Trending Patterns For February 1887- The Kensington Jacket

Fashion history has always been both a source of inspiration for our designs as well as providing a window into past times. When considering the fashion history of the late Nineteenth Century, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the magnificent designs of Worth, Doucet, Pingat, and others rather than consider what regular people wore. During this period, there was a growing market of patterns that were becoming available to the home sewer and marketed through publications such as Peterson’s Magazine, Demorest’s Family Magazine, and The Delineator, to name a few. In many cases, the patterns were designs licensed directly from major designers such as Worth (although they tended to downplay their involvement). Below is just one pattern for a jacket-bodice that was offered as a premium in Peterson’s Magazine


Featured in the February 1887 issue of Peterson’s Magazine was a pattern called the “Kensington Jacket. While we’d love to believe that this was the start of  a new fashion trend, unfortunately it wasn’t but rather a variation on the jacket-bodice style trend that had been developing for some time (the name was probably just an identifier for marketing purposes). That said, let’s take a look…

The pattern itself was included with the February issue (unfortunately it wasn’t scanned in the electronic version that we downloaded) and here’s a little description:

We give, this month, a “Kensington Jacket”— a very stylish affair, and suitable for late winter or early spring. It is quite an improvement, as will be seen, on the jackets of last fall.. Folded in with the number is a “Supplement,” with the several parts of this jacket given, in diagrams, full size. There are, as will be seen five pieces, as follows :

1. HALF OF FRONT.
2. HALF OF BACK.
3. SIDE-BACK.
4. SLEEVE
5. COLLAR AND REVERS

…The velvet revers can be worn either open or closed, thus making the jacket single or double breasted, at pleasure. The material is fine cloth, the revers being of velvet to match. Fancy oxidized silver buttons are the prettiest, if they can be had.

As with many Victorian Era sewing patterns, this was a fairly utilitarian garment that can be made in a number of different styles in different materials and with all manner of trim. We’re tempted to track down an original paper copy that (hopefully) still has the pattern; it would make for an interesting project. 🙂

1897 Design- Pingat

Emile Pingat’s designs have always been fascinating and especially since he tends to overshadowed by Worth (and Doucet, to a lesser extent). Today, Pingat was mostly noted for his outerwear, but he also designed dresses. Below is an interesting day dress from 1897:

Pingat, Day Dress, 1897; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.2012.95.123a-b)

This dress consists of a multi-gored skirt combined with an under-bodice all of a patterned woven silk fabric. The over-bodice simulates a capelet and along with the sleeves is constructed from a red silk velvet. The same color silk velvet can also be seen in the chevrons running along the skirt and the belt. The gigot sleeves are relatively subdued for an 1897 style; what is especially interesting about the sleeves is that the sleeve caps open up to reveal insets of woven silk fabric that’s similar to the skirt and under-bodice. Here’s a close-up of the left shoulder:

Here’s a close-up of the fabric used in the inset on the sleeves. The intricate floral cord border is an interesting decorative touch:

And here’s the fabric used on the skirt and under-bodice:

When you look at the overall dress, the eye is immediately drawn to the shoulders and the two insets provide some interesting color pops to the red outer-bodice. On the flip side, one could also argue that the dress is too busy from a design perspective and that the somewhat dramatic design elements should have been scaled back: one or to works well but not everything. But nevertheless, Pingat’s design is imaginative and the upper sleeve inserts is something that’s not normally seen in 1890s style. Stay tuned for more in our never-ending quest for the unique and different in late Nineteenth Century stye fashion.

Out Of The Gilded Age…

Today the theme is burgundy velvet and what better way to show it off than in an evening dress by Worth. 🙂 Better yet, we have both the dress AND a portrait of the individual that it was made for! The itself was made by Maison Worth around 1898 and belonged to Edith Kingdon Gould, the wife of railroad tycoon George Jay Gould and is on display at Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, New York; Lyndhurst had belonged to the Goulds at one time and is now a museum belonging to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Worth, Evening Dress, c. 1898; Lyndhurst Mansion, Tarrytown NY

The evening dress is interesting in that it’s a relatively simple style, unadorned by any trim or decoration (if you don’t count the fur stole she wears with the dress in her portrait). Overall, the effect is very restrained, reflecting Ms. Kingdon-Gould’s status married to a wealth railroad tycoon (she had been an actress prior to marrying Gould). And now for the portrait itself:

Théobald Chartran, Portrait of Edith Kingdon Gould, c. 1898

Unfortunately there’s not a lot of information available in regard to the dress or the portrait- they were part of an exhibition at Lyndhurst that’s ended. This dress provides a fascinating snapshot into a bygone era made more interesting in that the dress style is very restrained when compared with some  of the more over-the-top designs of the era.

Trending For November 1918…

And for something a little different today, below is a fashion plate, or rather a cover illustration, from the November 1918 issue of The Delineator. One of the truisms about fashion is that it reflects the zeitgeist or spirit of the times and the First World War was no exception. The First World War saw the recruitment of large numbers of women into the military for the first time (although the numbers were small compared to the Second World War) and naturally, some sort of uniform was required…pictured below are female uniforms appropriate for both the Navy and the Army. Also, even where uniforms were not involved, the war years witnessed an evolution in women’s fashions where they became much more simplified with a focus on comfort and functionality. This is an area that we hope to explore in future posts so stay tuned. 🙂