Directoire Style Returns…

One of the more interesting micro fashion trends that were occurring during the late 1880s/early 1890s was the revival of Directoire style. Originally a reaction to the overly-ornate aristocratic fashions of the late Eighteenth Century, the Directoire aesthetic focused on simplifying fashion, initially drawing upon Classical antiquity for inspiration. As with the original, the Directoire style of the 1880s/1890s was a reaction to the highly structured styles of the late 1880s and it also sought to introduce a less structured style (although this was a matter of degree). So what was this style, as reinterpreted? According to the January 1889 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:

In gowns, the Empire and Directoire styles are the novelties. The Empire gowns have a simple basque back, while the front is rounded and quite short, being covered from tho armpits with the draped Empire belt. The belt is of the dress-material, or one of its combinations. The back of such basque is in box-plaits. The skirts of both the Empire and Directoire gowns are all in straight lines, owning over an underskirt, in front, the whole length. Rich brocades, combined with satin peau-de-soie, are mostly used for dressy occasions.

Gowns for the street are made in the same style in cloth. The long continuous breadths of the redingote are well adapted for these cloth costumes. One of tho novelties of the season is for combining black with a contrasting color. The short broad revers on the front of the bodice, in Directoire gowns, are generally of the same color as the
front of the gown. All sleeves are full; that is, either puffed, for lace or dinner dresses, and for cloth, silk, or woolens. The coat-sleeve is large at the top, and pushed up at the armhole.

What’s interesting in the above commentary is that there’s an emphasis on straight vertical lines. Jackets were definitely a key element, principally with revers in bodices combined with tight sleeves with large sleeve caps. Let’s see how this is looks…

Directore

Directoire

As it can be seen from the above illustrations, jackets were a definite style element, and were either short jackets or, in some cases, cut-away versions. The Redingote was often blended in and it was sometimes difficult to tell where outerwear ended and inside dresses began:

The above style was available from Butterick’s as a sewing pattern.

The late 1880s take on the Directoire style is an interesting in that it emphasized the skirt and jacket/coat combination and that a tidy silhouette while at the same time avoiding the severity found with a closely-fitted bodice. Also, with the skirt, we see a de-emphasis on the train, the elaborate bustle structure that was in style just a couple of years before; at best there was a minimal bustle mostly consisting of some sort of pad. When viewed across several decades, this represented a seismic style shift that was to ultimately play out through the 1890s. We hope you have enjoyed this little excursion into one of the more little-known byways of late Nineteenth Century fashion and we hope to be posting more soon. 🙂

Trending For January 1890- The Leg Of Mutton Sleeve

Sleeves are a major style element on every garment and was given special emphasis during the 1890s with its signature leg of mutton sleeves which grew to fantastical proportions by mid-decade. But as with all fashion trends that go to extremes, their origins are more modest and that was the case when it came to sleeve style. Here’s an illustration that from the January 1890 edition of Peterson’s Magazine:

This illustration was part of a sleeve pattern that was included in the January issue but unfortunately it’s not available as part of the electronic file (perhaps one day we’ll be able to locate an original issue of the magazine itself and scan an electronic version). What’s interesting here is that it’s got a gathered sleeve cap but definitely nothing extreme. Just to provide some context, here’s a few fashion plates:

Godey’s Fashions, September 1890

Peterson’s Magazine, February 1890

Fashion Plate, Winter 1890

Now fashion plates can be a bit deceptive in that they portray the ideal concept but they’re a good starting point. Let’s now look at some extant dresses…

Day Dress, c. 1888 – 1890; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (60.897a-b)

The sleeves in the above day dress are towards the fuller side and there’s a gradual tapering towards the wrists. Here’s another example:

Reception Dress, c. 1890; Goldstein Museum of Design (2013.004.012)

The small sampling shown above only gives a hint of the shift in styles that was happening during these years. Stay tuned for more in future posts. 🙂

 

Parisian Fashions- Trending For Spring 1890

Fabrics are a major part of fashion and often are the center of focus of a dress design. In terms of style, a fabric could be said to consist of three elements: 1) the fabric’s specific type and construction; 2) the fabric’s decoration (i.e. does the fabric have some sort of decorative motif or is it plain?); and 3) the fabric’s color. This is illustrated in this commentary from the April 1890 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:

In the way of dress materials, the newest is a gauze with wide woven stripes in a fabric much more transparent than the ground of the material, these stripes being figured in large patterned designs in the thicker stuff. The effect thus produced is very pretty, and, when the gauze is made up over a colored satin underskirt, the toilette thus composed will be charming.

As for silks, brocades were definitely a thing:

The newest silks are brocades, having very small sprays of flowers in their natural colors scattered over a black ground. Some of the designs are very tasteful as well as novel, and especially one representing a single stalk of the fuchsia with its pendent blossoms, and another showing one of the crimson clover. These floral designs are repeated on the foulards of the season- snowdrops or ears of wheat being represented on the black grounds, and fuchsias on cream-white or pale silver-gray.

Here are some fashion plates from Peterson’s that help illustrate this a little:

Peterson’s Magazine, March 1890

Peterson’s Magazine, May 1890

And here are some extant examples of garments that incorporate one or more style elements noted above:

Worth, Ballgown, 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.68.53.11a, b)

Sara Mayer & A. Morhanger, Da Dress, c. 1889-1892; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.270&A-1972)

Worth, Dinner Dress, c. 1890-1895; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.636a, b)

The above examples are only a small sample but they serve to underscore some of the fashion trends that were underway during the later 1880s/early 1890s. In future posts, we hope to further document this most interesting period of fashion transition.

Trending For Spring 1889- Some Observations

Sometimes when you’re looking something specific, you wind up with something completely different. In this case, we were researching for something on Fall fashions for the late 1880s and instead wound up finding some compelling comments on Spring fashions, specifically with some commentary from the April 1889 issue of Peterson’s Magazine in regard to Parisian fashions:

The fashions of the present spring show but little positive change, so far, from the styles, of the past winter. This was to be expected, after the thorough revolution in the make of dresses which has taken place during the past six months. The .adoption of flat-plaited skirts, of short demi-trains, and of modified leg-of-mutton sleeves, together with the revival of dresses with corsage and skirt or over-skirt cut in one piece, such as the redingote, and the polonaise, and the princess dress, are sufficient to mark the* inauguration of a new era in feminine toilette. Hooped skirts are abolished, to the great misery of the dressmakers who have discovered, after years of disuse, that it is much harder to make a gracefully cut skirt falling in straight plain folds, than one that admitted of being looped up here and bunched up there whenever any irregularity presented itself.

It’s interesting that the writer notes that dressmakers used loops and folds characteristic of 1880s dresses to conceal their mistakes. What’s also interesting is that reference of made to the leg-of-mutton sleeve although its manifestation was no doubt a lot more muted that what was to come in the Mid-1890s. 🙂

The writer goes on to note that:

The polonaise and princess-cut dresses are very advantageous for spring wear, as they can be worn for promenading without a wrap as soon as the mild weather definitely makes its appearance. A very elegant form of the latter style of costume is to have the dress in cashmere, with underskirt, plaited vest, and corsage-revers in satin. The satin underskirt is made in flat square plaits in front, the perfectly plain princess-cut dress in cashmere falling over it in straight loose folds…

The redingote is universally adopted for the more elegant form of demi-toilette, such as is in vogue for small dinners, soirees musicales, and such like informal entertainments. It is made in brocade, usually in a solid color, and opens from the throat downward over an underdress that may be in lace, or in satin, or embroidered gauze, or in crepe de Chine, being about a quarter of a yard shorter than the round underskirt. Very often the sleeves are made with high puffed epaulettes. When the underdress is in crape or gauze, a wide belt in some soft silken material is often added with good effect. The whole dress should be in one color, every portion of it matching in shade..

So what this might have looked like? Well, here’s a few fashions plates that illustrate the redingote style combined with the princess line dress:

 

The left dress above is interesting in that the redingote takes on the appearance of a elongated tail coat and the overall effect is neo-directoire.

The above plates illustrate a number of variations on the redingote with an princess line underneath and what’s interesting is that the line between outerwear and garments worn inside is blurred. And just to be complete, here’s a couple of extant dresses that captures many of the elements described above. First, this dress from 1888 embodies the whole idea of the redingote combined with a princess line dress:

Mme. Uoll Gross, Day Dress, 1888; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.618a, b)

From all appearances, both the outer redingote and the inner princess line dress both appear to be continuous and in fact, appear to be of once piece. Of course, these are only photos so without the benefit of examining closer, they may be in two pieces but we seriously doubt it. Style-wise, we see a large vertical sweep that draws the eye up towards the center bodice.  The patterned “interior” fabric really stands out when combined with a solid dark outer fabric. Finally, it’s interesting that the rear silhouette has been softened, lacking the sharply defined bustle silhouette characteristic of earlier 1880s dresses. Next, there’s this day dress that was made in 1889:

Mme. Uoll Gross, Day Dress; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.619)

Although hidden by the netting, the bodice features a faux vest underneath:

While it appears that the bodice and skirt are two separate pieces, the overall effect is still vertical with an emphasis on the large vertical paisley design motif in skirt.  While we acknowledge that some of our conclusions may be stretching a bit, it’s interesting to note the various micro style trends that were going on towards the end of the bustle era. Here you can see the beginnings of the transition to 1890s style and to us, the transition is fascinating to watch.

And For The Latest In Dress Fabrics- Glass!

One wouldn’t normally associate glass with dress fabric but glass fabric does exist but it does and originally made its appearance at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago in the form of an evening dress constructed by the Libbey Glass Company from glass fabric.

Image result for spun glass fabric

In an effort to increase the company’s public profile, William L. Libbey became a major exhibitor at the Columbian Exhibition, creating a large pavilion in featured the company’s products and even included a complete glass factory where the public could witness the various phases of glass manufacture. Also Libbey created a number of displays featuring various glass products to include household furnishings to include screens, window curtains, and lamp shades. And of course, there were all manner of souvenir glass novelties such as neckties and  that were distributed by Libbey. 🙂

The Libbey Pavilion.

 

One of the glass novelties was this tie made from glass cloth.

The displays provided to be very popular and in response, an well-known stage actress named Georgia Cayvan asked if Libbey could make a glass dress.  Up for a challenge, Libbey agreed to do so and proceeded to make one, constructed of a glass fabric developed by Hermann Hammesfahr who worked for Libby.

Weaving the glass fabric.

The glass fabric was actually a combination of glass and silk filaments which provided for greater flexibility; the warp threads were silk and the weft threads were glass (work on developing glass fabric would eventually lead to such modern-day products such as fiberglass and fiber optic cables). Below are some pictures of the dress, which was put on display at the Libbey Pavilion:

The dress proved to be very popular to the point where one newspaper even predicted that eventually everyone would be wearing glass clothing. One of the viewers, Infanta Eulalia of Spain, saw the dress and commissioned one for herself in the form of a very simple evening dress:

For some more details on the Infanta’s dress, the particulars can be viewed here:

Apparently, the  dress was a hit with the Infanta and as thanks, she gave the Libbey Glass Company permission to use the Spanish Coat of Arms as part of its advertising artwork. As for the dresses themselves, while the glass fabric was flexible enough to allow them to be worn, they provided to be brittle and not practical for any sort of extended wear. In the case of Ms. Cayvan’s dress, it was worn for at least one performance but that was pretty much it. What became of the dress is unknown.

In the of the Infanta’s dress, it was eventually donated to the the Deutsches Museum in Munich in 1924 where it remains today. Unfortunately, only the skirt has survived and was in poor condition until restoration was begun in 2016. An interesting set of blog post documenting the skirt’s restoration can be found here.   Here are some views of the restoration process:

These glass dresses were a bit ahead of their time and it would have been fascinating to have been able to see these dresses when they were new. 🙂