1890s Style- A Quick Overview

Probably one of the the most iconic fashion styles is 1890s style with its leg-of-mutton sleeves and the wasp waist. One of the basic rules of fashion is that fashion will emphasize a particular body part until it reaches a point of excess and a reaction sets in and the emphasis then shifting to another body part. For 1890s style, we see it developing in reaction to the excesses of the bustle era and in particular, its last flowering in the mid to late 1880s with the “shelf” bustle:

Evening Dress, American, c. 1884 – 1886; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.63.23.3a, b)

And, invariably, a reaction set in and the bustle silhouette with its emphasis on the derriere (ok, buttocks, let’s just get it out there 🙂 ) now shifted towards a more slender, upright silhouette with emphasis on the shoulders and waist in the form of the leg-of-mutton sleeves combined with an extremely narrow waist (i.e., the wasp waist).

Le Moniteur de la Mode. September 1895

Naturally, these changes do not occur overnight (at least back then) and during the early 1890s, we a see a gradual fashion shift towards the new look (which we discussed previously). By 1895, more extreme versions of the new silhouette were developing with the sleeves and waist. Below are a few examples of this “new look” in fashion plates, as interpreted by the French:

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La Grande Dame: Revue de l’Élégance et des Arts 32, 1895

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La Grande Dame: Revue de l’Élégance et des Arts 32, 1895

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La Grande Dame: Revue de l’Élégance et des Arts 31, 1895

In the above examples, we see the classic hourglass figure which is created by an A-line skirt combined with a seemingly unstructured bodice that balloons out at the shoulders. The bodice front seemingly gives an impression of a billowy blouse/shirt-waist (another style that began to take hold during this period).

Compared to 1880s and some early 1890s styles, the lines dresses depicted have much softer lines and everything appears to be very free-floating. However, it must be noted that this silhouette is in reality a structured design that relies on a corset to achieve that ideal hourglass figure.

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Assorted Corset Styles, c. 1880s & 1890s

Now that you have seen the basic silhouette as depicted in fashion plates, let’s take it a bit further with some extant originals:

Day Dress, c. 1890s; Museu del Disseney de Barcelona (MTIB 88108-0)

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Day Dress, c. 1895; Augusta Auctions; Black Cotton with raised red and yellow pin stripes.

Maison Felix, Day Dress, c. 1893-1895; FIDM Museum (2008.5.51AB)

Worth, Day Dress, c. 1890 – 1893; Kerry Taylor Auctions

The above are only a small sample of what was out there- while the silhouette for each of the above dresses is the same, each differs in the materials, trim, and design elements thus creating unique dresses that are still part of a specific style. What is also interesting is that bodices could be open or closed and the open ones continue trends of the 1880s and early 1890s in creating a jacket bodice/skirt combination used with a waist and/or vest.

Day Dress, c. 1895, French;

Day Dress, c. 1895; Fashion Museum Antwerp

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Day Dress, c. 1894 – 1895; Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM; 2006.870.19AB)

The above examples vary in materials and trim but they all embody the basic 1890s design aesthetic. The Jacket/bodice dress style was also embodied in the more informal waking suit, a practical garment for daytime wear in public.  Below are a few extant examples:

Walking Suit, 1892; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.53.72.9a–c)

Walking Suit, c. 1892; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1982.82.6a, b)

Doucet, Walking Suit, c. 1895; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.15&A-1979)

Constructed of wool, linen, or cotton, these suits incorporate the hourglass figure but in a muted form with an A-line skirt and a tailored coat with the characteristic leg-of-mutton sleeves, although the sleeves are somewhat muted in the earlier examples.

In conclusion, it is clear that there was no lack of variety in dress styles during the mid-1890s. With daywear, the hourglass silhouette was kept somewhat within limits but as we will see in future posts, this was not always the case with evening wear and the finer forms of daywear and we will see examples of this in future posts. 🙂



And Some More Edwardian Day Dress Style

Today’s fashion feature is a circa 1906-1907 afternoon or walking dress that was made by a one AH Metzner of New York City. This one is extensively photo documented and they give an extraordinarily detailed view:

A.H. Metzner, Afternoon Dress, c. 1906-1907; Antiquedress.com website

And now for some closer views with the jacket:

Below is a close-up of the jacket and waist front:

This outfit consists of a skirt, jacket bodice and waist. The skirt and jacket are constructed of a green Ottoman fabric trimmed in a chartreuse silk velvet with a dark green sash running at the waist. The waist is constructed of a combination of chiffon or organza combined with some sort of underlayer (probably a white cotton) trimmed with embroidered lace. The most striking thing about the fashion fabric is the saturated green color and the highly defined ribs characteristic of the Ottoman fabric. Below is another view of the bodice-jacket front:

The jacket is essentially a bolero jacket style with open sleeves  trimmed with velvet bands. Now let’s take a look at the dress with the waist:

The waist is constructed of two layers with an outer layer of a dark green gauze-like material- most likely a chiffon or organza- trimmed with darker stripes of perhaps velvet. The front, back and neck are trimmed with pleated panels of green silk satin and white and green lace embroidery. Finally, the front has a v-neck filled with a white lace jabot. The color palette for this outfit is very striking set of analogous green colors that work together nicely. Finally, here’s two views of the waist front featuring glass buttons and froggings:

The walking suit was one of the basics of any Edwardian Era wardrobe and the above suit is a good example of how decorative this style could be. What’s also interesting is that this is a good illustration of the use of Ottoman fabric- its characteristic thick horizontal ridges have been used to maximum effect on the bias. We hope to be featuring some more examples in future posts so stay tuned. 🙂


Spring Is Coming…Doucet Style

Spring is here and that means long sun-filled days, time spend outside, and of course, picnics. ♡ Below is a circa 1900-1903 afternoon dress from Jacques Doucet:

Doucet, Afternoon Dress, c. 1900-1903; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.579a, b)

This dress is constructed from a white silk chiffon with a printed lavender floral design and trimmed in horizontal bands of lace running up the skirt. Lace is also liberally used on the bodice in vertical stripes and a large centerpiece at the neck. Bands of turquoise silk velvet on the sleeves and a large turquoise silk velvet sash at the waist completes the look.  The term “afternoon dress” seems to have been used somewhat interchangeably with “lingerie dress” which describes dresses made from lightweight diaphanous materials such as lightweight linen, cotton, organdy, chiffon, and voile. This is just one example of a characteristic style of the first decade of the 20th Century. Stay tuned for more! 🙂

Fashion Publicity & Reaching The Mass Market…The Beginning

Today we take a look at fashion industry/haute couture in France began to transform itself from an obscure, closed world into a form that more closely resembles today’s fashion industry. “Fashion” as we know it today began to take form during the late 19th Century. Moreover, fashion was something that was entering the public consciousness on a scale broader than anything ever seen before. The industrial revolution played a major role in the development of fashion in a rising standard of living combined with the development of new methods of manufacturing textile goods made clothing more affordable for more people. Along with this was the rise of the middle class who now had the money and the leisure time to be able follow fashion more closely.

Jean Béraud, Boulevard des Capucines,

Where fashion was once limited to a monarch and his court, fashion was now becoming far more defuse with a much wider audience following it. Just as important, fashion and clothing manufacturing were developing into large business enterprises and as a result, business concerns often drove fashion trends in a way similar today only on a more limited scale with a smaller clientele.

Pose de garnitures dans l’atelier de Worth, grand couturier parisien. Paris, 1907.

Along with the commercialization of fashion by Couturiers such as Charles Worth, Jacques Doucet, Paul Poiret, and a host of others, was the need to more effectively market their fashions.1Interestingly enough, Worth was very adverse to the press and he limited his interviews with them and never allowed journalists into areas of his atelier where they might see new dresses. This was more out the fear of fashion piracy more than anything else. Where word-or-mouth was sufficient, more direct methods of getting fashion styles (i.e., product) before the public were needed and thus developed advertising, fashion journals, fashion plates, and later, fashion photography.

With the development of the fashion industry and marketing, those who followed fashion wanted to see these fashions “live”. The concept of the runway show as a public spectacle was still years off but other ways to show off the latest styles were employed.

If it's seen at Longchamps, then you're OK... :-)

If it’s seen at Longchamps, then you’re OK… As is the case today, being seen in a public place with the just the right outfit could make all the difference. 🙂

Once such method was dressing up models with the latest styles and sending them to various public social gathering, most notably the horse races at Longchamps and in particular, the Grand Prix de Paris which was held every year in July. More than just a horse race, it was a day-long affair that provided a venue for people to see and been seen and that of course meant what they were wearing. Naturally, the press covered these events and end was result was free publicity.

Races at Longchamps, Manet, 1867

Below are just a few of the examples of the styles worn at Longchamps during the period from 1900 to 1914.

Les Modes, 1904

Les Modes, July 1904

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The women in the above pictures are wearing versions of the lingerie dress and one can see the influence of the s-bend corset although the silhouette is somewhat muted by the fluffy layers of fabric on the dresses. These definitely fall in the 1900 –  1905 date range.

And sometimes, fashion at Longchamps could cause a sensation…below is a picture from 1908 of three models wearing designs by Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix (known simply as Margaine-Lacroix) and dubbed by the press “Les Nouvelles Merveilleuses”:

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c. 1908, “Les Nouvelles Merveilleuses” as dubbed by the press- these three models caused a furor at Longchamps when they arrived- these dresses, designed by Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix were considered scandalous at the time.

The above three dresses definitely got public attention, in part because they completely did away with the conventional corset while at the same time creating a skin-tight silhouette by utilizing stretch fabrics in the dresses themselves to create the form-fitting silhouette.2We would definitely like to know more about the underpinnings of these models because there’s no way this look could have worked without some corset-substitute. We’re thinking an early version of Spanx.

Here’s how Susie Ralph, a fashion historian, described it in an introduction that opened an exhibit on Margaine-Lacroix in 2013:

In 1908 Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix sent three mannequins to the Longchamp race-course clad in her form-revealing robes-tanagréennes. These corsetless dresses caused a sensation among Paris’ fashionable crowd – a riot according to some newspaper reports. Worn without corsets and slit to the knee on one side over the most transparent of underskirts, their impact on the fashion world was instantaneous and resulted in major press coverage not only in Paris but around the world. In today’s parlance the style immediately “went viral”….It was Margaine-Lacroix’s daring vision that brought to an end the ideal of the rigidly corseted hour-glass figure, and ushered in the new, slim twentieth century silhouette.

Margaine-Lacroix is an interesting designer in her own right although she is relatively unknown today. Hopefully we’ll be writing more about her in the future.

Here, is where the above picture originally was featured:

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Controversy is no stranger to the world of fashion then or now and the debate over what exactly is too “revealing” still rages on. Later, from 1910 to 1914, we see the public event-as-fashion show hit new highs, helped along by better cameras and film as with these:

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1912, Watching the races standing on chairs. The lines on these two dresses reflect the moved towards a more sleek, upright silhouette. Goodbye s-bend!

1914

1914, Here is an interesting design incorporating a waistcoat and cutaway coat.

Longchamps provided a venue for people to see “fashion in action” and for us it’s a fascinating archive of living fashion history. We can see just how garments were worn, how they fit, and even gain some insight into the people who wore them. We’ve only touched the surface here and in future posts we hope to gain further insight. Stay tuned!



Fashion In Transition: The Early 1900s- Part 1

The Edwardian era of the early 1900s was a time of transition and change in the fashion world. The bustle era was long past and the fashion silhouette was now upright. By 1900, the s-bend corset with the distinct “pigeon-breast” (aka Pouter Pigeon) set the basic style and it was reflected in both formal and informal day and evening styles. But as the “early aughts” (i.e. 1900s) progressed, the extreme pigeon-breast silhouette began to soften, gradually transitioning to a looser, flowing style such as that created in 1908 by Paul Poiret with his Directoire collection.

Corset Before and After Poiret

The transition from s-bend corset to…

The distinct “pigeon-breast” (or Pouter Pigeon because the resulting bust looked like the puffed out chest of the pouter pigeon) was created by the mechanics of the s-bend corset which created a rounded, forward leaning torso with the hips pushed back. Compared to corsets of the 1880s and 90s, the s-bend corset had a straight front that started relatively low on the bustline. Often padding and corset covers were worn to achieve the perfect bust silhouette. Here are some examples for visual reference of the basic silhouette:

S-bend corset patent -Original- Pre 1929 Historical Pattern Collection

Patent documentation for a patent for an s-bend corset.

1903 s-bend corset

S-Bend Corset_2

S-Bend Corset

S-Bend Corset

And the final product:

Les Modes Sept 1901 Maison Rouff

S-Bend Corset_3

And here are a couple of examples of the s-bend corset:

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Corset, c. 1904; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.3123a–e); Made for the parisian department store Bon Marché.

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Side Profile

From the above picture of the side profile, it’s easy to see the distinctive “s” bend. In comparison with other extant examples, this one is somewhat restrained in the curve.

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Rear View

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Corset, c. 1904 – 1905; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.40.141.3a, b)

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And here it is in action, so to say:

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Advertisement, c. 1905

And more fully clothed:

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Although not as extreme as some examples, one can still make out the distinct silhouette created by the s-bend corset.

[De Gracieuse] Wedren-toilet van blauw zijden batist (July 1903)

Here are some examples of extant dresses:

Doucet Afternoon Dress 1900 1903_1jpg

Doucet, Afternoon Dress, c. 1900 – 1903; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.579a, b)

Doucet Afternoon Dress 1900 1903_2jpg

Rear View

Ball Gown Evening Dress Worth c. 1902 Lady Mary Curzon

Worth, Evening Dress, c. 1902; Fashion Museum Bath

Day Dress 1902 - 1904

Day Dress, c. 1902 – 1904; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1994.192.18a–c)

Day Dress 1902 - 1904

Day Dress 1905

Day Dress, c. 1905; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.21 to C-1960)

Day Dress 1903 1905

Day Dress, c. 1903 – 1905; Galleria del Costume di Palazzo.

Here’s a similar type of dress on a live models:

 

Robe_d'après-midi_par_Redfern_1905_cropped

Robe_tailleur_par_Redfern_1905_cropped

Interestingly enough, while the s-bend corset reshaped the bosom, the bosom itself was de-emphasized and the bust was often softened by additional fabric and trim. By the end of the 1900s, one can see the shift towards a more upright silhouette. Designers such as Paul Poiret sought to create a new silhouette that more “natural,” unconstrained by severe corsetry such as the s-bent corset. Here are a few examples:

Noveau Directoire2 Poiret

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Day Dress Designed By Paul Poiret, 1910

Paul Iribe 1908 Poiret Noveau Directoire

Noveau Directoire 1908 Poiret Josephine Dress

Paul Poiret, Day Dress, 1908; Les Arts Décoratifs

But Poiret was not the only designer working towards a more upright, cylindrical silhouette. There was also the designs of Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix:

1909 Margaine Lacroix

Robe de courses, Margaine Lacroix, 1909

Margaine Lacroix

Dress for the races by Margaine-Lacroix, photo by Félix, Les Modes July 1910.

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Margaine-Lacroix c. 1908 - 1910  Evening Dress

Margaine-Lacroix, Evening Dress, c. 1908 – 1910; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1979.346.32)

Paquin Walking Suit 1910 Front 2

Jeanne Paquin, Walking Suit, Spring/Summer 1910; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.474a–d)

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Evening Gown, c. 1910; Kerry Taylor Auctions

Finally, even the House of Worth was moving in the same direction but there’s still some structure in this dress…

Worth Afternoon Dress 1907

House of Worth, Afternoon Dress, 1907; Manchester City Galleries (1947.4254)

Worth Afternoon Dress 1907

Close-Up Of Front

The preceding examples give a pretty good overview of the changes that were occuring in the basic fashion silhouette in the course of the first decade of the 20th Century. In the next installment, we’ll take a look at changes that occurred in the 1910 – 1914 timeframe.

(To be continued…)