Just when we thought we’d seen it all when it comes to 1870s style, there’s always something new to us that grabs our attention and in this case, an interesting circa 1876 reception dress from the Centraal Museum in Utrecht:
This dress features a dual solid/patterned fabric combination characteristic of 1870s style with the skirt and undertrain constructed of what appears to be a bright blue silk taffeta silk combined with a floral patterned silk brocade bodice and train. The bodice front features a narrow plastron of the same blue silk taffeta found in the dress and undertrain. The neckline is relatively modest, combined with a high Mandarin-like collar. The sleeves are three-quarter and are trimmed with ivory/champagne-colored lace.
The dress silhouette is interesting in that combines elements of both Early and Middle Bustle Eras. First, the bodice is suggestive of an early pannier polonaise style, a style that was to come into its own by 1880. However, note that the bodice is a separate entity from the pannier draping. At the same time, the bodice rear extends into a full train that style-wise is more characteristic of an earlier bustle era style. Also, it’s interesting to note that while there’s a fully developed train going on, it’s more suggestive of later Mid-Bustle/Natural Form styles but nevertheless, some form of bustle was utilized and it’s especially a good candidate for a cage style bustle. Finally, we’d like to note the use of two horizontal rows of loose gathering on the dress front along with the loosely pleated hem serve to give the dress front more fullness.
The above picture provides a good view of the train and it’s clear that the bustle that would have been used with this dress would have emphasized the fullness of the train on the vertical plane. Now, let’s take a closer look at the bodice:
The high Mandarin collar and cut-out neckline are very angular and geometric and the theme is carried on further down the bodice front with the plastron that features a faux diamond cut-out below the neckline that reveals the pleated blue plaston.
The plastron’s vertical knife pleats draw the eye upwards towards the neckline, emphasizing the silhouette’s slender vertical lines, a style characteristic found in later Mid-Bustle/Natural Form styles. The overall effect is further emphasized with the minimal use of trim.
In the above picture, one can get a good idea of what the silk brocade looks like- note the bright blue velvet flowers outlined in gold on a background of striated blue and gold fabric. The excellent condition of the colors and the fabrics are simply amazing and it’s obvious that this dress was stored well, away from light. Below are some more close-ups from various parts of the dress:
Below is a nice view of one of the cuffs:
Finally, here’s a couple more full views of the dress from different angles:
The pictures above and below really give a good view of the dresse’s fullness in the front which nicely combines with the fullness of the train.
Below is a another nice view of the train.
For us, this is a very interesting dress in its transitional nature, combining earlier and later style elements and a fairly harmonious manner (although some could argue that the effect is somewhat clumsy but we beg to differ). It also shows that often, dresses are difficult to pigeon-hole in terms of style and only shows that fashion history is always full of unique surprises.