Trending For December 1886

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n a previous post, we saw what was trending for November 1886; now let’s take a look at the December 1886 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:

Peterson's_Dec 1886

Below is a description of each figure, from left to right:

Fig. I – Walking Dress, Of Dark Green Cashmere. The long wrap is made of striped woolen, plain in front and over the arms, and cut to figure to the waist at the back. It falls in full plaits over the tournure, and is trimmed with fur. The hat is of black velvet, trimmed with fur. The hat is of black velvet, trimmed with large full bows of yellow ribbon and two stiff feathers.

Fig. II – Visiting Dress, Of Red Camel’s Hair. The petticoat is of velveteen of a darker shade than the dress. The skirt is put on full around the bodice, and is draped in front diagonally. At the back, it falls in straight folds. The long bodice is made full in front. The skirt and cuffs are trimmed with fur, and a fur boa is worn around the neck. Hat of red velvet, trimmed with velvet and a stiff bird’s-wing.

Fig. III – Evening Dress, Of Yellow Silk. The skirt is short and laid in long box-plaits. At the back, it is quite full over the tournure. The front is trimmed with a wide panel of the silk, embroidered in light-brown. The very plain bodice has the same embroidery down the front, and is edged with large pearl beads.

Fig. IV – Evening Dress, Of Light Blue Surah. The skirt is laid in plaits at the sides and back. In front, it is plain, with a fall of deep white lace over it. The tunic is put on full to the bodice, is looped away from the lace with a bunch of white roses on the left side. At the right side, it is drawn further back, and falls in a puff behind. The bodice is plain, pointed back and front, and is trimmed with folds of the silk and knots of satin ribbon.

Fig V – Walking Dress, Of Black Figured Cloth. The bodice is cut long at the back over the tournure, then falls in straight full folds. In front, it is quite plain, but opens at the side over a velvet panel. The bodice in front is very long, plain, and pointed; The whole dress is trimmed with rosary-beads. large velvet bow.

Of particular interest from the above description is the use of Surah for evening dresses stands out. Surah is an even-sided fabric woven in a twill pattern from fine silk filaments (today, polyester is also used). Often patterns are printed on it by the direct print/rolle method. This fabric has a smooth, fine hand and a bright, shiny luster. Below is an example:

 Another fabric of interest is camel’s hair:

Camel’s hair is typically woven in a twill pattern and can be 100% camel hair or more often, a blend of wool and camel’s hair. Camel’s hair has a soft, silky hand and was widely used in day dresses during the late 19th Century. So what was trending from Paris for December 1886? Well, according to Peterson’s:

Walking-suits are now shown in soft-finished cloth and in vigogne [vicuña], the favorite colors being silver-gray, dark brown, and prune-color. A costume in silver-gray cloth has a long full tunic, draped at the back over a plain underskirt bordered with a wide band of Astrakhan-fur. The short tight-fitting jacket is sleeveless, and is bordered with a band of gray Astrakhan, the whole front of the wrap being composed of Astrakhan. This jacket is worn over a blouse-waist in white crape [crepe], finished at the wrists and throat with bands of gray and silver passementerie. Sometimes, the blouse-waist is composed of scarlet crape with similar trimming. The tunic is sloped forward in front, and terminates there at the waist in two long scarf ends, turned over each other, and each finished with a large gray-and-silver tassel.

Another very graceful and artistic walking-dress is in seal-brown vigogne and golden brown Sicilienne. The vigogne overskirt reaches the edge of the hem in front, and is sloped upward at the sides, and looped at the back over a perfectly plain Sicilienne under skirt. The dress is cut Princess, and has a vest and sleeves of the Sicilienne, ornamented with gold passementerie. Over this is worn a dolman-shaped wrap, finished in front with long ends that turn over each other, and at the waist at the back with a wide band of gold-and-brown passementerie, simulating a belt, and seeming to confine the dolman to the figure.

For visiting or reception wear, Worth is making costumes in satin and velvet. The skirt of one that I saw has a very short satin overskirt in front, the back being formed of long wide. flat plaits, and the velvet underskirt being laid in plaits in front, and gathered at the sides half-way down its length. The corsage is in satin. A novelty in the make of this dress was that the drapery was all lined with black brocaded satin.

The above notes are interesting in that it mentions the use of vigogne. or vicuña, and Sicilienne as dress fabrics. So what are these? To begin, vicuña is a variety of wool that’s one of the rarest natural fibers in the world.  Vicuña wool comes from the Vicuña, a camelid found in the high alpine areas of the Andes Mountains in South America. TheVicuña is related to the llama but has not been domesticated. The wool is extremely fine and has excellent heat retention in relation to its weight. The wool is expensive because Vicuña can only be shorn once every three years and they live in the wild and thus, were usually killed and then shorn to the point where they nearly extinct in the 1960s (today, they have been revived and are not killed).

Vicunacrop.jpg

Today, Vicuña wool is still very expensive, averaging roughly $21,000 for just an off-the-rack suit coat.

Given the wool’s relative rarity, I would suspect that a good portion of the wool being marketed as Vicuña in the late 19th Century was probably a wool blend with cheaper fibers making up the bulk of the fabric. 🙂 As for Sicilienne, it was a variety of poplin fabric composed of silk and wool fibers. The fabric was a unbalanced plain weave with silk filament as the warp fiber and wool as the weft fiber. The individual wool fibers are thicker and heavier than the silk filaments thus creating a pronounced ribbed appearance. 

We hope you have enjoyed this little trip into 1886 and hope you all have drawn some inspiration. There were a variety of fabrics and colors available to Victorians and many of the same fabrics are obtainable today (although you may have to pay a premium as in the case of the Vicuña 🙂 ).

Stay inspired!



Trending For November 1886

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iving in California, it is easy to forget that there are places where it is not sunny and warm all year round (mostly). However, an an effort to remedy this  deficiency, today we’re taking a look at a few fall and winter fashions from about 1886. Below is a fashion plate of daywear from the November 1886 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:

Peterson's_Nov 1886

The dresses are described from left to right as follows:

Fig. I – Visiting Dress, Of Dark-Brown Corded Silk. The skirt is laid in many narrow pleats with side-panels of right watered silk. The dolman is of brown corded silk lined with dark-green satin and trimmed with fur. Bonnet of dark-green velvet, with upright quill-feathers.

Fig. II – Walking Dress, Of Green Cashmere. The underskirt is of dark-green velvet; the cashmere is draped and quite long in the front, and falls plainly at the back, over a large tournure. The bodice is of green velvet, like the skirt, with vest and sleeves of the cashmere; the best hooks underneath green velvet sides. hat of dark-green velvet, trimmed with ribbon the shade of the cashmere.

Fig. III – Carriage Dress, Of Dark-Blue Poplin. The plaited underskirt is plain; the overskirt is made quite full, is edged with a band of beaver-fur, and is looped on the hips. The mantle is of beaver-fur, had broad tabs at the back, with “wings” on the sleeves, and the whole is edged with balls of beaver-fur. Felt hat, trimmed with blue velvet, and feathers the color of the beaver.

Fig. lV – Walking Dress, Of Wine-Colored Woolen Goods, with raised spots dotted over it. The underskirt is of plain silk; the woolen material is plaited to the bodice, and slightly draped at the back to show the silk underskirt; a band of velvet ornaments the front of the skirt, as well as forms a ceinture around the bodice, the collar, and a lapel on the left side of the front of the bodice. Hat of black felt, with a soft crown of silk and trimmed with loops of spotted foulard and a stiff aigrette.

Fig. V — Walking Dress, Of Chestnut-Brown Rough Woolen Material. The skirt is plain in front, with panels of the same color, striped crosswise by a plush stripe; at the back, it hangs quite plain over a large tournure. The bodice has folds of the striped plush material, with a velvet vest; velvet bow-and-ends on the left side. Large felt hat, trimmed with chestnut-colored ribbon.

The above designs gives an interesting cross section of what was current in daywear in late 1886. The predominant fashion fabric is wool although silk is also used in varying degrees; only the “visiting dress” is almost completely made of silk. All of these designs are functional to one degree or antoher, providing a starting point for the home sewer or commissioning a personal design. Finally, the colors are subdued, reflecting the fall/early winter season.

In terms of fashion trends, the December 1886 issue of Peterson’s Magazine gives an overview of what is trending in Paris (note: we have edited the passage for clarity):

The new materials of the season are very rich and handsome, and are proportionately expensive. Heavy faille or bengaline, figured or striped with plush or with velvet, contest the palm with figured or plaid velvet—or, more magnificent still, with velvet figured with large scattered flowers in uncut velvet, these flowers being outlined with gold thread.

One pattern shows large overlapping velvet blocks on a satin ground. Another has waved lines of velvet, a quarter of an inch wide, on a heavy corded silk ground. There are materials in two-inch wide stripes, alternately of satin and velvet, or satin and plush, or velvet and plush, the latter style being extremely rich in effect. All these are in solid colors.

Then there are velvets plaided with uncut velvet in two shades of the same color as the groundwork; and striped velvet, with narrow stripes imitating gold embroidery sunk in the velvet; and stamped-velvet stripes, alternating with satin stripes figured with plush or velvet.

For wraps, are shown velvets in subdued cashmere colors, the hues being very delicate and artistic, and the prevailing tints being dull-blue and faded rose. In the striped materials just described, the solid colors are all in subdued tones- garnet, seal-brown, heliotrope, and dark-gray being the fashionable shades of the season.

These stuffs are very expensive- costing, even in Paris, from five dollars to fifteen dollars per yard.1 But there will not be a great quantity of these costly fabrics employed in any one toilette. They will be used for the plain undershirt, and the short overskirt or pauter-drapery [portiere drapery] and sash at the back will be composed of plain material matching the groundwork, as will also be the corsage. Cashmere, striped or figured with velvet or with plush, is shown for less dressy costumes, and is far less expensive.

From the above, faille and bengaline figured or striped with plush or velvet with plaid, palm or flowers are trending.

Faille

Bengaline

Bengaline and faille are similar fabrics in that they are both a plain weave fabric with more warp yarns than weft yarns. The warp yarns on both are usually silk (more properly termed filaments) while the weft yarns are thicker, thus creating the crossways rib effect. For Bengaline, the weft yarns are usually cotton while with faille, both warp and weft yarns are usually silk. However, both fabrics have been made completely with silk or cotton. The best way to tell them apart is that Bengaline tends to have thicker, more pronounced cross-ribs. Both are lustrous fabrics and wear well and the best part was that the cotton-silk blends are less expensive than pure silk, thus offering silk’s benefits at a cheaper price.

And of course, cashmere:

Given the high cost of cashmere (even back in 1886), there is a good chance that the “cashmere” was actually some sort of wool blend (after all, this was before the Wool Products Labeling Act of 1939).

And just for interest, below are the subdued tones that are trending for wraps (subject to the interpretation of the computer):

Garnet1

Garnet

Seal Brown1

Seal Brown

Heliotrope1

Heliotrope

Dark Grey1

Dark Gray

And finally, just to demonstrate that high fashion was actively being marketed to the middle class, below is an advertisement from a concern located in Kansas City, Missouri. 🙂

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Advertisement, c. 1886

We hope you have enjoyed small view of the fashion world of 1886- it’s not often that we can drill down to the specific details but with the increasing availability of scanned versions of the major fashion magazines of the time, this process has been made a lot easier and we hope to have more postings of this nature in the future.

1. [Approximately $130 to $357 a yard at 2015 prices.]



Trending For October 1886

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hile studying old fashion plates may not seem as exciting as looking at pictures of extant original dresses, they still yield a wealth of information, especially if one carefully reads the descriptions that accompanied them. It’s easy to be put off by the fading and often poor state of preservation that many of these plates are in but if we can see past that, we believe that the reward is worth it.


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ctober 1886 was an interesting time for fashion. The bustle was definitely back in force, refining the earlier bustle styles of the early 1870s and creating a more tidy and sharply defined silhouette than what was found in 1870s styles. In this post, we step back to October 1886 with this plate from the October issue of Peterson’s Magazine. Of special interest is the wedding dress in Figure I on the far left.

Petersons_Oct 1886

Peterson’s Magazine, October 1886

Below is a description of the above plate:

Fig. I.- WEDDING DRESS, OF BROCADED SILK AND WHITE ILLUSION. The skirt is made of three deep plaited [pleated] ruffles of illusion over white silk, the two upper ruffles falling in deep curves in front. The bodice, short tunic in front, and train are of the brocaded silk. The tunic is caught up with clusters of orange-blossoms. The bodice has a plaited vest of the illusion, with lace revers at the sides. The sleeves are open, on the outside of the arm, over an illusion sleeve, which is full at the elbow, and trimmed with sprays of orange-blossoms. Orange-blossoms at the throat and in the hair, from which a long veil of illusion falls.

Fig. II.- WALKING-DRESS, OF VERY DARK GRAY CASHMERE. It is made in plaits all around the skirt, with side-panels of plaid velvet. The close-fitting bodice is made with two revers of the velvet, both placed on the right side, and coming to a sharp point in front of the waist. Collar and cuffs also of the velvet. Gray felt hat, with ribbon and wings of the colors in the plaid velvet.

Fig. III.- EVENING-DRESS, OF LIGHT CANARY-COLORED SURAH. The skirt is trimmed with many narrow flounces, with a pointed apron-front of white lace, nearly to the bottom of the ruffled skirt. The train is plain, and trimmed with white lace. The bodice is cut with a sharp point, both front and back, and is ornamented with folds of the surah and white lace on the left side. Puffs of canary-colored ostrich-tips and ribbon trimming. Yellow bird in the hair.

Fig. lV- EVENING DRESS, OF POPPY-RED SILK. The skirt has a narrow knife-plaiting at the bottom. The back fails in large plaits, with a short full tunic over them. The front is trimmed with drooping rows or black lace, natural habitat of the cyclamen is in the woods, and this with long loops of poppy-colored ribbon. Panniers of black lace at the sides. The high bodice has a jabot of black lace down the front. Bow of red ribbon on the left side of the neck. Red poppies in the hair.

Fig. V.- WALKING DRESS, OF DARK-BLUE WOOLEN MATERIAL. The skirt falls in straight plaits at the back, with a short tunic over it. The front of the skirt at the bottom is trimmed with a broad band of striped blue-and-red bouclé material, and it is plaited at the waist. The bodice is made with a sharp point, with a reddish-blue velvet waistband, revers, and collar of the same material. The vest is of the striped bouclé. Dark-blue felt hat, trimmed with a red bird and wings.

Starting with the wedding dress in Figure I, it is styled with the skirt arranged in the front with three rows of vertical ruffles with the top two rows swaged to the rear. The base fashion fabric is a white silk covered by a layer of white illusion. Illusion is a  lightweight netting fabric with diamond-shaped holes and constructed from silk (today, it is more likely to be made of nylon and it primarily used for bridal veils). It is a form of tulle fabric, characterized by its soft hand and excellent drapability.

Illusion- Note the Diamond-Shaped Holes

White Silk Brocade – There was an endless variation in brocade patterns.

The bodice and overskirt/train is a silk brocade with the sleeves constructed from same illusion as the skirt. Covering the upper sleeves is lace that has been formed as revers. Also, interestingly enough, the front of the bodice is pleated in a fan pattern, giving the appearance of a vest. Finally, the dress is trimmed in orange blossoms in the front and in the headpiece. Overall, it’s a fairly “traditional” look that embodies the white wedding trend that was beginning to take hold during the late 19th Century.

Figure II is a fairly conventional day dress combined with plaid velvet to create a “highland” effect of sorts. The skirt and bodice are of a gray cashmere (although it appears to be more of a blue) combined with plaid velvet side-plates on the skirt. The plaid velvet is also used for the cuffs as well as on the front of the bodice (although the illustration distorts this somewhat, making it look more like a sash). Below are some modern-day examples of cashmere that easily could be used to make this dress:

Dark Blue-Gray Cashmere-Wool Blend

Dark Blue Cashmere

Figure III is an evening dress made of canary (sort of a light yellow) surah combined with white lace. The front of the skirt is trimmed in rows of narrow flounces and is covered in the front with a lace apron. Style-wise, this is a conventional med-1880s look with an emphasis on pleating running all the way up the front of the skirt. For color, the plate is a bit faded so here’s a bit more on the color canary which is essentially a yellow. It can vary in intensity from bright, as on the left, to a more subdued as on the right:

As indicated in a previous post, surah is a twilled silk fabric and would have looked something like this (unfortunately, it’s not an easy fabric to find, especially in any shade of yellow):

Surah

For Figure IV, we see another variation on the pleating/flounce theme only this time it is limited to the front apron which is done in black lace. To complement the black lace apron is a jabot of matching back lace running down the front of the bodice. The bodice and skirt are constructed from a poppy-red silk and the skirt hem has a row of knife pleating. Overall, this a relatively simple style for an evening dress and if we did not have the description from Peterson’s to go on, it would be easy to mistake for a day dress. Here is a sample of the color:

Poppy Red

Poppy Red

Unfortunately, the color depicted in the late is more of a wine color but as we know, colors can change dramatically in 100 plus year-old documents and especially those involving color printing processes so take this all with a grain of salt. 🙂

Finally, Figure V depicts is a fairly conventional day dress with the basic skirt and bodice constructed of a dark blue wool. However, the front of the skirt and skirt hem are trimmed in a blue-red bouclé, a fabric woven from loosely spun yarns giving a looped pile effect. In more recent times, bouclé has become the signature fabric found in many Chanel designs.  Although not stated, it is assumed that this was composed of wool fibers. Below is an example (unfortunately, we were unable to find a red-blue color):

All of the above dresses are fairly conventional in terms of style but they do exhibit some interesting uses of fabrics and trims and especially with the velvet trim in Figure III and the bouclé in Figure V. While perhaps not spectacular when compared to the creations being produced by Worth, Doucet, and Pingat (to name a few), it does demonstrate that the limits of particular styles were constantly being pushed in both big and small ways.



Some Commentary on Walking Dresses & Walking Suits From the 1880s

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ne of the more interesting styles to develop during the 1880s was the walking suit/walking dress and they were both practical and stylish, incorporating both a wide variety of cuts, fabrics, and colors and were intended for wear while out in public. Just to preface, from what we’ve seen in the research we’ve done, the terms “walking dress” and “walking suit” seemed to be used somewhat interchangeably and it doesn’t appear that the concept was fully formed until the early 1890s with its characteristic jacket-waist-skirt combination. However, looking at this style in the 1880s, it would appear that first and foremost, the skirt was untrained and the hem tended to be a off the ground. Also, to a great degree, the bodice tended to be styled as a “jacket-bodice” in which the bodice was constructed to mimic a jacket over a visible vest or some sort of decorative treatment- often shirred chiffon. But, as mentioned above, the concept doesn’t seem to have been fully formed and the boundaries could get hazy at times (no doubt influenced by marketing concerns since much of the fashion press of the times was owned by various pattern-making concerns such as Butterick).

File:Woman walking, carrying a child and turning around; another child holding on to the woman's dress (rbm-QP301M8-1887-052a~11).jpg

The walking dress in action…

What ultimately became the distinct walking suit of the 1890s seems to have gotten it’s start by 1884 as a walking dress that was meant as a more practical garment. Below is some commentary from the December 1884 issue of Demorest’s Family Magazine:

In opposition to these dazzling house toilettes are the sober, neat street costumes which are almost universally worn. The material is usually some dark shade of cloth. Heavy serge and bure, a thick worsted goods with a coarse, shaggy surface, are especially popular for walking suits. The skirt is almost plain, simply a plaiting around the bottom, but a broad band of fur encircles it about a quarter of a yard from the bottom. A full overskirt drawn up high over the hips, and a little tight fitting fur-trimmed jacket complete a costume rich in its quiet simplicity. To be worn with it is a little bonnet fashioned from the same material, with plume 3 or tips of some contrasting color and velvet strings.

One suit is of dark-brown cloth, the skirt consisting of bayadère stripes {fabric]1A fabric with bayadère stripes is a fabric with horizontal stripes in strongly contrasted colors. of a lighter hue mingled with a grayish blue traversing the ground. No trimming except the foot plaiting of plain brown. Drapery and corsage are also of plain brown. The latter opens at the side beneath the full plaits of the waist proper so as to leave the striped vest unbroken in front. Cuffs and close collar are of the striped goods, and a band of the same about two inches wide reaches down the shoulder seam from the collar to the insertion of the sleeve.

The above passage defines the walking outfit as streetwear that is plain with an emphasis on darker colors and plain woolen fabrics. Skirts are meant to be simple and untrained with a minimum of gathering. At the same time, it’s noted that that the underlying vest is somewhat more colorful and loud and that the bodice is to be arranged to show it off to the best advantage. Finally, it must be noted that the skirt could be in a contrasting material, striped in the above example. The above points are further discussed in this passage below from the same issue:

The newest winter walking suits consist of skirt, jacket basque, and vest, real or simulated, and street-coat or cloak. The walking-jacket is not at all so indispensable a part of them as formerly. The jacket-basque, with vest, is cut in such a way that it completes a dress fit for the street; and when the temperature demands additional clothing, a longer, more protective. and adjustable garment is found necessary to meet varied requirements.

This is really an improvement, but a greater one is the getting rid of looped and bunched-up drapery from heavy cloth materials. “Tailors” proper—what are known as “ladies’” tailors—would have served a really good purpose, if they had strictly adhered to the original idea, maintained a certain standard, and not endeavored to copy the follies of tulle in solid cloth.

Redfern, the great Isle of Wight tailor, has done this less than others. He gets up astonishing contrasts in colors; his “yachting ” suits, his “men of war” costumes for girls, and his cloth “gowns,” are original and striking, but they are useful and suitable; his coats are full of inside pockets, and his traveling costumes seem made for the “road” and to have a satchel, or lorgette slung across them.

The above comments on Redfern are also interesting in that we see tailors trying to incorporate elements in their work that are more in the area of dressmaking, much to Demorest’s disapproval. Below is an illustration from the April 1885 of Demorest’s that illustrates some of the ideas expressed in the above passages in regard to the utility of the walking suit/walking dress. In the right figure, the skirt is simple with a minimum of gathering and the pattern provides a nice contrast to the solid colored skirt front and bodice sides and back. The jacket/bodice is also faced in the same material as the underskirt and helps create the appearance of a long waistcoat reminiscent of early 18th Century styles.

And just to show some of the variations in jacket/bodice styles, here’s another illustration, this time from the May 1885 issue of Demorest’s:

And lest we think it was just Demorest’s that was presenting this style to the public, below is an illustration below from the October 1886 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:

Below are some extant walking dresses from the 1880s, starting with this one from circa 1885:

Walking Dress, c. 1885; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1978.295.8a, b)

And below is another example from circa 1884-1885; and yes, it’s labeled as being a day dress and that’s true but it also encompasses elements of the walking dress style.

Day Dress, c. 1884-1885; Museum of London (32.26/2a)

Finally, we have this circa 1885 walking dress from Worth:

Worth, Walking Dress, c. 1885; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.771a, b)



Style Analysis- The Early 1890s

When starting out to study any fashion era, it’s easy to get lost in the details- the old phrase of not seeing the forest from the trees comes to mind here. 🙂 But this situation is easy to overcome by approaching things in a systematic manner. To help, we found the following method to be very helpful in approaching l1890s styles.  Some key elements to look for when classifying garments are:

  • Silhouette- What basic shape is the garment or dress (since that is mostly what we are dealing with)? The easiest characteristic to look for is the bustle- is there one? Maybe a vestigial one? Does it have a sharp, shelf-like appearance or is it softer?
  • Skirt- Is it straight or does it have a train? Many formal dresses has some sort of a train, usually extending out from the bottom of the dress (for example the “fan train” or “mermaid tail” commonly found with Mid-Bustle dress designs). Is there just one skirt or a combination over and underskirt?
  • Bodice- Is there just a single bodice or is it a combination of an outer bodice/jacket and an under bodice/vest? Are the sleeve caps extended or blend in with the bodice body? The leg-of-mutton sleeve is an extreme case of this and reaches its height during the 1895 – 1897 time frame (although there were always exceptions).
  • Fabrics- What is the basic fashion fabric? Wool? Silk? Cotton? Some sort of a combination? Woolens were very common for day dresses and especially those meant to be more “practical” such as with the house dress. Cashmere was (and still is) a better grade of wool and of course, silk was used for more finer dresses for wear in public or for some sort of social event. China silk, dupioni, shantung, taffeta, faille, and bengaline were some of the more popular choices for silk fabrics. Brocades and velvets were also employed although often only as contrast fabrics. There was a wide variety of yardage used and one could easily write a book on it.
  • Trims- What sort of trim is there? Knife-pleated fabric along the hemline? Netting? Embroidery? Buttons? The possibilities are almost endless.

The above is only a very cursory review but it provides a good roadmap in analyzing fashion and especially if one is designing their own dress or simply classify a dress.

In this post we’re going to apply the above scheme a bit towards understanding the development of one of the key trends of 1890s fashion- the development of the jacket-bodice/jacket and skirt style. To begin, below are some examples of extant garments from the early 1890s that should give a better idea of what to look for. We start first with wedding/day dress from 1891:

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Wedding Dress, 1891; Minnesota Historical Society (9444.10.A,B)

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Side View

The above was made as a wedding dress and has provenance as such but it also illustrates one of the more typical day dress styles that are characteristic of the period. This dress was obviously meant to worn in public and could have been used for visiting or as a dress to be worn at home to receive visitors; the beadwork gives it a simple elegance. Style-wise, we see that the bodice is acting as a jacket (somewhat) and some sort of shirt-waist or vest was worn underneath (the display mannequin just has some black velvet filler).

Here’s another example, a little more elaborate day dress from circa 1887-1891:

CI55.40.1ab_F

Day Dress, c. 1887 – 1891; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.55.40.1a, b, e)

CI55.40.1ab_d

Close-Up

CI55.40.1a_d

This is clearly a much more fancy dress than the first one but it does share the same over-bodice/jacket style. If you look at the top two pictures carefully, you can see that the fashion fabric is a light brown faille or taffeta. The fabric lining the inside of the collar and trimming each side of the bodice appears to be a peach-colored chiffon and it acts as a contrast to better show off the beading.

Below is another example, this time a visiting/reception dress from circa 1891:

504083D

Visiting/Reception Dress, c. 1891, attributed to Mme. Lambele de St. Omer, No.30 E. 21st St, New York; Smith College Clothing Collection (1985.5.4ab)

504084D

The above dress utilizes a combination of rust-colored silk faille, rust/gold brocade, and a claret-colored velvet. The brocade overskirt skirt is covered with rust-colored silk tails leading down from the bodice/jacket and underneath is a matching silk underskirt. The bodice is styled as a jacket, suggestive of a bolero with its high sleeve caps and wide lapels/revers. The sleeves are made of velvet and contrast with rust-colored silk on the rest of the jacket/bodice. The vest is also made of a rust-colored silk. Also, it must be noted that the skirt does have a small bustle made of spring steel. Besides the classic bolero style effect, we also see the overskirt being topped off with a waistband of the same brocade material giving the appearance of a sash wrapped several times around the waist, giving the effect of an obi found on a kimono. It is interesting that the brocade pattern runs at a 90 degree angle to the pattern on the skirt.

Each of the above dresses attempts to utilize color and trim in different ways. The first dress is a mono-colored and uses the leaf-patterned embroidery to provide a contrast. The second dress uses two different colors- a light brown/khaki color as the base combined with peach-colored chiffon accents covered with elaborate beadwork. Finally, with the third dress, we see the use of three different colors (rust, claret, and gold) in three different fabrics to achieve its effect. The third dress is far more ambitious and it succeeds.

In the above three pictures, we have seen three very different dresses that still share come common style elements. In particular, each dress’s bodice is styled as more of a jacket than a true bodice and it continues a trend that stared in the 1880s and would culminate with the development of “tailormade” walking suits during the mid to late 1890s. While an under-bodice or vest was usually worn underneath, a shirtwaist could also be used. Below are some early examples of the walking suit style:

Redfern, Bodice Jacket, 1892; National Gallery of Victoria- Melbourne (D187-1974)

Walking Suit, c. 1892; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1982.82.6a, b)

Walking Suit, 1892; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.53.72.9a–c)

Front Close-Up

Ultimately, all the above dresses feature a jacket and skirt style but each executes it in a different manner and this trend was present throughout the 1890s. Where before dresses tended to consist of a bodice/skirt or princess line styles, they were now supplemented by the jacket/jacket-bodice and skirt style. One of the end results was a style that was extremely practical for everyday wear which reflected women’s increasing involvement in public life.