The Late Bustle Era/1880s Silhouette

With all our recent discussion of 1880s styles, here’s an excellent illustration of the Late Bustle Era silhouette that we recently came across. Moreover, it’s also an interesting example of the use of texture in fabric selection- a tomato red silk overskirt and bodice combined with a darker red silk velvet underskirt that provides a harmonious contrast.

Day Dress, c. 1887; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.68.53.6a, b)

This dress was clearly a day dress and could easily fulfil the role of visiting or afternoon dress. It was clearly a dress meant to be seen in public.


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And Now For Some Mid-1890s Style

1890s style is definitely a thing with us and today we present you this circa 1895 evening dress:

Rouff, Evening Dress; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.6477a, b)

The color and texture combination of this dress are a very harmonious combination of an olive velvet bodice combined with a black silk satin skirt and bodice front panels. To finish the style, there’s gold embroidery and fringe which serve to offset the black skirt and front bodice.  Although there’s only one picture of the dress, it does appear that there’s a separate bodice and skirt and the skirt appears to be have been made from the black silk satin fabric; the gold embroidery is a floral design that’s rectangular, running down each side of the front part of the skirt and then running along the skirt bottom, above the hem. It’s too bad that there’s no pictures of the dress from the back or sides.

Close-up of trim detail.

Above is a close-up view of the bottom skirt front and the gold embroidery can be clearly seen. Also, one can also see that black beaded appliques were also used as part of the floral pattern design. In terms of style, the wide neck line and low shoulders  suggest an evening dress style but this style would also work as a reception dress. It’s a fascinating dress and we only wish that there were some more pictures available- there’s a lot of details that are obscured. But, nevertheless, this is another source of dress inspiration, especially with the large leg-of-mutton sleeves.


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Another 1893 Ensemble Dress From Maison Worth

Here’s another ensemble dress from Maison Worth, also from circa 1893. Style-wise, it’s similar to the example that we presented in a previous post but perhaps a little more restrained. Here are a few views:

Worth 1893 Day Reception Afternoon Dress

Worth, Ensemble Dress, c. 1893; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.620a–e)

To us, this bodice reads visiting/afternoon dress, more of a formal day-oriented garment. Below, the bodice reads more of a reception dress or possibly evening dress- although that’s probably stretching things a bit.

Worth 1893 Day Reception Afternoon Dress

The Alternate Bodice

Once again, we see a jacket style for the day bodice with a filler of tulle. The skirt and jacket bodice are a pea-green silk brocade with black lace trim and accents. The night bodice with its light cinnamon colored silk velvet provides a pleasant contrast to the pea green. Compared to yesterday’s example, this dress is a bit more restrained but it’s still a nice design. The silk brocade fabric is interesting and we only wish that there were some close-up pictures of the fabric detail. It’s evident that both the dress and the one in yesterday’s post used identical or fairly similar pattern pieces. Finally, here’s an interesting part of the ensemble- matching shoes:

Worth 1893 Shoes

Matching shoes to outfit.

Stay tuned for more posts on this subject. 🙂

 


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Dating a Dress – Is it 1860s or 1870s?

Afew years ago, we created this post in reaction to the sometimes imprecise dating of garments in museum collections. While our opinion remains largely unchanged, in subsequent experience we’ve become a bit more humbled in our judgements and if it’s one thing we’ve learned from the experience: Never say never. With that said, enjoy! 😎


One of the key elements of working with historical costume is the ability to properly date items, or at least fix an approximate time frame. Although we tend to accept how museums date their collections, sometimes there are items that just do not seem right for the period that is being attributed to the item. Recently, we came across the following dress on the Metropolitan Museum of Art website:

Purple Dress1

Visiting Dress, French, 1867; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1979.93a, b)

Purple Dress2

Rear View

View3

Side Profile View

1979.93a_d

Maker’s Label; Gathering more information about the maker would go a long way towards precisely dating the dress.

According to the description on the Met website, the dress dates from 1867. However, in looking at the silhouette of the dress, it just reads Early Bustle Era, sometime between 1870 and 1874 or thereabouts. More specifically, in looking at the skirt it is evident that it was expressly designed to flow towards the rear, thus creating a defined train. But this train is not some haphazard arrangement of fabric but rather it is constructed of several separate panels joined together separated by rows of ruffles. The overall effect is that skirt naturally flows and the eye is drawn from front to rear. It is clear that the skirt and train were deliberately constructed to give this flowing effect. Finally, the rows of ruffled trim also help to accentuate the effect and the striped fabric also plays a role in this.

Now before going any further, we need to consider that there could be a number of different reasons why the date of the dress may be incorrect. It is always possible that perhaps it was not displayed correctly or that it’s missing key components underneath. Perhaps it was reconstructed and as a result the silhouette has changed. Like people, museums can make mistakes. With that said, let’s proceed- so what do some later 1860s dresses look like?

19830010129 ac

Day Dress, c. 1860 – 1870; Kent State University Museum (1983.001.0129 a-c)

19830010129 ac-2

Side Profile View

19830010129 ac-3

Rear View

According to the Kent State University Museum website, the date is attributed to the entire decade of the 1860s (perhaps they are hedging their bets). However, knowing that the crinoline silhouette was characteristic of dresses of the early 1860s, it is fairly safe to say that this one is from the mid to late 1860s.

That said, let’s look at the skirt in some detail. first, like the first dress, it also flows in a rearward manner and the hem is also elliptical rather than circular (which also helps place this in the med to late 1860s).  The thin stripes and the trim help to give a flowing effect but it is nowhere as refined as that in the first example. Let’s look at another example:

19830010107 ab-2

Day Dress, c. 1865 – 1870 (Although it is noted that the original catalog card notes the year 1865); Kent State University Museum (1983.001.0107 ab)

19830010107 ab-3

Side Profile View

19830010107 ab-4

Rear View

Once again, we have an elliptical skirt that is drawn towards the rear in a somewhat minimalist train. The effect here is a bit more confused than the previous example but in both cases, we have dresses that can be that can be placed in the mid to late 1860s and one can see the beginning of the evolution towards the elaborately trains characteristic of the later Bustle Era.

Just to round things out, below are some fashion plates representative of the period:

Godey's Ladysbook, January 1866

Godey’s Lady’s Book, January 1866

For 1866, one sees very little difference between these and dresses from the early 1860s.

1867-03 world of fashion 4

The World of Fashion, 1867

Godeys September

Godey’s Lady’s Book, September 1867

Peterson's, July 1868

Peterson’s, July 1868

For the above two plates, one can see the beginnings of the train as the skirt starts to shift towards the rear…

Victoria, 1869

For 1869, we finally are able to see a more completely defined train but it’s still fairly rudimentary compared to what was to come later. Finally, we reach the 1870s:

Godey's Lady's Book , March 1870

Godey’s Lady’s Book , March 1870

Godey's Lady's Book, May 1870

Godey’s Lady’s Book, May 1870

Here we see a more complete transition. In the above plate, the dress third from the right is especially striking in the use of a striped front panel to create a flat, vertical look to the front of the dress while at the same there’s a well-defined train in the rear.

Godey's Lady's Book, November 1872

Godey’s Lady’s Book, November 1872

In the above illustrations, we have traced the transition from the crinoline to the bustle, or at least a good part of the process. One can seen not just a transition to an elliptical hemline and the development of the train, but a more sophisticated version of this style. This is not a process of gathering up some fabric and creating a crude trailing effect but rather, it’s precisely engineered to achieve a specific effect, an effect more characteristic of the early 1870s. Naturally, much of the evaluation process is subjective and open to varied interpretation and that is all right. In the absence of hard data such as information about the dressmaker, we can only speculate but we definitely can narrow down the date.

 

And For A Little More Early 1880s Style…

Edouard Alexandre Sain, The Red Parasol, Private Collection

Today we continue our exploration of early 1880s style with a special emphasis on bodices. To illustrate the variety of bodice styles that were out there, here’s a small sample from the April 1880 issue of Peterson’s Magazine, starting with, what is described as a “walking costume of blue-stripe serge:”

Here’s some more detail from Peterson’s:

The demi-long train is kilt plaited, and the round tunic which ends in a point is caught up at the back, and finished with several rows of machine stitching. The deep basque bodice has a pointed waistcoat and revers, and is ornamented with buttons.

As befitting a walking dress, this dress is very simple and unadorned, consisting of an over/underskirt combination combined with a basque bodice. As with many bodices of this period, the bodice is one piece that mimics a coat and vest combination. The skirt is plain with a little fullness to the rear that creates a thin train of sorts that’s continued with a pleated demi-train on the underskirt. Overall, the effect is that of a woman’s tailored suit.

Next up are are visiting and house dresses, also featured in the April edition of Peterson’s:


And here’s the accompanying description of the two dresses:

[Left] Visiting dress of almond-colored Camel’s hair: The skirt has four plaited flounces edged with brown cashmere, shot with gold color. The over-dress opens part way down the front, is very plain, and slightly draped at the back; it is of almond-colored camel’s hair; the jacket with the added basque is of the brown cashmere, threaded with gold color. A brown straw bonnet trimmed with almond or with gold color would be very appropriate with this costume.

[RIght] House dress of gray bunting, trimmed with very gay plaid bandanna, or cotton material; the skirt is l:ilt-plaited to the knee, and the kilting is trimmed with two bands of cotton bandanna; the full tunic forms two points at the sides, and a draped breadth at the back. Bodice with a simulated waistcoat. Cuffs and collar of the bandanna.

As with the walking dress, both of the above dresses have basque bodices that have been cut as jackets. The bodice on the visiting dress on the left is long, extending past the hips and is reminiscent of the Louis XV style. On the other hand, the bodice on the house dress is much shorter, just covering the hips and follows relatively more sculpted lines. For skirts, both feature outer/underskirts; the outerskirt on the visiting dress is draped, falling open to feature rows of pleating on the underskirt. For the house dress, the skirts are both closed and lay directly on top of one another with the outerskirt falling away in an open “v” towards the bottom, revealing rows of pleating on the underskirt.

The polonaise was another popular style and like the basque, it could appear in a variety of styles as see with these illustrations from the February and March 1880 issues of Demorest’s Family Journal:

As can be seen from the above sampling, there were a wide variety of polonaise styles available on the market, all aimed at a mass market in pattern form.  In our next post, we’ll be looking at some extant dresses from the early 1880s that illustrate the wide variety of basque and polonaise bodice styles.