And For A Little 1890s Day Dress Style

One of the most interesting things about 1890s styles is the use of color and fabrics. 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’s 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- it’s almost iridescent. Granted that lighting and camera angle can alter a garment’s visual appearance but it’s still amazing.  Here’s 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 lining appears to be a combination of blue silk taffeta and a blue-red cotton(?).

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!



A Little Fashion In Detail

Spending an afternoon with some fuchsia silk faille, antique sequins, jet, and “Fashion in Detail.” I’ve seen this piece at the V&A in London up close…time to take that inspiration and put it to use.  🙂

And a view of the inspiration:

Guiquin, L, Bodice, 1895; V&A Museum (T.271&A-1972)

 



Some More 1890s Style

When it comes to fashion, the 1890s have always been a source of fascination for us and to us, it’s been one of the most misunderstood periods for fashion; visions of a never-ending parade of women with excessively large Gigot sleeves and  extreme wasp-waists created by tight-laced corsets. It was an era of excess with lots going on and for many, it’s a major turn-off and especially when compared to the free-flowing unstructured (to a point) styles that came later in the 1910s and 20s.

However, it could also be argued that the 1890s marked the beginnings of major fashion shifts that were to come to full flower in the following decades and especially with day wear. The 1890s saw the introduction of functional day wear styles that reflected women’s shifting roles in society and especially in going to work outside of the home and participating in outdoor activities such as bicycling. Also, design-wise, we see a simplification of dress styles that relied less on trim and excess yardage (especially compared to the 1870s and 80s) and more on the decorative effect of the existing fashion fabric. Naturally, as with all of fashion there were exceptions to every rule and many styles of the 1890s retained elements of previous ones but we’re painting with a broad brush here. With that said, let’s proceed…


Today we take a look at one unique example of 90s style:

Day Dress c. 1894 -1896

Day Dress, c. 1894 -1896; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1979.346.25a–c)

Day Dress c. 1894 -1896

Front View

Day Dress c. 1894 -1896

Rear View

Day Dress c. 1894 -1896

Close-Up Of Collar

Day Dress c. 1894 -1896

Close-Up Of Sleeve

This dress ensemble was an ensemble made for  James McCreery & Co. (1867 – 1954), a major New York dry goods retailer that was active during the late 19th Century. The dress has the silhouette typical of mid-1890s styles to include the gigot sleeves and cinched wasp waist. The purple fashion fabric is a wool combined with black silk velvet for the sleeves. The same velvet is also used as trim along the skirt hem and stripes along the bodice front and back. Also, depending on how you view it, the sleeves are trimmed with stripes of the purple wool fabric. Finally, note must be made of the striped black and white waist that’s visible under the upper bodice and at the sleeve cuffs- this is probably a faux waist that’s part of the overall dress.

However, what is most notable about this design is that the front bodice is cut asymmetrically, a feature that’s emphasized by the black and white trim panels running along the front bodice edges. The bold front bodice treatment balances out the black gigot sleeves, serving to create a style that’s both balanced and bold. Interestingly enough, the Metropolitan Museum of Art website terms this as a half-morning dress but to us, that really just doesn’t seem to be the case but that’s just our opinion. But wait, there’s more! Although there’s no information from the Met website, it appears that this was an ensemble that also came with a black velvet jacket and separate waist:

Day Dress c. 1894 -1896

Day Dress c. 1894 -1896

 There isn’t a good picture of the waist but it appears to be made of a white silk with gold embroidery and this is also carried over into the wide collar seen on the jacket. As with the bodice, the jacket is cut asymmetrically at the top. Compared to the bodice in the first set of pictures, the look is definitely more restrained and almost unexceptional. Perhaps that’s where the “mourning” aspect comes in but we seriously question that. 🙂

The above dress is an interesting example of one of the better dress designs to come out of the mid-1890s and especially since it did not directly come out of the Paris couture house (although they did license designs for the American market) with a specific designer name. We would certainly love to know more about the design and how it got its initial inspiration but we fear that this information is probably lost to the ages. We hope you’ve enjoyed this little excursion into the 1890s and we hope to have more styles to feature in future posts. 🙂



Wedding Dresses- It Wasn’t Always A White Wedding

In contrast to today, the term “wedding gown” was far more flexible in the late 19th Century than it is today. When we think of a wedding gown, we invariably think of some sort of dress that’s in some shade of white or ivory that’s only worn once on the wedding day and then stored away forever, unless a descendant chooses to wear the dress for their wedding. However, in recent scholarship, it’s been noted that the concept of the “white wedding” with its one-use wedding gown is a fairly recent development, as much a product of merchandising as social convention. During the late 19th Century, a wedding dress was typically a woman’s “best dress,” often enhanced by netting, lace, and flowers (especially orange blossoms). The dress was definitely meant to be worn long after the wedding and in fact, the idea of having a dress for that’s only worn once and then stored away forever was considered the height of wastefulness. With that said, here’s just one example of what a wedding dress could be, at least if we accept the Walsall Museums’ description:

Day Dress c. 1885

Day Dress, c. 1885; Walsall Museums (WASMG : 1976.0832)

Day Dress c. 1885

Side Profile

Unfortunately the photography is not the best…style-wise this is mid-1880s with a defined train/bustle and is constructed from a silver-gray silk satin for the overskirt and bodice combined with a silk brocade floral pattern for the underskirt, under bodice and sleeve cuffs. The bodice is constructed to create the effect of a jacket over a vest (although these were usually made as a single unit) and the red flowers on the silk brocade provide pops of red that add richness and variety to what would otherwise be a somewhat dull monochromatic silver-gray dress.

Day Dress c. 1885

Close-up of front bodice.

And here’s a nice close-up of the silk brocade fabric:

Day Dress c. 1885

Close-up of fashion fabric.

Here’s a couple of more pictures (although the color is a bit off):

Day Dress c. 1885

Three-Quarter rear view.

Day Dress c. 1885

The red flowers on the silk brocade panels definitely draws the eye up and fixes the viewer’s eyes (As should be the case with all bridal dresses!). Of course, as with much of fashion history, there’s rarely any absolutes and this was the case with using “regular” colors versus the more bridal colors of white and ivory during the 1880s. However, in the end, it’s important to realize that the dividing lines between “bridal” and non-bridal were not as rigid was we tend to view them today (although that’s changing). This was just a brief glimpse into the world of bridal dresses during the 1880s and that there are alternatives to the “traditional” when it comes to bridal dresses. 🙂



Trending For December 1886

I

n a previous post, we saw what was trending for November 1886; now let’s take a look at the December 1886 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:

Peterson's_Dec 1886

Below is a description of each figure, from left to right:

Fig. I – Walking Dress, Of Dark Green Cashmere. The long wrap is made of striped woolen, plain in front and over the arms, and cut to figure to the waist at the back. It falls in full plaits over the tournure, and is trimmed with fur. The hat is of black velvet, trimmed with fur. The hat is of black velvet, trimmed with large full bows of yellow ribbon and two stiff feathers.

Fig. II – Visiting Dress, Of Red Camel’s Hair. The petticoat is of velveteen of a darker shade than the dress. The skirt is put on full around the bodice, and is draped in front diagonally. At the back, it falls in straight folds. The long bodice is made full in front. The skirt and cuffs are trimmed with fur, and a fur boa is worn around the neck. Hat of red velvet, trimmed with velvet and a stiff bird’s-wing.

Fig. III – Evening Dress, Of Yellow Silk. The skirt is short and laid in long box-plaits. At the back, it is quite full over the tournure. The front is trimmed with a wide panel of the silk, embroidered in light-brown. The very plain bodice has the same embroidery down the front, and is edged with large pearl beads.

Fig. IV – Evening Dress, Of Light Blue Surah. The skirt is laid in plaits at the sides and back. In front, it is plain, with a fall of deep white lace over it. The tunic is put on full to the bodice, is looped away from the lace with a bunch of white roses on the left side. At the right side, it is drawn further back, and falls in a puff behind. The bodice is plain, pointed back and front, and is trimmed with folds of the silk and knots of satin ribbon.

Fig V – Walking Dress, Of Black Figured Cloth. The bodice is cut long at the back over the tournure, then falls in straight full folds. In front, it is quite plain, but opens at the side over a velvet panel. The bodice in front is very long, plain, and pointed; The whole dress is trimmed with rosary-beads. large velvet bow.

Of particular interest from the above description is the use of Surah for evening dresses stands out. Surah is an even-sided fabric woven in a twill pattern from fine silk filaments (today, polyester is also used). Often patterns are printed on it by the direct print/rolle method. This fabric has a smooth, fine hand and a bright, shiny luster. Below is an example:

 Another fabric of interest is camel’s hair:

Camel’s hair is typically woven in a twill pattern and can be 100% camel hair or more often, a blend of wool and camel’s hair. Camel’s hair has a soft, silky hand and was widely used in day dresses during the late 19th Century. So what was trending from Paris for December 1886? Well, according to Peterson’s:

Walking-suits are now shown in soft-finished cloth and in vigogne [vicuña], the favorite colors being silver-gray, dark brown, and prune-color. A costume in silver-gray cloth has a long full tunic, draped at the back over a plain underskirt bordered with a wide band of Astrakhan-fur. The short tight-fitting jacket is sleeveless, and is bordered with a band of gray Astrakhan, the whole front of the wrap being composed of Astrakhan. This jacket is worn over a blouse-waist in white crape [crepe], finished at the wrists and throat with bands of gray and silver passementerie. Sometimes, the blouse-waist is composed of scarlet crape with similar trimming. The tunic is sloped forward in front, and terminates there at the waist in two long scarf ends, turned over each other, and each finished with a large gray-and-silver tassel.

Another very graceful and artistic walking-dress is in seal-brown vigogne and golden brown Sicilienne. The vigogne overskirt reaches the edge of the hem in front, and is sloped upward at the sides, and looped at the back over a perfectly plain Sicilienne under skirt. The dress is cut Princess, and has a vest and sleeves of the Sicilienne, ornamented with gold passementerie. Over this is worn a dolman-shaped wrap, finished in front with long ends that turn over each other, and at the waist at the back with a wide band of gold-and-brown passementerie, simulating a belt, and seeming to confine the dolman to the figure.

For visiting or reception wear, Worth is making costumes in satin and velvet. The skirt of one that I saw has a very short satin overskirt in front, the back being formed of long wide. flat plaits, and the velvet underskirt being laid in plaits in front, and gathered at the sides half-way down its length. The corsage is in satin. A novelty in the make of this dress was that the drapery was all lined with black brocaded satin.

The above notes are interesting in that it mentions the use of vigogne. or vicuña, and Sicilienne as dress fabrics. So what are these? To begin, vicuña is a variety of wool that’s one of the rarest natural fibers in the world.  Vicuña wool comes from the Vicuña, a camelid found in the high alpine areas of the Andes Mountains in South America. TheVicuña is related to the llama but has not been domesticated. The wool is extremely fine and has excellent heat retention in relation to its weight. The wool is expensive because Vicuña can only be shorn once every three years and they live in the wild and thus, were usually killed and then shorn to the point where they nearly extinct in the 1960s (today, they have been revived and are not killed).

Vicunacrop.jpg

Today, Vicuña wool is still very expensive, averaging roughly $21,000 for just an off-the-rack suit coat.

Given the wool’s relative rarity, I would suspect that a good portion of the wool being marketed as Vicuña in the late 19th Century was probably a wool blend with cheaper fibers making up the bulk of the fabric. 🙂 As for Sicilienne, it was a variety of poplin fabric composed of silk and wool fibers. The fabric was a unbalanced plain weave with silk filament as the warp fiber and wool as the weft fiber. The individual wool fibers are thicker and heavier than the silk filaments thus creating a pronounced ribbed appearance. 

We hope you have enjoyed this little trip into 1886 and hope you all have drawn some inspiration. There were a variety of fabrics and colors available to Victorians and many of the same fabrics are obtainable today (although you may have to pay a premium as in the case of the Vicuña 🙂 ).

Stay inspired!