A Mid-Bustle Era Dress

Gray is a color that works for a variety of fashions and especially when it comes to daywear. Here is just example that every effectively combines complementary shades of gray (we kind of cringe using that phrase… 😄 ), made by a one Amedée Françoise (unfortunately, we were unable to find anything in English about this Couturiere):

Day Dress 1880

Day Dress, c. 1880; Metropolitan Museum of Art (43.72.2a–c)

Day Dress 1880

Side Profile

As can be seen from these pictures, this dress combines a solid dark gray silk underskirt with an embroidered patterned silk bodice and train. The patterned bodice fabric has a darker gray background and while this would simply serve to darken the entire dress, this fabric actually has the opposite effect partly because of the fabric’s luster and the white and lavender embroidered pattern.

Day Dress 1880 - Rear

Left Three Quarter Rear View

Style-wise, this dress is firmly in the Mid-Bustle Era, 1880 to be precise, and as such it’s characterized by having a cylindrical profile, low demi-train, and defined balayeuse. Moreover, the bodice is reminiscent of an 18th Century coat with cutaway lapels.

Day Dress 1880

Rear View

Except for the the band of tassels running along the hem, the skirt is unadorned with a smooth back and three rows of knife pleating on the front. Interestingly enough, the train appears to be composed of two different shades of gray silk fabric; the darker gray makes up the majority of skirt while the lighter shade is seen peeking out at the bottom where the skirt and train begin. Although it’s hard to tell from the available pictures, we would be inclined to say that this appears to be a minimal underskirt. Also, this light gray matches the trim. Finally, the bodice is also relatively unadorned except for fringe and tassels running along the edges. Below are some close up views that better illustrate the contrasts in the two base fabrics:

Sleeve Detail

Detail View Of Button

Detail View Of Fabric

Label – Amedee Francois

This dress utilizes a masterful combination of grays to achieve an effect that is both understated and elegant at the same time; with this this dress, the fabrics and cut do all the talking. 🙂


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Some Early 1880s Style

Today we take a look at some extant examples of early 1880s styles from various collections with an emphasis on bodices- our newest fixation. 😉 First up is this circa 1881-83 day dress from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET Museum):

Day Dress, c. 1881-1883; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.43.44.4a, b)

This dress rather closely follows the early 1880s silhouette with a short bodice combined with an over/underskirt combination. The bodice is constructed of a burgundy-colored silk velvet.  The overskirt is also constructed of the same burgundy velvet that divides into two sections: one loosely covering the hips and extending down in point, down almost all the way to the hem and the other creating a long tail. Unless one looks closely, the bodice and overskirt appears as one, creating the illusion of a polonaise. The underskirt is constructed of a multi-colored vertically striped fabric with insets of the burgundy velvet- it’s hard to determine just what it is and the description on the MET Museum website offers no clues. The striped fabric is in several colors in various shades of brown along with ivory.

The bodice front is trimmed with jewel appliques on both sides of the front opening, suggesting that this dress was meant for visiting or formal daytime occasions.

Here’s a side profile view and unless one looks closely, it would appear that the bodice is a polonaise style.

The rear view is interesting in that the overskirt draws up shorter than the underskirt. Also, in the rear, the underskirt hem is the same burgundy velvet as the overskirt and bodice. Finally, note that the cuffs and the rear bows appear to be an olive-colored silk moire. Overall, it’s an interesting dress with some design features although the color combinations aren’t really optimal, in our opinion.

Next up is this circa 1882 day dress that, like the first dress, features a faux polonaise bodice style effect:

Day Dress, c. 1882; The Sigal Museum (164.v.1)

This dress appears to be constructed of a combination of gold/champagne color silk satin and a silk brocade with a purple-gold-silver pansy pattern. The brocade is a very busy pattern and from a distance appears more of a black and green (of course, it could also be the lighting and appearance on a computer monitor). The bodice is cut so that the solid champagne/gold satin is featured prominently, making up the main front and back panels with the back panels descending downwards mimicking a tail coat. The center fronts and the upper sleeves are made up of the brocade and provides a harmonious contrast. The neckline is trimmed in a combination of ivory lace, silver satin ribbons and dags of the brocade- it’s an interesting style effect.

Here’s a close up of the bodice and it’s obvious from the seaming that the bodice is actually joined to the rest of the dress- it’s subtle but easy to miss at a distance. The dress itself continues with this solid and brocade fabric theme with a ruched solid front combined with side panels and train in the brocade. The dress is layered but not in the usual over/underskirt manner but rather with vertical draped layers. Finally, the train the brocade is also used for the train.

Here’s some views of the side profile and one can see the vertical draping which emphasizes vertical lines, a characteristic of Mid Bustle style. Moreover, the pointed draping at the sides mimics the points usually associated with many polonaises; in the rear we can see some fullness leading down to the demi-train.

Ths dress is an interesting example of Mid-Bustle Era style, combining the Mid-Bustle aesthetic of vertical lines while at the same time drawing upon the use of two somewhat contrasting fashion fabrics- in this case, a solid paired with a brocade with a small, busy pattern. While there’s some contrast, the colors themselves harmonize well.

Finally, no examination of early 1880s fashion would be complete without this dress, immortalized by the artist Albert Bartholomé in a portrait of his wife (who soon after tragically died):

This dress is interesting in that it takes the polonaise bodice style to an extreme: in the front, we see a tightly sculpted profile that extends a third of the way down the body, ending in a “v” and drawn towards the rear with increasing fullness culminating in a large pouf of material topped with a large bow. One could argue that with this style, we see a hint of the return to the large bustle style that was to occur in the late 1880s. But, nevertheless, at this point, the train is only a minor distraction from the tight cylindrical profile of early 1880s fashion- it was all in flux and sometimes various elements of early and later styles were intermixed in varying degrees.

And the portrait in which the dress appears…today this is on display at the Musèe d’Orsay in Paris. It’s far more powerful viewing it in person- the photo doesn’t do it justice.

Albert Bartholomé (French, 1848–1928)
In the Conservatory (Madame Bartholomé), ca. 1881
Oil on canvas; 91 3/4 x 56 1/8 in. (233 x 142.5 cm)
Musée d’Orsay, Paris, Gift of the Société des Amis du Musée d’Orsay, 1990

The above three dresses illustrate some interesting aspects of early 1880s fashion, especially with the use of draping and harmonizing materials to create faux bodice effects. If it’s one thing that we’ve learned examining fashion plates, illustrations, and pictures of extant garments, it’s that there were an infinite variety of styles out there and certainly a lot of food for thought for those seeking to recreate their own garments of the era. Stay tuned for more! 🙂


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And More At The Atelier…

The portrait doesn’t show her hem, so I made something up…today is bodice construction day! Five days to finish everything so I’m not sewing on the plane.
Um, like I usually do. Yes, it’s off to London! 😄

And here’s a full version of the portrait- Louise Jopling by John Everett Millais which was painted in 1879:

John Everett Millais, Portrait of Louise Jopling, 1879; National Portrait Gallery

And lady herself, Louise Jopling:



Meanwhile At The Atelier…

Finishing skirts as Fiona is side-eye judging me.