Pleating takes time, but it’s the understitching to the foundation skirt that takes even longer! 🙂
Bridesmaid dresses have always played a role in just about any 19th Century wedding and especially during the 1880s and 90s. Today, we take a look at this circa 1883 example worn by a one Isabella Cameron Murray who was a bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding on March 21, 1883 in Sydney, Australia. This dress is also somewhat rare in that its provenance has been firmly established and can be firmly dated to 1883.1For a full account of Isabella Murray and the significance of the wedding, the full story can be found HERE.
The bodice and skirt are constructed from a creme-colored merino wool fabric and trimmed with lace on the neck, cuffs, and skirt. The skirt is trimmed with four rows of ruching and the bottom hem has long box pleats. The skirt bottom has a hem guard that appears to be of a dark blue sateen and, according to the museum website, is also lined with the same dark blue sateen. Finally, the rear of skirt has a built-up train topped off by a large blue silk satin bow. Below are close-ups of the bodice:
The bodice is closed with pearl glass buttons and they’re fully functional.
And more of an extreme close-up. Note the twill weave pattern of the fashion fabric.
Another close-up of the fashion fabric:
And now for some side profile views:
The dress silhouette could be characterized as “transitional” in that while it still retains much of the cylindrical shape of the earlier Mid-Bustle/Natural Form Era, there’s also a much more developed train that was no doubt support by some sort of bustle support. It’s not quite as extreme as the later “shelf bustle” styles of Late Bustle Era of the mid to late 1880s but it’s heading in that direction.
Below is a close-up of the ruching on the skirt front:
And finally, some of the lace trim:
This is definitely could be considered a more modest, practical dress based on the use of wool merino as the fashion fabric and the minimal trim and it would have seen a lot of use as a “best dress” after the wedding. Perhaps the fabric choice was more a function of not wanting to upstage the bride or simple economics but either way, it’s an interesting example of a dress worn for a formal occasion that’s not made of a silk satin and that alone makes it compelling to us. We hoped that you’ve enjoyed this glimpse of 1880s bridal fashion, especially as it applies to the often maligned “bridesmaid dress.” 🙂
And now we present our take on the “Panier Polonaise” style with this spring/summer promenade dress:
This dress is constructed of a Liberty London cotton print fabric trimmed with antique lace and Aesthetic Era enameled cut steel buttons:
Below are some details:
The hem is a knife-pleated silk striae fabric:
And for a few more views:
We intend on making a number of similar dresses from Liberty print cotton fabrics that we brought back with us from London so stay tuned for more details! 🙂
Previously, as part of our discussion on early 1880s fashion, we described the “Panier Polonaise” style a bit. Today, we present an example of this style from our collection that dates from the early 1880s. Unfortunately, there’s no label inside or other way to pinpoint the precise year of construction.
The bodice and skirt are constructed of a plum-colored silk taffeta (we actually conducted a burn test on some fibers taken from the interior). On the skirt sides, the fabric has been draped and held in place by strips of ruched self-fabric trim. The same self-fabric trim also runs along the hem.
Below are some views of the bodice. It’s cut in the style of a polonaise with long edges towards on the front that are sharply drawn up towards the rear. The same style of self-fabric trim are used on each side of the bodice front and the sleeve cuffs. Note the tiny ruched “parasol pocket”… 🙂 It was handy for holding a handkerchief (or not).
Below is a view of one of the polonaise bodice sides, again trimmed in the same self-fabric trim as the other parts of the skirt and bodice. The hem is gathered up towards the rear and one can see the detail:
And here’s a view of the bodice back. The sides drape over the hips while the rear is drawn up short.
Below are two views of the bodice interior. As was standard with most late 19th Century bodices, they were lightly boned to maintain the bodice’s shape (they were NOT meant to replace the corset). Although it’s not easy to make out from the picture, the lining fabric is a plain cotton muslin.
This is truly a remarkable example of early 1880s style and we’ll be posting some more pictures of it soon.
To be continued…