And For Some 1880s Fall Color…

Plum has always been one of our favorite colors and even more so as we move into Fall. Recently, we came across this wonderful circa 1883-1889 day dress in the collection of the Goldstein Museum of Design and we just couldn’t resist sharing it with the rest of you: 🙂

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Day Dress, c. 1883 – 1889; Goldstein Museum of Design (1963.007.002a-b)

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Three-quarter frontal view.

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Rear View

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Three-quarter rear view.

Style-wise, this is a classic 1880s day dress with three-quarter sleeves and distinct over/underskirts. There doesn’t appear to be much of  a bustle effect (but this is probably due to the museum’s staging). What’s striking about this dress is its use of a solid dark plum color underskirt combined with a silk brocade overskirt and bodice. Also, the trim on the bodice is fairly minimal while we see extensive ruching and layers of pleating for the underskirt. Here’s a close-up of the silk brocade fashion fabric on the bodice back; the pattern is suggestive of chinoiserie:

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Close-up of bodice back.

And here’s part of the underskirt with its extensive ruching:

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Close-up of overskirt.

Here’s a close-up of the bodice front which utilizes a jacketed/under-vest effect with facing lapels. It’s interesting but attempt but it strikes us as a bit disorganized- it’s attempting to meld typical design elements of the period but in a clumsy manner. Also, the fringe appears to be an afterthought and does little to add to the overall design effect. C’est la vie….

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Close-up of front bodice.

On the other hand, the middle back is neatly done and the train appears tidy in comparison with the bodice front:

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Close-up of rear.

Plum and its shades and tints have always been favorites with us and are always a source of inspiration for many of our designs. When combined with utilizing fabrics with varying degrees of luster, patterns, and textures, the results are phenomenal and offer a high degree of individuality. Let it inspire you as it’s inspired us. 🙂



Fashion Commentary From 1878

In considering late 19th Century fashion, skirt length is always a factor that can’t help but be a major consideration. Although the fashion idea visualized dresses with trains of varying length, practical considerations were never far away and many fashion publications spoke to this issue. One such example can can be found in the February 1878 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:

The dress for the street, or for the dusty and muddy country road, ought always to be made with a skirt that will just escape the ground. This very sensible fashion is slowly gaining favor, though most people are very loath to dispense with the more graceful, half-trained, walking-dress, which gathers up so much dirt.

The above comment speaks to a common problem that was very common. Even from just a quick glance at period photographs and fashions plates reveals that even for the more “practical” day dresses have trains and these were clearly natural dirt collectors. On a more practical level, trains restricted mobility and while this may have been less of an issue in the home, it was a big problem outdoors, as many re-creationists today have found out, much to their chagrin, on more than one occasion; some fashion problems are seemingly timeless.

For going out of the house on simple errands or other non-social activity, the following advice for dressing were made:

For the ordinary morning walk, for shopping, and all the many occasions, in which the mother, or the useful daughter of the house, is required to be out of doors, the quietest of dresses should be worn, unobtrusive in color, and plain in make. This, we say, without reference to the money the wearer may possess. Good taste calls for the sober tones, and few trimmings for this kind of dress, in the woman who spends thousands on her toilette, as in the one who goes out early in the morning to gain her daily bread, and comes home late at night. Dark grays, browns, greens, or blues are appropriate, or a black cashmere, which always looks lady-like. If it is objected that this has too much the appearance of mourning, that can be remedied by a bow of some bright ribbon, at the neck. Silk, at the early morning hour, is not suitable, unless it is a plain black silk. From the myriads of woolen goods that come now, a cheap and pretty dress can always be made.

From the above, it is obvious that good taste, even for those with money, dictated that dresses were to be simple in style with duller, darker colors such as dark grays, browns, greens, or blues with few trimmings. However, just in case this gives an appearance of looking like one was in mourning, Peterson’s offers a solution in the form of a ribbon. Finally, it is noted that most silk is inappropriate as a material for “morning” dress and that wool is the preferred material.

Peterson’s also offers some advice in regard to hats:

The hat or bonnet should have but few flowers or feathers and felt to be more appropriate than velvet; if a hat is worn it should be of some shape not too pronounced. But the middle-aged woman should be chary of wearing this style of headgear. The face, that has lost its youthful roundness and bloom, often looks hard and grey, under the severe lines of a hat. When large shade-hats were worn in summer, they had common sense on their side for usefulness; but the hat of the present day does no more than the bonnet to protect the face.

It is interesting that straw was the preferred material with a minimal use of flowers or feathers. It is also noted that as a practical article, they are mostly useless as a means of protecting oneself from the sun.

Next, we see some more general commentary on dress:

The outside wrap should correspond with the dress, in quietness. A deep plain sacque, like the dress, is the prettiest; but many persons wish to utilize an old garment, and cannot always afford to have the new wrap. In that case, take off all superfluous trimmings from the old one, and make it look as neat as possible. The colored street petticoats are more appropriate, for morning than white ones; they should be a little trimmed, but not gaudily so. The boots should always be neatly laced, or buttoned, so that the wearer need not fear a puff of wind. Plain linen collars and cuffs, always fresh looking, and carefully mended gloves, if now ones cannot be afforded, are very important. No jewelry, except a watch and chain (which latter ought not to be conspicuous), and small ear-rings. These remarks apply, in all respects, to women of all stations; the rich woman will have more latitude in the quality of her dress, not more in the quantity of ornament, or in color.

It is interesting that in the above passage, the emphasis is on presenting oneself is that one’s dress should be “quiet” and that the only difference between wealth and not-so-wealthy should be in the quality of the garments themselves. These comments seem stand in stark contrast to what we see in many pictures and fashion plates but naturally, we need to take this all with a grain of salt- we suspect that the reality was somewhere in between and that like today, some people dressed what was considered poor taste (the fact that these comments were even published is proof of that).

However, as with all “rules,” there are exceptions and so there are here when Peterson’s states:

For the woman of leisure, who passes her morning on the promenade, or in calling on her friends informally, more richness of dress is quite allowable, but not much more ornament. Silks for out-of-door wear are now used much less than the rich, woolen materials; but if the silk is considered more desirable, it can be worn for visiting. We must admit that the fashion here is for the slightly trained skirt; we wish it was otherwise, pretty as it is; and some ladies have boldly taken up the cause of the “round” skirt, and had their nicest out-of-door dresses made in this way.

The dresses for the promenade and visiting in winter should not be of light or showy colors; but they may be more dressy-looking than those worn earlier in the season, or worn for business. More trimming is allowed; but both color and trimming should be unobtrusive. Either a felt, or velvet hat or bonnet, may be worn, with feathers or flowers; the hat has greater latitude in shape also. A velvet sacque, or cloak, should never be worn with a woolen dress; a cloth one is much more stylish, as well as appropriate, for such a dress. The cloth sacque or cloak, however. may be worn over silk; a velvet wrap is, of course, appropriate for silk. Dark gloves to match the dress are very suitable; but those of a medium shade are a little more dressy.

Here we see a little more latitude in dress: it is now acceptable for one’s dress to be a bit more elaborate, utilizing more fancy fabrics such as silk and a bit more ornamentation so long as it’s “unobtrusive.” In terms of the winter season, it is recommended that light or “showy” colors be avoided but at the same time color can be “dressy-looking,” a statement that can be interpreted a number of ways. Ultimately, based on extant dresses and other documentation, we believe this to mean that richer jewel tone colors were also acceptable for winter wear when visiting or otherwise displaying oneself in public (as opposed to simply being out on business).

Peterson’s also on the side of practicality when it comes to to dress lengths and the role of the train- it is clear that they would prefer the train to be eliminated for day wear (or at least most of it). The comments on outerwear are also interesting in that a velvet sacque or cloak is not to be work over a wool dress but rather one made of “cloth” (linen or a heavy cotton?) is acceptable. Also, velvet worn over silk is always acceptable. Finally, it is noted that velvet hats are acceptable here and, of course, gloves are essential preferably in a medium color (e.g., brown or gray).

For dinners and receptions, Peterson’s makes the following recommendations:

It is only in our large cities, as a rule, that dinner parties are given late in the day, or by gaslight, which is the universal custom abroad. Even at Newport the dinner is at three or four o’clock, as a rule: this is, that people may drive afterwards. In the country, or even in the city, where the dinner is early in the day, the hostess should wear some pretty, quiet dress, brightened up by ribbons and jewelry, if she likes; but she should always endeavor to be less dressed than her guests. This is a rule for a hostess, under all circumstances.

The guests at a dinner, at this time, should never wear silks that are too light; but otherwise may make their dress as festive-looking as will be suitable by daylight. For small dinners, later in the day, the kind of dress, which we suggested, in the last number, for a lady to wear at a formal “Reception” in her own house, is quite appropriate for either hostess or guest. Even for small evening companies such a dress is suitable. Of course, the lightest shades of blue, pink, etc., are not to be worn at home, when a lady has a “Reception;” neither, as a rule, should they be worn at a small dinner at her own house, though, if she is sure that her guests will be much dressed, she may do so.

But those light colors can be worn most suitably, when the lady is a guest at a small dinner, having the dress made as we suggested for the “Reception,” in our last number. A few artificial flowers in the hair, and on the dress, can be worn; the hair may be more elaborately done up; jewelry is very appropriate; gloves are indispensable; and these are not to be removed till the seat is taken at the table.

The dress open in front is very pretty, and cooler at a hot dinner table; but if that is not liked, the dress can be high in the neck, with a pretty lace fichu over it. Shoes and stockings must be neat, and ought to match the dress. If silks are too expensive, very right shades of cashmere make beautiful dinner, or small evening party dresses, especially for young ladies; in fact, are more appropriate for them than silk ones are.

In the above, it is noted that “Dinner” was held in the late afternoon or in the evening. For the hostess of a late afternoon dinner party, the acceptable dress would be the same as a better dress worn to receive visitors in the home with perhaps a little more decoration. However, at no time was the hostess to dress more better than her guests- understated elegance was definitely the byword here. Also, it is noted that the light shades of blue, pink, green, et al. are not to be worn by the hostess (but it is perfectly acceptable for guests) and conversely, these colors are perfectly acceptable for wear at someone else’s dinner party or reception. Naturally, there is an exception is the hostess “is sure” that her guests will be wearing these colors and the event is in the evening (confused, yet? 😉 ).

Some further observations are noted in regard to dress necklines: either open neck or closed collar are acceptable and that a dress worn to a reception or dinner party need not be made out of silk, cashmere is also acceptable (and in fact, more appropriate for young ladies). Below is a circa 1878 dinner dress that incorporates many of the elements discussed above:

1979.34.2ab_F

Dinner Dress, Lord & Taylor, American, c. 1878 – 1883; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1979.34.2a-d)

1979.34.2ab_S

Side Profile

1979.34.2ab_B

Rear View

The above dress was made by Lord & Taylor in New York (Lord & Taylor had agents in Paris who kept the home office abreast of Parisian fashion trends) and for the most part perfectly fits the ideal of the “perfect dinner dress” that one would mostly likely wear out to other people’s functions. For the skirt, we see the use of an ivory silk satin trimmed with two rows of flounces on the lower skirt followed by a row of knife-pleating along the hem line.

The above passages provide some insight into acceptable forms of day and evening wear for the late 1870s and early 1880s and their usefulness still exists over 100 years later as recreationists strive to replicate the styles of this era. Moving up, we also see the same color silk satin used in the bodice in the front and sleeves covered by a celadon-colored silk brocade shaped in a vest-like over-bodice that flows towards the back to form a tail that descends about half-way down the back of the dress; the lines flow to create a tailcoat effect. Supplementing this is a train and front apron made from a matching celadon silk satin. The overall effect is quite imaginative and without know more about the provenance of the design, we would venture to guess that this was inspired by Worth or one of the other Parisian couture houses.

So now that we have whetted your appetite, we hope that this dress and the preceding commentary provide some ideas those who wish to recreate a slice of this era and for others, provide some aesthetic pleasure. Until the next post, we bid you, adieu!



Trending For November 1878

November is fast approaching so we that we’d take a look at what was trending for November 1878. According to Peterson’s Magazine:

Petersons_Nov 1878_1

Peterson’s Magazine, November 1878 (We realize that the quality of this extant plate is not the best.)

Fig. I- Walking-Dress of Olive-Green Camel’s Hair, made short; the over-dress is drawn back and fastened with a large bow; the dress is trimmed with a band of olive-green silk, with raised velvet figures of a darker shade. The wrap Is of the same material as the dress, plaited [pleated] back and front into a largo yoke; the sleeves are wide and long; gray felt bonnet, trimmed with olive-green velvet and rich, red ostrich tips.

Fig. II- Visiting Dress of Emerald-Green Velvet; It is of the princess shape, made without trimming on the skirt, and the train is laid in full plaits beneath a band of a lighter shade of satin, which is confined at the side by a largo buckle. The front and sleeves are trimmed with gold-colored hanging buttons. Large collar and cuffs of guipure lace.

Fig. III- Visiting Dress of Gray Silk, Trimmed With Narrow Garnet Velvet; the lower-skirt has one deep plaited flounce, the upper-skirt is long, edged in front with a narrow plaited ruffle, and falls fan-shaped at the back; the waist is high and open in front ; the sleeves reach to the elbow ; mantilla of black lace.

Fig. IV- Reception Dress of Yellow Silk, Princess Shape; worn under a dress of black Spanish net which is woven to fit the figure.

Fig. V- Carriage-Dress of Slate-Gray Silk; made rather long, without trimming on the back, and with a chenille fringe on the front. The cloak is of blue-black velvet, trimmed with a band of fur. Hat of gray felt, trimmed with gray velvet, and a long, curling, ostrich plume at the back.

With its green camel hair, the walking dress in Figure I is perfectly suited for the winter. It’s difficult to make out the details from the plate but it appears to be a combination of an outer paletot and dress made from the same camel hair fabric. Unfortunately, there’s not too much more that can be made out.

Figure II is interesting visiting dress in that it is made in the princess style from an emerald green velvet. There is a minimal amount of decoration as would be expected for a day dress and the skirt and trail is pleated with the pleats secured by a band of satin. The collar and cuffs are of guipure lace, a type of lace that connects toe motifs with bars or plaits rather than netting.

Guipure Lace

Emerald-Colored Velvet

Next we have another visiting dress only thing time made from a gray silk and trimmed in narrow bands of garnet velvet. Because of the black mantilla covering up the bodice, it is difficult to make out what style the dress is in but we will assume that it is a fairly typical combination. The bodice is probably worked in the cuirass style and the skirt presents the usual narrow silhouette with a fan-train.

Garnet-Colored Silk Velvet

The princess style dress makes another appearance in Figure IV, this time in the form of a reception dress. The dress itself is plain and its decorative effect is from a form-fitting black net that fits over it. Just for example, here’s one princess style dress that was featured in the October 1877 issue of Peterson’s:

Finally, with Figure V, we a carriage dress in a slate-gray with a cloak of black-blue velvet worn over it. As with Figure I, it is difficult to make out just exactly what the dress looks like but it is probably safe to say that it is similar to a promenade dress in that it was meant to be worn when out in public (i.e. in a carriage) and/or one is going to pay a formal visit:

For a carriage-dress, or for more formal visiting, the skirt can be longer, the colors of the dress a little lighter, or brighter, if it is desired (though the rich dark ones are in quite as good taste), the mantle or sacque more trimmed, the bonnet or hat gayer, the whole toilette with a more holiday look. Yet the costume for the promenade, or visiting, of which we have just spoken, is quite suitable for a carriage-dress Peterson’s Magazine, February 1878, p. 159).

It would seem that the “carriage dress” in its purest form is a hybrid between an promenade dress and a more formal reception dress in that the train is a bit longer than the promenade dress since minimal walking would be expected yet at the same time, it was a dress to be worn outside so it is a bit more substantial than a more formal indoors reception dress in terms of materials. Of course, we are no doubt splitting hairs here and as Peterson’s points out, it is perfectly acceptable to simply wear the same dress that one would wear if paying a visit out in public.  🙂

Now, admittedly the fashion information in the above plate is bit thin so we are going to try and fill in some gaps. In regard to Figure I, below is an larger image of a similar style from the November issue of Townsend’s Monthly Selection of Paris Costumes:

Townsends_Paeltot_1878

The shape of the paletot (or Chambord) is very distinct with wide sleeves that open out so that the sleeve bottom hangs in the form of a rectangle. The advantage of this style is that with the loose sleeves, it is easy to put on and take off- just the perfect garment for visiting. Finally, just to note that the dress worn with this is a princess style dress.

In closing, while using fashion plates and other images may seem to present a somewhat distorted view of fashion, we would argue that it only serves as a starting point and especially for those who wish to design their own recreations. Naturally, we advocate using this original documentation in conjunction with what surviving extant garments there are (the Met alone has quite a collection and we lean on it a lot for our ideas). Also, original photographs are also very useful and often can provide a “reality check” for one’s ideas. We hope you find this informative and we hope that it will provide you with inspiration. 🙂



Fashions For Fall and Winter 1886

Living in California, it is easy to forget that there are places where it is not sunny and warm all year round (such as Sweden 🙂 ). However, an an effort to remedy this deficiency, today we’re taking a look at a few fall and winter fashions from about 1886. Below is a fashion plate of daywear from the November 1886 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:

Peterson's_Nov 1886

The dresses are described from left to right as follows:

Fig. I – Visiting Dress, Of Dark-Brown Corded Silk. The skirt is laid in many narrow pleats with side-panels of right watered silk. The dolman is of brown corded silk lined with dark-green satin and trimmed with fur. Bonnet of dark-green velvet, with upright quill-feathers.

Fig. II – Walking Dress, Of Green Cashmere. The underskirt is of dark-green velvet; the cashmere is draped and quite long in the front, and falls plainly at the back, over a large tournure. The bodice is of green velvet, like the skirt, with vest and sleeves of the cashmere; the best hooks underneath green velvet sides. hat of dark-green velvet, trimmed with ribbon the shade of the cashmere.

Fig. III – Carriage Dress, Of Dark-Blue Poplin. The plaited underskirt is plain; the overskirt is made quite full, is edged with a band of beaver-fur, and is looped on the hips. The mantle is of beaver-fur, had broad tabs at the back, with “wings” on the sleeves, and the whole is edged with balls of beaver-fur. Felt hat, trimmed with blue velvet, and feathers the color of the beaver.

Fig. IV – Walking Dress, Of Wine-Colored Woolen Goods, with raised spots dotted over it. The underskirt is of plain silk; the woolen material is plaited to the bodice, and slightly draped at the back to show the silk underskirt; a band of velvet ornaments the front of the skirt, as well as forms a ceinture [belt] around the bodice, the collar, and a lapel on the left side of the front of the bodice. Hat of black felt, with a soft crown of silk and trimmed with loops of spotted foulard and a stiff aigrette.

Fig. V — Walking Dress, Of Chestnut-Brown Rough Woolen Material. The skirt is plain in front, with panels of the same color, striped crosswise by a plush stripe; at the back, it hangs quite plain over a large tournure. The bodice has folds of the striped plush material, with a velvet vest; velvet bow-and-ends on the left side. Large felt hat, trimmed with chestnut-colored ribbon.

The above designs gives an interesting cross section of what was current in daywear in late 1886. The predominant fashion fabric is wool although silk is also used in varying degrees; only the “visiting dress” is almost completely made of silk. All of these designs are functional and provide a starting point for the home sewer or commissioning a personal design. The colors are subdued, reflecting the fall/early winter season.

Turning to fashion trends, the December 1886 issue of Peterson’s Magazine gives an overview of what was trending in Paris (note: we have edited the passage for clarity):

The new materials of the season are very rich and handsome, and are proportionately expensive. Heavy faille or bengaline, figured or striped with plush or with velvet, contest the palm with figured or plaid velvet—or, more magnificent still, with velvet figured with large scattered flowers in uncut velvet, these flowers being outlined with gold thread.

One pattern shows large overlapping velvet blocks on a satin ground. Another has waved lines of velvet, a quarter of an inch wide, on a heavy corded silk ground. There are materials in two-inch wide stripes, alternately of satin and velvet, or satin and plush, or velvet and plush, the latter style being extremely rich in effect. All these are in solid colors.

Then there are velvets plaited with uncut velvet in two shades of the same color as the groundwork; and striped velvet, with narrow stripes imitating gold embroidery sunk in the velvet; and stamped-velvet stripes, alternating with satin stripes figured with plush or velvet.

For wraps, are shown velvets in subdued cashmere colors, the hues being very delicate and artistic, and the prevailing tints being dull-blue and faded rose. In the striped materials just described, the solid colors are all in subdued tones- garnet, seal-brown, heliotrope, and dark-gray being the fashionable shades of the season.

These stuffs are very expensive- costing, even in Paris, from five dollars to fifteen dollars per yard.1 But there will not be a great quantity of these costly fabrics employed in any one toilette. They will be used for the plain undershirt, and the short overskirt or pauter-drapery [portiere drapery]2 and sash at the back will be composed of plain material matching the groundwork, as will also be the corsage. Cashmere, striped or figured with velvet or with plush, is shown for less dressy costumes, and is far less expensive.

From the above, faille and bengaline figured or striped with plush or velvet with plaid, palm or flowers are trending.

Faille

Bengaline

Bengaline and faille are similar fabrics in that they are both a plain weave fabric with more warp yarns than weft yarns. The warp yarns on both are usually silk (more properly termed filaments) while the weft yarns are thicker, thus creating the crossways rib effect. For Bengaline, the weft yarns are usually cotton while with faille, both warp and weft yarns are usually silk. However, both fabrics have been made completely with silk or cotton. The best way to tell them apart is that Bengaline tends to have thicker, more pronounced cross-ribs. Both are lustrous fabrics and wear well and the best part was that the cotton-silk blends are less expensive than pure silk, thus offering silk’s benefits at a cheaper price.

And there there is cashmere:

Given the high cost of cashmere (even back in 1886), there is a good chance that the “cashmere” was actually some sort of wool blend (after all, this was before the Wool Products Labeling Act of 1939).

And just for interest, below are the subdued tones that are trending for wraps (subject to the interpretation of the computer):

Garnet1

Garnet

Seal Brown1

Seal Brown

Heliotrope1

Heliotrope

Dark Grey1

Dark Gray

And finally, just to demonstrate that high fashion was actively being marketed to the middle class, below is an advertisement from a concern located in Kansas City, Missouri. 🙂

illustratedcatal00bull_0100

Advertisement, c. 1886

We hope you have enjoyed small view of the fashion world of 1886- it’s not often that we can drill down to the specific details but with the increasing availability of scanned versions of the major fashion magazines of the time, this process has been made a lot easier and we hope to have more postings of this nature in the future.


1. [Approximately $130 to $357 a yard at 2020 prices.]
2. [The term “Portiere Drapery” is taken the French word portière which is a hanging curtain placed over a door or over the doorless entrance to a room.]



The Ensemble Dress From Maison Worth, Redux

In a previous post, we commented on the ensemble dress, a sub-style that was popularized by Charles Worth consisting of a combination day and evening dress consisting of a base skirt and two separate bodices for day and night wear. Today we feature another example of this style that was made around 1888, starting with the day bodice:

Worth Combination Day/Evening Dress, c. 1888; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1093a–e)

The overskirt and bodice of this dress appear to have been constructed from an apricot silk, most likely taffeta or faille, combined with an underskirt constructed from a champagne silk satin covered in a gold floral brocade pattern. Here are some close-ups of the fashion fabric and the front underskirt:

Inset on each side are panels of gold silk satin covered in jeweled white lace which set-up the floral brocade underskirt. Compared to the skirts, the day bodice is fairly simple, constructed of the same apricot silk with a lace-up (or faux lace-up) front trimmed with an asymmetrical jeweled collar that starts out dense on the left side and thins out as it makes its way around the neck and down the front right side. Finally, the bodice features three-quarter sleeves trimmed in lace.

And now for the evening bodice:

Worth Combination Day/Evening Dress, c. 1888; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1093a–e)

The evening bodice appears to be constructed of the same apricot silk as the day bodice and overskirt. Decorating the bodice front, shoulders, and neckline is a somewhat asymmetrical jeweled decorative pattern- note the ribbon bow on only the left shoulder. Below is another side view:

While this ensemble dress is somewhat more understated than some of Worth’s other ensemble dresses, it’s still a solid contender, presenting practicality with understated elegance.