890s day outfit- it’s something that’s not seen being recreated these days.


Outerwear- 1880s Style


s a follow-on for yesterday’s post, I got to thinking about women’s outerwear of the late 19th Century and especially in the context of smaller towns, muddy streets, et al. (and especially in the West). In the course of doing an online search for some examples of outerwear, I was struck by the fact that while examples abound of more stylish garments, there are few that are focused on functionality such as those depicted in this picture:

Yankton1 1881 Day Wear Streeet

Yankton, South Dakota, 3d street looking west from Walnut. 1881

However, not all was lost and I did manage to find this interesting example from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Womens Coat c. 1883

Women’s Coat, American, c. 1883; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1982.348.3)

Womens Coat c. 1883

Side Profile

Womens Coat c. 1883

Rear View

This coat is almost very similar to the one worn by the woman in the center front of the picture. Now, just for fun, here’s a more elaborate design by John Redfern:

Womens Coat Redfern 1888

Redfern, Women’s Coat, 1888; Chicago History Museum (1987.471.1a-)

Womens Coat Redfern 1888


Womens Coat Redfern 1888

Three-Quarter Side View

Womens Coat Redfern 1888

Three-Quarter Rear View

This coat design is a women’s version of the Inverness coat/cloak with tailored lines designed to work with the bustled dress style characteristic of the late 1880s. The above is only a small sample but it does give an idea of the sort of outerwear that was found in the 1880s. In future posts, I will be looking for more tie-ins between fashion in action (i.e., being worn) and the garments themselves. Stay tuned! 🙂

And For A Little Street Style…1881 Style


ictures of street style for the 19th Century are rare but here’s one I found while looking for material for another project (it always seems to to happen that way).

Yankton1 1881 Day Wear Streeet

Yankton, South Dakota, 3d street looking west from Walnut. 1881

What details that can be made out in the picture are interesting in that even though the picture was taken in the middle of Yankton, South Dakota, it’s clear that these two ladies put some effort into their outerwear and the styles match those found with in more opulent locations such as London and Paris. While perhaps not as opulent as this mantle made by the House of Worth, the silhouette is still similar:

Worth 1885

It’s a pity that the women in the picture are far from the camera and that there’s not a lot of detail that can be discerned but it’s still fascinating because the women are well dressed even in 1881 South Dakota.

More From The FIDM Museum…


e at Lily Absinthe make a point of often visiting the FIDM Museum. The exhibits are updated often and there’s always something that exquisite to see and rarely do we go away not being inspired. 🙂 As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, here’s a little more about what we saw there. First, we have a mantle, c. 1885, designed by Charles Worth:

Worth 1885

Worth 1885

This coat is constructed a silk velvet/brocade trimmed with sable. Although it’s not easy to make out, the brocade design is that of a pineapple (one could argue that the choice of pineapple was apt since it was considered an expensive luxury). Definitely intended for a cold climate (with temperatures running abound 103, the Californian in us shudders), the mantle was intended to provide total coverage and is shaped to accommodate the underlying bustled dress.

Next up, is this c. 1908 afternoon dress designed by Liberty & Company, Ltd.:

FIDM Liberty of London 1908

FIDM Liberty of London 1908

The dress silhouette is characteristic of the later 1900s and while it was no doubt work with an s-bend corset underneath, it’s fairly muted (although that can simply be the staging). The bodice and skirt are made from a gray silk/silk chiffon, trimmed with embroidered silk flowers along the lapels of the bodice, sleeves, and waist. The bodice is designed with a front opening to simulate a jacket with a lace/gauze waist underneath.

FIDM Liberty of London 1908

FIDM Liberty of London 1908

Close-up of the embroidery detail. Liberty of London was a high-end department store in London specializing in importing fabrics from the Orient and especially Japan.

In terms of style, this represents the more conventional path when compared to a designer like Paul Poiret who, at the same time, was pushing Nouveau Directoire:

Paul Iribe 1908 Poiret Noveau Directoire

Noveau Directoire 1908 Poiret Josephine Dress

Paul Poiret, Day Dress, 1908; Les Arts Décoratifs

 It’s quite a contrast…

Well, that concludes our most recent trip to the FIDM Museum. Stay tuned for more posts in the future about this most remarkable place. 🙂

Lily Absinthe Takes A Look At Outerwear By Pingat

Emile Pingat is a bit of an enigma. Although he was recognized along with Worth and Doucet as one of the foremost designers, almost nothing is known about the man (at least in English). Pingat was active between about 1860 when his name first appears an a Parisian trade directory to 1896 when he sold his business. During this time, Pingat was well regarded and his name often appeared in the fashion press and was cited as one of the three foremost couturiers in Paris. Hopefully, more information in regard to Pingat, his life, and his work will be unearthed that will shed more light on this enigmatic designer.

In a previous post, we discussed the designs of Emile Pingat and noted that while he created wide variety of styles, he was especially noted for his outerwear. As with all fashions, specific items can be functional, decorative, or somewhere in between. In Pingat’s case, his designs leaned towards the more decorative and they were meant to add to an outfit’s dramatic impact, as well as provide some protection from the elements, and especially open one’s making an entrance at a public affair.

Although Pingat was active from roughly 1860 through 1896, his most distinctive designs were created during from the mid-1870s through early 1890s. For outerwear, he was noted for being carefully designed and constructed. For our survey, we start with an opera cape made in c. 1882:

Pingat Opera Cape1

Opera Cape, Emile Pingat, c. 1882; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.60.42.13)

Pingat Opera Cloak3

Right Side Profile

Pingat Opera Cloak2

Three Quarter Rear View

Pingat Opera Cloak4

The Label

This opera cape is constructed from a white/ivory silk satin embroidered in a gold and silver floral design and trimmed in fur. This cape was definitely a fashion accessory rather than a functional garment and the light color would certainly have offset the relatively dim gaslight found in public places such as an opera house.

Form something a bit less formal is this “afternoon jacket” from c. 1885 – 1890:

Pingat Afternoon Jacket1

Afternoon Jacket, Emile Pingat, c. 1885 – 1890; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.76)

Pingat Afternoon Jacket2

Right Side Profile

This jacket is constructed from a combination of a blue/black-colored silk velvet for the sleeves and a plum-colored silk faille or bengaline for the body; interestingly enough, it appears that the fabric might have been cut on the bias. The lower sleeves and body are also decorated with grey-colored leaf appliques and the jacket front and bottom is trimmed with hanging beads. Finally, a grey and gold trim runs along both sides of the jacket front and back. Overall, this is an elegant but understated jacket.

Most capes of the 1880s were designed to cover the upper body and were cut so as to allow for the bustle but below is one that is full length and sleeveless:

Pingat Evening Cape

Evening Cape, Emile Pingat, c. 1885 – 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.140)

Pingat Evening Cape2

Front View, Closed

50.72.14_back 0004

Rear View

The outer cape is made from a royal blue-colored silk velvet trimmed with fur. The lining is quilted and made from what appears to be a blue and magenta/red silk faille. The large scale plaid pattern of the lining seems to be incongruous when viewed against the bright royal blue velvet- one wold expect something a bit more muted. As with the afternoon jacket above, the primary decoration are elaborate floral lace appliques in gray and trimmed with beadwork. The gray fur trim and appliques act as a contrast to the bright, jewel-tone royal blue velvet.

Moving into the 1890s, we see a design scheme similar to the above afternoon jacket in this evening jacket made in 1893:

Pingat 1

Pingat, Evening Jacket, 1893; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.139)

Pingat 3

The above jacket is made of two parts arranged to give the appearance of two garments being worn. The underpart is an composed of multi-colored/metallic embroidery, beading, and piping arranged in a Persian inspired design. The center front and the cuffs are trimmed in gray feathers. The overpart is constructed of black velvet and the silhouette is reminiscent of renaissance era schaube coat.

The above are only some samples of Pingat’s work but they do give a pretty good idea of the styles that were out there during the 1880s and on into the early 1890s. Outerwear is one element that is often overlooked by those recreating historical fashions but hopefully the above examples will service as a source of inspiration.