Fashion Trends For Spring 1889

The 1880s were drawing to a close and with it the Late Bustle Era. While the fashion press hinted at new trends for the 1890s, older styles still prevailed as revealed by this commentary in the April 1889 issue of Peterson’s Magazine when it discussed 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 further notes 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, to begin, here’s one fashion plate from the same issue of Peterson’s:

Peterson’s Magazine, April 1889

The redingote style is further illustrated in this plate:

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


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Redingote Style

In this post, we take a look at the redingote as an outerwear style. Like the Directoire style, the redingote had its origins in the early 19th Century and so it only makes sense to also see its revival, albeit in a more limited form. So what defined this style? Some insight can be found in the January 12, 1889 issue of Harper’s Bazar in a description of Parisian fashion trends:

The garment most worn this winter, which hitherto has been as mild as that of Nice, is the redingote; and if severe weather should suddenly set in and oblige us to take refuge in furs, suspending the usefulness of the redingote, it will resume its ascendancy again next March. Made as it is now, it closely resembles a man’s coat. The revers are cut and rolled in the same fashion, the sleeves are similar, and the bodice of the street dress over which it is worn, usually of cloth, or Cheviot [a variety of wool fabric], or sometimes faille, bears the same relation to it as the masculine waistcoat to the coat.

The redingote, which is almost as long as the dress, is worn with different dresses, but if it is slashed in the back the breadths of the dress are usually of the same color, only the bodice front and skirt being different, as for instance, a black redingote over a dress which has back breadths of black faille. The great and unfortunate popularity which it has attained is entirely owing to our unusually mild temperature. All the fur-lined long cloaks and small wraps are as yet unemployed although doubtless their turn will come.

Beside the redingote cloak there are many pretty redingotes which form part of the dress, of brocade, or of Pompadour silks; these have revers turned back on the front, sometimes meeting at the waist with the open space above filled in by a lace plastron; below the waist, it spreads apart again, displaying a skirt of glacé silk, with embroidery or passementerie, or of a crêpe de Chine embroidered.

Simpler but not less pretty is a redingote  of plain or changeable silk opening on a plastron and skirt front of ancient silk— some old silk of the eighteenth century, which may possibly have been employed for furniture drapery in the interim, and is now restored to its original use. There is a perfect rage for old-time silks at this moment, and when one does not possess a sufficient quantity to make an entire skirt front, still there must be enough at least to furnish a gathered plastron and a collar and cuffs for a dress restored to its original use.

The above is interesting in that it differentiates two styles of redingotes: one that was a full-on coat; and one that was part of a dress style. The coat style is fairly straight-forward and functional as noted in the December 1891 issue of Demorest’s Family Magazine:

Probably there is no garment more convenient and comfortable for cold weather than a redingote: it is thoroughly protective, the arms are free, and it constitutes a complete walking-costume in itself. The “Lorenza” is a perfectly plain, double-breasted garment with a lap in the middle seam in the back, and is adapted to all seasonable materials suit able for outer garments. The illustration represents tan-colored, rough-surfaced cloth, trimmed with seal far. The hat is of brown velvet with brown ostrich-tips and a bow of orange-colored velvet.

Here’s an illustration of the Lorenza pattern redingote:

For a better idea of what they looked like, here’s one extant redingote that I found on the Augusta Auctions website:

In viewing the above redingote, it appears that it’s most likely late 1880s vintage: it’s structure is clearly shaped to accommodate a bustled skirt. This is an interesting combination of functional and decorate styles and definitely fulfills its function as outerwear. In our next post, we’ll explore the “dress redingote” style a bit more so stay tuned! 🙂


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The Return of Directoire Style


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. 🙂


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