Now For Some 1890s Casual, Parisian Style…

When is comes to the term “casual,” it’s always a matter of degree when applied to the late Nineteenth Century and especially for the 1890s. Recently, we came across this interesting circa 1897 day dress made by a one P. Barroin of Paris:

P. Barroin, Day Dress, Paris, France, c. 1897; FIDM Museum (2010.1098.3A-C)

This dress is constructed from a printed cotton fabric featuring a red and white pattern with silk taffeta trim on the skirt bottom and bodice/sleeves. The style is classic 1890s although the sleeves are bit more restrained than the usual large gigot/leg-of-mutton sleeves commonly found in the 1895-1897 time frame. Also present is the wasp-waist, measuring 28 inches in diameter, which in turn helps create the characteristic “X” line silhouette. Finally, inset in the middle of the bodice of silk chiffon shirring which creates the effect of a waist being worn underneath although the bodice would have been one unit. Overall, this is a sporty day dress with a minimum of trim and embellishment and was definitely meant for day wear in public; the straw boater hat further reinforces this sporty effect. This dress is representative of the more casual daytime styles of day wear that were coming into vogue during the 1890s and as such acted as a counter some of the more extreme looks one can see with evening wear of the period. This is definitely a worthy candidate for reproduction.  🙂

1890s Style- Chartreuse & Black

Today we shift gears a bit and move towards something more formal with dinner dresses. As the name  implies, the dinner dress was a fairly formal dress that was meant for formal dinner gathers (although there’s no reason why it wouldn’t be worn for more informal at-home dinners).1While specific dress terminology such as “dinner dress” or “afternoon dress” or “visiting dress” were used, we suspect that these categories were not as rigidly observed in practice and that there was a lot of overlap between the dress types. Here’s an interesting example of a dinner dress from circa 1894:

Dinner Dress, 1894; Maryland Historical Society Fashion Archives (1978.95.63a,b)

Colore-wise, this dress uses a three-color combination of black, chartreuse, and yellow with black being dominant. The outer and inner skirt are made of a black silk taffeta as well as the upper sleeves and part of the front bodice. The lower sleeves, revers, epaulets, and hem trim  and constructed from a chartreuse velvet which makes for a striking effect, presenting a contrast in luster and fabric textures while at the same time lessening the severity of the black. The yellow silk ruching on the bodice front quickly catches the eye, centering focus on the dress front. Finally, running down the front of the dress is a chartreuse and white floral pattern. Compared to the black and chartreuse, the yellow presents a color contrast that pops. Essentially, the chartreuse and yellow at as analogous colors set upon black which is neutral. Below are some close-ups:

Here’s another view of the floral pattern running down the front of the inner skirt. Also, one can see one of the chartreuse velvet sleeves trimmed with jeweling at the cuff. Below is a picture of one of the epaulets. Note the use of jeweled trimming around the edge and that it’s lined with the same patterned fabric as seen on the front of the inner skirt:

The blending of revers and epaulets is an interesting style feature and variations of this were present in many dresses of the period. The upper sleeves exhibit the leg-of-mutton or gigot style which are accented by the epaulets, creating a pagoda-like effect. Like many dresses that we’ve viewed online, we would love to have examined this one in person and who knows, maybe that chance will come someday.  We hope you’ve enjoyed this! 🙂

What’s Old Is New Again- A Tea Gown From The 1890s

Today’s tea gown selection was created by Maison Worth sometime in the 1890s and presents a style that looks back more to the 18th Century Robe à la Française, a dress style that was popular during the years 1720-1780  than the 1890s:

Worth, Tea Gown, c. 1890s; Kent State University Museum (1983.001.0179 ab)

This gown is consists of an outer part constructed of a pink silk brocade with an Oriental floral motif. The inner part consists of the front and sleeves and are constructed of a gold silk brocade featuring a floral motif similar to the the outer part. Also, below the waist the fabric is covered with a lace forepart and finally, there’s a faux stomacher (stomachers were normally a separate item but here it’s integrated into the overall gown) also made of a silk brocade and is jeweled. Here’s a closer view of the gown front:

The sleeves are also trimmed with lace and the interior of the sleeves are lined with a red velvet. Also, the edges of the front are trimmed in red velvet and one can see two inset panels flanking the stomacher. Finally, to finish things off, there’s a lace jabot. Below are more pictures of the gown from various angles:

And with the rear views, we get a good look at the Wateau Back, a fairly standard feature for tea gowns during the late Nineteenth Century and the style characteristic of the Robe à la Française. From a style/design perspective, this is a very busy gown between the floral designs, lace, and pink and gold silk base fabrics. Of course, this complexity of design is to be expected from Maison Worth. As for dating this gown, while it’s difficult to make a precise guess, we think that it’s safe to say that judging from the relatively restrained sleeve caps that it probably wasn’t made in the Mid-1890s but rather more likely either early or late in the decade. Ultimately, this gown is an excellent example of how prior fashion styles inspired design and this one takes is pretty far by even including a faux stomacher. Upon initial viewing it appears to actually BE an 18th Century gown and it actually had us fooled for a moment. 🙂 We hope you’ve enjoyed this unique example of a tea gown as interpreted by the leading couture house of the time, Maison Worth. Stay tuned for more! 🙂


1870s Tea Gown Style…

Today’s tea gown selection dates from circa 1875-1879 and incorporates a princess line style:

Tea Gown/Day Dress, c. 1875-1879; Kent State Museum (1983.001.0138)

The front of the gown presents a contrast between a purple colored front combined with white outer sides and back. The back and side fabric has a purple floral decorative motif (printed or embroidered is hard to determine). Running along the left side of the dress are a series of purple ribbon bows that help to create the illusion that the dress is a robe draped over a purple underskirt. However, in reality, it’s all one dress as can be seen in this close-up:

As can be seen from this close-up, it’s actually all one dress constructed in the princess line style. On the right one can see a row of buttons running town the front of the dress and the purple colored front is acting as a long plastron. Interestingly enough, the buttons and the ribbons on the front and cuffs appear to be more of a blue color. And here’s the side profile, both left and right:

Left Side Profile

Right Side Profile

The profile pictures illustrate that there’s a well-defined train and as such, this garment was probably made towards the Mid-1870s and would have been worn with a bustle. Below you can see the train:

Rear View

Compared the front, the rear is fairly unexceptional and presents a fairly conventional train except for the outline of purple ruffles running along the train. Unfortunately, the museum staging is not the best and the trim line is somewhat jumbled. This is a gown that we would love to have an opportunity to examine in person; the train is strangely asymmetrical and it would be interesting to see if this was by design or simply poor staging. But is what most compelling about this gown is the front- the color is amazing and it presents a bold contrast with the rest of the gown. We hope you’ve enjoyed this gown and may it be an inspiration. 🙂