Some Mid-Bustle Era Style

Today we take another quick look at early 1880s style with this day dress:

Day Dress, c. 1882; The Sigal Museum (164.v.1)

Although the museum description indicates early 1880s and the silhouette itself definitely reads Mid-Bustle/Natural Form Era although we think that this might be more of a late 1870s style on the basis of the prominent two-fabric combination in the bodice. Turning to the dress itself, it appears to be constructed of a combination of gold/champagne color silk satin and a silk brocade with a purple-gold-silver pansy pattern. The brocade is a very busy pattern and from a distance appears more of a black and green (of course, it could also be the lighting and appearance on a computer monitor).

The bodice is cut so that the solid champagne/gold satin is featured prominently, making up the main front and back panels with the back panels descending downwards mimicking a tail coat. The center fronts and the upper sleeves are made up of the brocade and provides a harmonious contrast. The neckline is trimmed in a combination of ivory lace, silver satin ribbons and dags of the brocade- it’s an interesting style effect.

The dress itself continues with this solid and brocade fabric theme with a ruched solid front combined with side panels and train in the brocade. The dress is layered but not in the usual over/underskirt manner but rather with vertical draped layers. Finally, the train the brocade is also used for the train.

Here’s some views of the side profile and one can see the vertical draping which emphasizes vertical lines, a characteristic of Mid Bustle style.

Ths dress is an interesting example of Mid-Bustle Era style and while not a lot is know about it, it definitely combines the Mod-Bustle aesthetic of vertical lines while at the same time drawing upon the use of two somewhat contrasting fashion fabrics- in this case, a solid paired with a brocade with a small, busy pattern. Also, at the same time, while there’s contrast, the colors themselves harmonize well. We hope you’ve enjoyed this example and it demonstrates nicely that fashion styles tend to evolve, often blending old and new elements, than change abruptly.



Three Years Ago Today…

It was three years ago today that we made our first journey to London after a hiatus of many years. It was a crazy adventure and while we experienced a bit of mild culture shock, it was a very mind-opening experience for us. We’re looking forward to picking up things again in October and hopefully a lot of the COVID craziness will have subsided. So here’s hoping! 🙂


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After a 10 1/2 hour night flight from Los Angeles, we finally arrived in London at about 11:30 am , Sunday morning (well, technically it was Heathrow Airport). Then came the fun part of actually getting from the gate to the terminal proper to claim our baggage and perform all the usual immigration formalities. It seemed that the walk took forever as we trudged down seemingly endless corridors but finally we made it to immigration. The immigration officer looked at us a bit askance when we told her that we had three bags and would only be in the UK for a week but things cleared up when we explained that we were going to a formal dance in Bath and that we had one ball gown and a day dress along with the all the requisite underpinnings. 🙂

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Getting ready to leave home…I think we were a tad overloaded…

After a chaotic train ride (won’t make that mistake again!)  from heathrow to Paddington Station, we finally caught a cab and were soon ensconced at the Montana Hotel, our home for the next four days. In the course of travelling, we came to the realization that we’d packed way too much clothing and our bags weighed what seemed to be a ton. Also, we discovered very quickly that there’s lots of steps that can make moving heavy bags somewhat inconvenient.

Finally, we must note that we arrived at the tail end of a heat wave in London topping out at 80 degrees- air conditioning is usually absent in older buildings and it can get a bit hot and stuffy, especially given the humidity (as compared to Southern California). Getting into the hotel was also interesting when it turned out that the elevator was about the size of a shower stall…we had to bring the luggage to our room in shifts. Finally, our room was located in what would be considered a basement, there was a window so it wasn’t completely underground but it was a strange feeling, to say the least.



Some Mid-1880s Day Dress Style

When it comes to later 19th Century fashion, certain dresses are remarkable either because of their cut and silhouette, colors, or fabrics. Today we present this circa 1885 day dress that combines all of these elements:

Day Dress, c. 1885; Five Colleges and Historic Deerfield Museum Consortium (HD V.114)

In terms of silhouette, this dress follows a fairly typical mid-1880s style and there’s no surprises there but when we turn to the fashion fabric itself, it’s a completely different matter with wide vertical stripes combined with narrow stripes, all in the same  shade of purple.

The fashion fabric consists of a combination of wide vertical and narrow horizontal purple stripes over a dark ivory background.

And just for comparison, here’s are two examples of what was more the norm for striped dresses of the period:

Day Dress, c. 1880; The Museum at FIT (P92.21.1)

Day Dress, c. 1880s; From the collection of Alexandre Vassiliev

In contrast to the purple striped day dress, the above examples are all constructed of striped fashion fabrics, the stripes of different colors. While combining horizontal and vertical stripes was not unknown during the late 19th Century fabrics, it usually involved combinations of different colors. Let’s take a closer look at the dress details:

Upon closer examination, we see that the fashion fabric appears to be a faille- Bengaline, or perhaps a Fouillard, and that the the light areas between the stripes is a variegated ivory and black. Also, it’s interesting to note that the horizontal purple stripes are of a slightly darker shade of purple and that each “stripe” is actually three rows of pin-striping. When viewed at a distance, these pin-stripes merge in one strip.

And here’s a very tight close-up of the dress fabric. Note the cross-wise horizontal rib characteristic of a faille/Bengaline. Judging from the luster and drape, we estimate that this is a silk Bengaline or perhaps cotton and silk- it’s hard to say without further analysis. It’s also interesting that the horizontal stripes are not all one color but rather appear to have rows of a lighter ivory (?) alternating with the purple rows.

Some may find this dress to be visually jarring and that we our initial reaction. However, upon closer examination, we found that it contained some subtle nuances such as with the variegated ivory/black background and the three pin-striped horizontal stripes. Also, the fabric weave further enhances the stripe style.  This dress is certainly an interesting style that amply demonstrates that style is found in the details. 🙂



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Modes Robe De Jour Vers 1895

Fashion in the 1890s saw an explosion in dress styles and especially when it came to skirt and jacket combinations. Here’s just one interesting example of a circa 1895 day dress1In some instances, “day dress” and “jacket/skirt combinations” are used somewhat interchangeably. from the Musée de arts decoratifs Paris :

Day Dress, c. 1895; Musée des Arts Décoratifs (26009 AB)

This dress has an interesting color palette consisting of a light gray silk taffeta bodice combined with darker gray silk velvet sleeves for bodice/jacket; and the same light gray taffeta for the outerskirt and train combined with a red and gold silk brocade underskirt. Even more striking is that the lapels on the bodice/jacket are also in the same red and gold silk brocade- the effect is stunning. Below is a close-up of the bodice:

Here, one can make out the stylized pockets surrounded by gold embroidery. Also, the top of a faux vest in the same red brocade can also be seen with a waist underneath. It’s very likely that  it’s all one unit giving the effect of multiple layers. Here’s a close up of the brocade:

Below are a couple of profile pictures:


Judging from the pictures, it would appear that the outer and inner skirts are really of one unit and represent an interesting evolution of the over/underskirt combination found on later 19th Century styles. Also, while the bustle style had mostly disappeared by the 1890-91, it still lingered on a bit in a more muted form with padding. Finally, here’s a three-quarter rear view that shows off the train:

This is an interesting dress in that it takes the basic walking suit of the 1890s and then takes it a bit further with using contrasting colors to create an over/underskirt style that’s reminiscent of what was more common in the 1880s. Colorwise, we seen the use of analogous colors with the two shades of gray (although they’re technically neutral) and the use of red as a contrast. It’s not a combination that one normally encounters and it definitely stands out. But what’s more interesting is that the dark gray is on a velvet which absorbs light thereby creating a dull luster while the light gray silk taffeta does the opposite.  We hope to come across more interesting examples of this style so stay tuned. 🙂