Some Late 1880s Daytime Style…

As seen in a recent post, velvet was often used as an accent both in terms of the fabric itself and the rich colors it could hold. Today we take this theme a bit further with this late 1880s day dress:

Day Dress, c. 1880; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.40.181a, b)

This dress is constructed from a medium brown silk faille with dark brown velvet panels on the front and sides of the skirt as well as panels on the bodice front. Also, one can see with the bodice that it’s been constructed to give the appearance of having an open v-neck with a faux velvet waist (it’s all actually a one-piece construction). Further decorating the bodice front, shoulders and cuffs in metallic gold filigree.

For dating the dress, although this has been labeled as being from circa 1880, we believe it was constructed during sometime in the 1888 to 1890 time frame based on the silhouette. In contrast with earlier 1880s dresses, this one’s silhouette is more moderate suggesting that the large bustle trend was beginning to taper off. Of course, it could also be the museum staging but we seriously doubt it.

Compared to the front, the back is plain and unadorned, suggesting that this was more of a mid-range dress than haute couture. This dress is interesting in that darker velvet combines nicely with the lighter brown silk faille. Darker colored velvet tend to absorb light but the gold filigree neatly counters this, thus creating a backdrop that only enhances the luster of the gold filigree decoration. One of the things that makes Victorian Era fashions so interesting is the seemingly endless unique design variations that one finds and it’s a constant source of inspiration to us.

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