And For Some Fair Weather Fashion…

Auction websites and provide some of the most interesting examples of period garments but they can be aggravatingly lacking in specific details as to provenance and construction. Here’s an interesting day dress from the mid to late 1880s that’s meant for warmer weather that we found in the Augusta Auctions website:

Day Dress, c. 1880s; Augusta Auctions

This dress is constructed from a salmon-colored cotton chambray material for both the under and over-skirts as well as the bodice. White/ivory rick-rack lace in a floral pattern covers the outer sleeves, shoulders, and overskirt, as well as forming two rows of trim on the underskirt. The bodice is a fairly conventional front-buttoning style and has a plain, unadorned collar. Note how the rick rack lace forms a capelet around the shoulders.

In terms of silhouette, this dress definitely belongs sometime in the mid to later 1880s although the lack of defining undergarments hinders a more definite conclusion. However, the gathered train at the waistline would tend to rule out an earlier Mid-Bustle Era style.

Here are a couple of close views of the fashion fabric. The weave pattern is interesting and suggestive of a cotton fabric.

The dress’ color has faded but underneath the button line one can see a darker shade of color- salmon or pink, it can be interpreted either way. Here one can also get a close view of the lace and make out the floral design. Now, a closer view of the fashion  fabric itself:

We had doubts about this fabric being a chambray but this close-up view of the fabric and especially the hole would suggest that the weft fabric has white fibers- the fashion fabric with the hole is part of the overskirt and it appears that this was photographed on the bias. Ultimately, the most striking thing about this dress is that although it’s relatively plain in materials, construction and color; however, it then compensates (or perhaps over-compensates) with a large quantity of lace. Nevertheless, this dress fills a mid-range style position that was more towards the low end of middle class.

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.

Out The Door!

A quick dress check before out the door!  🙂



Mid-1870s Afternoon Dress Style

Yesterday we took a look at a mid-1870s afternoon dress from Worth. Today we take a look at another afternoon dress from circa 1874-1875 that offers a bit of a contrast:

Afternoon Dress, c. 1874-1875; Metropolitan museum of Art (1979.367.1a, b)

The bodice and skirt are  constructed of what appears to be a light brown silk taffeta combined with a jacquard (more on that below). Turning to the bodice, the body is made of the brocade while the sleeves are made of the light brown taffeta. The rear of the bodice also features jacquard tails that extend over the top of the train/bustle. The cuffs are trimmed with the jacquard and ivory lace (the lace is missing from the left cuff).  The fabrics on the front of the skirt have been shaped so as to create two layers consisting of the jacquard on top of the light brown taffeta, scalloped at the bottom and lying over a base layer of the same light brown taffeta. Decorating the center of the front opening are a series of knots trimmed with the jacquard  and the hem has a row of knife pleating.

As can be seen from the profile view above, the skirt is made of two layers, the inner one extending to the ground with the train consisting of the brocade and the front consisting of jacquard panels covering the light brown taffeta. The outer layer extends down from the waist and over the hips, extending down about one third of the way down consisting primarily of the light brown fabric trimmed with large knots.

In terms of silhouette, this dress reads mid-1870s. Compared to the the 1870-1872 time frame, the train is more tidy and restrained.  Below is a close-up of the cuffs:

The slashing is an interesting decorative touch. Below is are three-quarter and direct rear views of the dress with the bodice and its tails draped over the skirt.

And for a close-up of the jacquard…

By this time you must be wondering just what the jacquard fashion fabric looks like up close- well, you’re in luck:

From the picture, it would appear that the patterned fashion fabric is jacquard- possibly a cotton or cotton/silk blend- and it certainly reads like a tapestry. What’s interesting is that from a distance, the brocade almost appears to be dark gold and gives the dress a richness that contrasts with the light brown taffeta. Compared to the design from Worth we looked at yesterday, this is far more dramatic yet it’s also clumsy, at least in the way the decorative knots are used- they appear to have been somewhat of an afterthought and especially on the sides. But, no matter what we may think, this is still an interesting example of mid-1870s style and especially in the way two contrasting fabrics are manipulated to create something that’s more than the sum of its parts.

Back To The 70s At Maison Worth

Today we take a trip back to the 70s…the 1870s, that is, and more specifically circa 1874 with this afternoon dress from Worth:

Worth, Afternoon Dress, c. 1874; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1975.259.2a, b)

This afternoon dress utilizes the two-color combination style that was typical of early to mid-1870s dresses, consisting of black silk taffeta bodice and outer skirt combined with a pale green/mint green silk taffeta underskirt. What is interesting here is that the bodice and skirts have been cut so as to give the effect of a long robe that opens wide to dramatically reveal the green underskirt. Also, while it’s not easy to make out, the bodice is designed with an underlayer of the same green color- it’s hard to say if it’s a faux vest or simply an inset underlayer. Finally, the neck and front outer bodice edges and cuffs are trimmed with ivory lace. Below is a close-up of the bodice:

The silhouette is fairly standard for the early to mid-1870s and its lines are pretty clean, especially when compared to many 1870s day/afternoon dresses. Note that both sides of the outer skirt are piped with the light green fabric.

The bodice back has a set of carefully sculpted tails that serve to emphasize the train and each tail is emphasized with an outline of the green fabric (which also appears to be the lining color for the tails). Below is a close-up:

Below are some more detailed views of the skirts. It’s interesting that the “outer” and “inner” skirts are really one unit:

Finally, below is a view of the detail where the outer and inner skirts meet:

Compared to many of Worth’s designs, this one is relatively simple emphasizing clean lines with a minimum of trim. In many respects it almost reads “tea gown” although it’s far more substantial and was clearly intended for wear out in public. We’ll have some more interesting 1870s dress styles to show you in the near future so stay tuned! 🙂