I‘ve been quietly studying and lifting a pattern from one of the many Worth gowns in our collection. It’s harder than one would think, because I have to take fangirl breaks! She’s an 1881 silk voided velvet on faille polonaise and skirt, in mint condition…it’s like Himself is whispering in my ear, saying…”Do it!” Hmmm… 🙂
The basic fashion fabric it “voided” silk velvet on silk faille. It’s also pattern matched everywhere on the seams. It’s one of the few gowns that we own that is closed lined and not with open seam allowances. It’s completely lined with silk moire, except for the sleeves.
The late 1880s saw the penultimate development of the bustle silhouette along with a variety of dress styles that incorporated this silhouette. The 1880s are especially well documented with the rise of the fashion press and while the styles portrayed often depicted idealized forms, they were rooted in reality. Moreover, the fashion press is useful for tracking shifts in trends and even while the late 1880s bustle style was in full flower, there were signs that this was not to remain the case for long as illustrated by the following comment from the February 1887 “Our Paris Letter,” a monthly column in Peterson’s Magazine describing the fashion trends in Paris, notes:
The diminution of the tournure, the falsely- so-called “dress-improver” appears to be definitely decided upon. Worth is using all his powerful influence in that direction, as he dislikes very much the ungraceful stiffness imparted to the upper portion of the toilette by its undue dimensions. The newest articles of this description are composed of ruffles of hair-cloth- the genuine “crinoline”- and the sides are simply laced together underneath, neither steel springs nor whalebone being used in the rubric. The most stylish toilettes have simply a silk cushion, stuffed with horse-hair, set just in the back of the skirt-band, and three rows of steel springs are set in the lower part of the skirt to hold it out. This is merely a return to the combination which was in vogue before the present- or, rather, the recent- exaggeration of his detail in feminine dress.
From the above, it would appear that the the sharp, angular “shelf bustle” was on its way out, at least in Paris, and bustle pads with steel springs were going to be the new thing. As for other trends, let’s take a look at this fashion plate from the February 1887 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:
The above plate is described as follows:
FIG. I. – VISITING-DRESS, OF YELLOWISH GREEN CASHMERE. The back of the skirt (which falls in straight folds) is made of plain cashmere. The front drapery is of India silk of the same color, figured with red palms. A wide ribbon sash, of the color of the cashmere, and striped crosswise with emerald-green velvet, is tied in long loops, and forms panels at the sides. The full bodice is of the figured silk. The extremely stylish jacket is of emerald green velvet, faced with silk the color of the back of the skirt, and is ornamented with large buttons. Hat of yellowish – green felt, trimmed with ribbon of the same color and a red bird, and faced with emerald-green velvet.
The Directoire style jacket with its wide lapels definitely sets this out apart from more conventional day dresses.
FIG. II. – WALKING-DRESS, OF DAHLIA-COVERED SPOTTED CLOTH. The underskirt is of velveteen. The upper skirt laid to fall in wide plaits, and is shorter in front than at the back. The drapery at the back is short at the top, but falls in jabot-plaits almost to the bottom of the skirt. The close-fitting jacket is braided, and trimmed with gray fox-fur The muff is of the material of the dress, decorated with a bow of ribbon. Hat of purple velvet, trimmed with a yellow bird.
This one interesting in that it takes the jacket style to an outdoor style with the fur trimming. It’s unknown if there was a waist or under-bodice for wear indoors.
FIG. III. – WALKING-DRESS. The long cloak is made of fawn-colored striped cloth. The sleeves are very long at the back, wide, and trimmed with velvet. A band of velvet passes over the shoulders, and narrows at the waist. High collar of the velvet. Bonnet of red plush, with white plumes.
This one appears to be a cloak with extremely wide sleeves.
FIG. IV. – VISITING -DRESS, OF OLIVER-GREEN-COLORED SILK AND STRIPED VELVET. The under part of the skirt and side panels is made of the striped silk and velvet. The full front and back drapery is of plain olive-green silk. The bodice is also of the plain silk, laced, and the little close-fitting jacket is of green velvet, with elbow-sleeves, and trimmed with green jet-bead passementerie. Hat of olive-green velvet, trimmed with green feathers and a white bird.
This seems to be a fairly standard style but it’s really hard to tell from the fashion plate what exactly is going on. The description is very interesting and the fashion plate doesn’t do it justice which is very unfortunate.
FIG. V. – HOUSE-DRESS, OF POPPY-COLORED SILK. The underskirt is made of cream -colored silk, striped with red velvet. The overskirt opens on the right ride, and is faced with cream-colored silk, brocaded in red velvet. The plain red silk is arranged diagonally, in full plaits, oil the skirt, It is draped far back on the left side, and in loose folds at the back. The bodice opens over a cream-colored diagonal-plaited vest, and is trimmed on the right side with a velvet revers. Velvet collar.
While this is termed a “house dress,” this is a pretty loose definition and would easily work as a afternoon/visiting dress suitable for wear at social occasions. The bodice is executed in the a jacket-bodice style with wide lapels/revers running down the length of the bodice. Overall, in terms of style, one still sees the late 1880s bustled silhouette but it looks somewhat more restrained in this particular fashion plate. Of course, this being a fashion plate, some license is to be expected so perhaps one should not read too much into it; one must also consider other evidence such as original photographs and extant original garments. Nevertheless, it is still interesting and gives a hint of what is coming in the 1890s.
Turning to fabrics, one sees the velvet and velveteen being used and combined with silk and cashmere for winter day wear. This is to be expected, considering the time of year. The only exception to this is the house dress in Figure V. Finally, based on the above descriptions, computer color-matching, and some subjective guess-work, below are some of the more dominant colors:
While the above is by no means an exhaustive overview of fashion in 1886- 1887, it is helpful as a means of determining what sort of fabrics, color, and silhouette should be employed in designing a late 1880s day dress that is suitable for fall or winter. The key points to keep in mind are that the fabrics used were of heavier weights (although nowhere near upholstery or curtain weight) and colors tend towards the darker tones. We hope that you have enjoyed this little window into the styles of early 1887 and while fashions moved slowly during the 1880s (as compared to today), they were still moving, let by fashion leaders such as Worth.
As many of you might have figured out already, we at Lily Absinthe have a love for the Mid-Bustle period and we’re always returning to it for commentary. Don’t get us wrong, we love all the styles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries but the silhouette of the Mid-Bustle period of the late 1870s continues to draw our attention. Maybe it’s the upright sculpted lines or perhaps the various fabrics and colors, it’s hard to say. And then, there’s the subset of the princess line style, the focus of today’s post- executed correctly, it’s an aesthetic joy to behold. So without further adieu, here we are… Enjoy!
Today we return to the Mid-Bustle Era to take a look at some interesting examples of the princess line style. With its long horizontal lines and lack of a waist seam, the princess line style was especially suited for the “natural form” aesthetic, especially with its low train and lack of a bustle. First up is this example from circa 1876:
Here’s a close-up of the bodice:
And here’s a view of the upper hem:
Here we see knife pleating combined with bow attached to what appears to be beaded cables. It’s hard to determine just what exactly the bow are made of. Above the upper hem line, we also catch a glimpse of the silk brocade fashion fabric. Here’s a close-up of the fashion fabric which appears to be a silk brocade composed of a combination of French blue and gold:
Overall, it’s an incredible dress with a luminescent color combination and very clean princess lines. Next, for a little contrast, we have this example from circa 1876-1880 (although the original auction site had this labeled at 1874, we believe that date is too early):
In terms of silhouette, this example is somewhat less “sculpted” (although this may be due to poor staging) and features a more conventional two-color combination of a dark teal silk velvet combined with a light mint green/celedon silk and incorporating lace trim on the front and lower hem to frame the velvet. The low train is typical of the Mid-Bustle style, characterized by a low demi-train. Below is a close-up of the train:
The train is fairly standard with one row of knife pleating running along the hem accented by a strip of teal piping running along the tip. Below are some views of the skirt:
Finally, here are some views of the bodice:
Although the colors are faded and the velvet has worn down, it’s still an interesting color combination. Based on the use of a two-color scheme for the fabric, we would be inclined to date this a bit towards 1876-1877. We hope you have enjoyed this little excursion in the princess line style of the Mid-Bustle Era and we’ll be featuring more in future posts. 🙂
The wedding’s over so now it’s time to kick up out heels so we decided to head off to Allen Street and naturally this called for something special…
This is our interpretation of the “saloon” dress, designed to display a palette of complementary colors in an exciting arrangement. This is just the dress to wear to that evening fandango in town! 🙂