In a previous post, we described some dresses that were trending for January 1890 in Peterson’s Magazine. It is easy to get lost in the detail of the individual dress designs to the point where it is difficult to tell the proverbial “forest from the trees.” To give a more general idea of fashion trends, below are some general fashion comments from the January 1890 issue of Peterson’s (page 103):
At this season, there is little new to record in the way of fashions. Every woman with the least taste or ingenuity can alter a trimming or arrange a sleeve or skirt to suit her own particular style and yet be in the mode; for, if the corsage [bodice] is much trimmed, the sleeves rather high and full, and the skirt-effect plain, that is all that is necessary-the minor details can be added as is thought best. Skirts are worn with little or no bustle, and fall in straight lines or in very slight lengthwise drapery. Slimness of the figure is the present style.
At this point, it would appear that fashion was in a state of transformation. What is the most telling are the comments in regard to skirts in that they “are worn with little or no bustle and fall in straight lines.” In contrast to three and four years before, the bustle had almost receded to the point of almost disappearing. Also, we seen an emphasis on a slimmer silhouette yet in contrast to the Mid-Bustle Era, the skirts are of a more looser style.
At the same time, bodice styles are flexible:
Bodices, on the contrary, are much trimmed and in the greatest variety of ways: some have pointed waists, some round waists without belts, and in other cases belts with buckles are worn. Little trimming or fullness on the shoulders is almost universal.
Bodices could be trimmed in a number of different ways and they could be pointed or round, with or without belts. Sleeves are simple with little fullness around the shoulders- basically there was some emphasis but when compared with the leg-of-mutton style that develops later in the mid-1890s, this is fairly restrained.
Next, the subject of fabrics and trim are considered:
Stripes of various colors. large flowers, rings, dots, etc., are on most of the silks and on many of the woolen goods; but these brocades are nearly always made up with a plain material of the same color or of some other which harmonizes with it. Brocades are so rich that they admit of little or no trimmings on the skirts; but, for young people the lighter materials may be trimmed with ribbons, passementerie, lace, or braiding, as may be suitable.
It would seem that brocades were coming into greater prominence and with it, a corresponding reduction in the use of other trim, at least on the skirts. Below are some illustrations that show these various trends:
The above two examples show the relatively clean lines that were characteristic of the early 1890s along with the modest “kick-outs” at the top of each sleeve. The “decoration” for this style lies in the fashion fabric itself rather than the addition of much, if any, extra trim.
Some other general comments in regard other fashion elements are made, most notably in regard to outerwear:
Waterproofs are made like redingotes- tight at the back and loose in front, with sleeves. They are made of the softest woolen materials, and are as elegant as any other cloak or redingote.
Capes- The rage for capes still continues. They are worn with dresses, jackets, coats- everything. They are three, four, five, and even seven-fold. Some are fulled on to a yoke, which is covered with little frills. They are made to match the dress or cloak, or they may be made of a soft white woolen material when they are accordion-pleated round the neck or a shoulder-piece, instead of being gathered. When gathered or plaited round the neck, they are not shaped, they shape themselves.
Jackets are nearly always opened over the under-dress or bodice. Some of them, however, are made with a simulated bodice or waistcoat attached to them-such as a pretty gray cloth, embroidered with gray silk and steel over a white cloth waistcoat, also embroidered with silk and steel.
Buttons of immense size are used to fasten these capes, cloaks. redingotes, and jackets. Open jackets are frequently buttoned just at the waist with one or two large buttons. Fur is greatly used for all sorts of trimmings. Bonnets and hats have not changed in style. The capote bonnet is almost precisely like the toque hat, with the addition of strings.
The comments in regard to jackets are interesting in that they were both used as a true jacket over a separate under-bodice/vest as well as having the under-bodice/vest attached so as to create a faux waistcoat look. This is a style that shows up throughout the 1880s and carries on into the 1890s.
Below are some more examples of dresses that incorporate one or more elements as described above:
The above is intended to give a little bit of a general overview of the fashion scene at the beginning on the 1890s and it reveals that even within broad trends, there were a number of smaller trends at work at the same time. Stay tuned for more because we are going to be taking a closer look at the 1890s in the future. 🙂