Fashion In Transition- The Late 1870s…

Happy New year’s from Lily Absinthe! Here’s a little post that should help pass the time on New year’s Day. Enjoy!


The late 1870s were a time of transition as styles moved away from the full bustled trains characteristic of the First Bustle Era and evolved towards the cylindrical silhouette of the Middle Bustle Era or Natural Form Era. The transition to the Middle Bustle Era could be said to have begun as early as 1875-76 although it wouldn’t come into full flower until 1878-79. The June 1877 issue of Peterson’s Magazine notes that:

There are three popular styles now, the Princess polonaise, basque bodices, with upper and lower skirts, and Princess dresses. The prominent points in the best polonaises are the long seams in the back, the plainness of the tournure, and sufficient length to give a slender effect. Fringes and wide galloons are the trimmings universally used, and the galloon is very generally arranged in sloping lines, or a long V down the back from shoulders to waist; small fichus, or mantles or the same material, complete the costume. The aim appears to give the costume the effect of a Princess dress; and in most cases, the merest glimpse of the under-skirt is all that is visible; therefore it is made both narrow and clinging, and is usually trimmed all round alike. The drawing-string across the back breadths is always added, no matter how closely the skirt is cut to the figure.

In these new dresses the shoulder-seams are very short, the neck is cut very high at the back, and the tight sleeves have the upper half slightly gathered on the elbows, to fit the arm more perfectly.

From the above commentary, it would seem that there are three styles at work: the older conventional basque bodice and skirt combination dress; the princess line dress; and the princess polonaise which appears to be somewhat of a hybrid between the first two styles.

Le Moniteur De La Mode, 1877

So how do these styles appear? Well, to begin, here’s one princess dress design that was marketed as a pattern in the October 1877 issue of Peterson’s:

Here’s another princess dress style, this time from the April issue of Demorest’s Family Magazine, that was also marketed as a pattern:

The above design is described as a:

A short, tight-fitting “Princess” dress, with the front opened at the left
side in “Breton” style, side-forms front and back extending to the shoulders, and side gores under the arms. A wide sash is draped across the front, and tied loosely in a knot at the left side, and the edge of the skirt is finished by a side plaiting. The back piece is full, being crossed by three clusters of shirred tucks, and is finished by a deep flounce that is, in its turn, ornamented with three side plaitings [pleats]. Two back pieces are given with the pattern,the full outer piece extending the entire length, and a shorter plain piece to which the shirred tucks are to be secured. The sleeves are trimmed to match the back. The collar may be of the same material as the dress, or be of lace, to suit the taste. The design can be suitably made up in a variety of dress goods, excepting perhaps the heaviest, and is especially desirable for thin fabrics, and a combination of colors or materials.

The above description pretty much hits all the high points as to what characterizes the princess dress design and there was a lot of variation in terms of fabrics and trim. Below are a few images of extant princess dresses:

Day Dress, c. 1870 – 1880; V&A Museum (CIRC.606-1962)

 

Day Dress, c. 1876 – 1878; Manchester City Galleries

Day Dress, Princess Line, c. 1878; National Museum, Prague (H2-193316)

Next, there’s this design for a house dress in the “Princess polonaise” style that was also marketed as a pattern:

In the description of the dress, it’s noted that “the polonaise is trimmed to correspond with the skirt and that it’s princess in form and slightly draped at the back where it’s caught up in a row of ribbon to match.” Essentially, this dress consists of a skirt and polonaise with the polonaise cut in single long pieces in the princess style, with no sewn waist.

The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, July 1877

Here’s another take on the princess polonaise style that was offered for sale as a pattern in the February 1878 issue of Demorest’s Family Magazine:

The description for this style is given as:

A “Princess” polonaise, having drapery in folds across the front, and revers turned back from the sides and joined over a full platting added to the short back pieces somewhat in the manner of a train. The design is tight-fitting, has a seam down the middle of the back, and is cut with side-forms carried to the shoulders; darts are taken out under the arms, and the fronts are fitted with the usual number of
darts on each side and buttoned down their entire length. The design is adapted to all classes of dress goods, and may be trimmed in any manner that will correspond with the material chosen.

Just for reference, here’s another illustration of this style:

Image result for princess polonaise

Finally, the basque bodice and skirt combination style was predominant during the early to mid 1870s and it could take a number of different forms. Below are a few examples from 1876-77:

Day Day, c. 1875 – 1877

Worth, Ensemble-Reception Dress, c. 1877 – 1878; Cincinnati Art Museum (1986.1200a-c)

Dinner Dress, c. 1876; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1975.227.3)

Day Dress, 1876; Philadelphia Museum of Art (1969-147-1a,b)

The above examples of all three styles are just a fraction of the wide variety of styles that were out there but it does convey that there were a number of different styles in circulation during the mid to late 1870s. Ultimately, the basque bodice and skirt combination would be left behind and by 1880 we see an almost complete transition in styles. Of course, as with every style shift, there were hold-outs who clung to older styles but as a mass movement, it was clear that styles were evolving. In future posts, we’ll attempt to further document fashion changes that occurred during the late Nineteenth Century so stay tuned! 🙂

Redingote Redux

Redingotes…just when you thought we’ve exhausted this topic, we managed to find another interesting redingote dress design that we just had to share. 🙂 Today’s find is from the December 1890 issue of Demorest’s Family Magazine and was offered for sale as a sewing pattern as the “Francillon”:

Here’s the accompanying description:

An essentially stylish garment, tight-fitting, with a plain redingote back combined with the style of front shown. The illustration represents it made in broché serge of a rich garnet tint, with revers, standing collar, and sleeve-facings of black velvet, a vest of garnet silk brocaded with gold filigree gold clasps at the throat and waist, and a narrow border of black Persian lamb on the collar, revers, and sleeves. The hat is of pearl-gray felt, trimmed with gray, ostrich-tips and faced with garnet velvet.

The design is equally suitable for inexpensive materials, and being a thoroughly protective garment is adapted for the most practical uses, it being easy to make it more simple by the omission of the revers and the full vest.

In the “Francillon,” one can see the Directoire style influence in the wide lapels/revers  which should come as no surprise as both styles existed together back in the late 1700s. The fabric choice, brochĂ© serge, is an interesting one that it’s a wool twill fabric fabric (serge) with an ornamental pattern that’s has the appearance of being finely stitched or embroidered (i.e. a brocade); in actuality, the pattern has been woven (brochĂ© and brocade are often used interchangeably). Below is a modern day version:

Metallic Gold/Peach/Beige Soft Wool Brocade

For recreating historical garments, redingotes such as the above are ideally suited in that a variety of fabrics and trims can be used and these can be as utilitarian or fancy as the maker desires. For us, the redingote is an especially interesting garment because there’s normally not much use for them in Southern California- the weather usually doesn’t get very cold so there’s little incentive to make these. Of course, one could utilize lighter fabrics such as tropical weight wool or linen but in the end, this style is probably going to be observed more than actually recreated, at least for us. 🙂

An Interesting 1890s Day Dress…

Lately, the 1890s have been an area of focus for us and it seems that never a day passes when we don’t discover something unique and interesting. Today we feature a day dress that was made in 1892 (or close thereabouts):

Day Dress 1892

Day Dress, c. 1892; University of New Hampshire Library 157a,b)

Day Dress 1892

What  immediately caught our eye was the near-florescent colors of the base fashion fabric and the trim. The fashion fabric appears to be a dark blue velvet trimmed with a combination of the dark and  light blues and salmon red . In terms of silhouette, appears to be more early 1890s where the leg-of-mutton sleeve are prominent but haven’t reached the out-sized proportions later seen by 1895. Also, the dress “bodice” appears to be a jacket and waistcoat style although in reality, it’s probably just a one-piece construction. Here’a close-up of the bodice:

Day Dress 1892

What is interesting is that the colors are in excellent condition, given the age of the dress and the luster is amazing. Granted that lighting and camera angle can alter a garment’s visual appearance but it’s still amazing.  Here are some close-up views of the trim:

The trim is especially interesting and especially towards the bottom where one can see grape-like bead clusters that give an effect is that of garden vines. Below are a couple of views of the skirt design:

The pictures do not give justice to this dress and it’s difficult to determine the specific construction. For the skirt, below is a full description from the University of New Hampshire Textile Library website:

The skirt has the effect of multiple layers but with just one waistband. A six-gored foundation skirt of blue silk is smooth-fitting in front and pleated at the hips and back, and is slightly longer in back than in front. Over this, four panels of the voided velvet hang from the waist to nearly the floor, free-floating except for a few tacking stitches to keep them from flopping over and with dark red silk facings just wide enough to cover the inside edges.

The panels are wide enough to show three of the voided pattern bands each, and at the bottom of each band is a grape-like cluster of silk-wrapped and crocheted balls in graduating sizes, left free to dangle. The two front panels are sewn together but have the same decorative buttons and loops as the bodice. Beneath the panels, more blue velvet is sewn to the foundation layer in flat panels and box pleats to make it appear that there is an entire underskirt of velvet. In back, a 96.5 cm/38 in. wide panel of floor-length blue velvet, partially sewn in at its sides, is cartridge pleated to a short band and hooks to the waistband to cover the center-back opening of the foundation skirt and provide fullness. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn.

The construction details are fascinating and we wish that we were able to examine this dress in person- one can only go so far from pictures alone. We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief view of a fascinating early 1890s day dress. Stay tuned for more!

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. 🙂