John Redfern/Redfern & Sons, Part 3

Today we will look a bit more at Redfern’s work. Although he was known for his tailored styles, there was also a softer side:


Day Dress, Redfern, 1892; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1981.515.1a, b)

1981.515.1a_label (1)

The label to go along with the dress.

1981.515.1ab_B 0df8802d43db6493a418f3611d2f4024

This is an excellent example of a “transitional” dress, moving from the late 1880s to the early 1890s. The basic fabric is a striped silk that is understated- if you look carefully at the stripes, you can see a series of curved lines (it’s unclear what exactly is creating this effect since there are no close-up pictures available). In contrast to the earlier late 1880s style, the bodice ends at the waist. Also, in continuation of earlier style trends, the bodice has been constructed so that it gives the appearance of being a jacket with a separate shirtwaist underneath (what could be termed the “faux waistcoat/shirtwaist effect”).

The trim on the skirt is relatively restrained and one can see that there is no bustle present (or perhaps a vestigial one in the form of a small pad set in the rear). With the high collar, minimal trim, and muted fabrics, it creates a style that reads “rich and conservative.” This is an elegant but by means daring dress design.

Walking suits made up a large part of Redfern’s market and in here is just one example that was at a recent auction:

8836a539b7712369ddc34a1dc8ba0cef (1) H3839-L13431958 (1)  H3839-L13431980 (1)

H3839-L13431974 (1)

From the above, one can see the detailed soutache trim that was characteristic of many of Redfern’s designs.

H3839-L13431968 (1)

H3839-L13431962 (1)


Matching hat by Louise & Company, Regent Street

According the auction website, this dress dates from circa 1889 and I tend to agree. One can see a definite bustle effect; it is not as extreme as those characteristic of the mid 1880s but it is still there. Also, the sleeves are form-fitting with no excess gathering or “kickout” at the sleeve caps. The dress itself is constructed from a wool fabric and the bodice is boned and trimmed in fur along the bottom. The bodice stops at the waist and has a slight basque-like curve in the front and tails in the rear to accommodate the fullness of the bustle. The skirt itself is side-buttoning.

Unfortunately, there are no details as to the provenance of the dress so all we can go on is the auction description and what can be seen in the photographs. Overall, this fits nicely in the continuum of Redfern’s designs during the late 1880s and early 1890s.

In our next installment, we will take a lot at Redfern’s later designs that increasingly become more mainstream, moving away from the tailored garments.

To Be Continued… 

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