More 1870s Style

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:

Reception Dress, c. 1876; Centraal Museum, Utrecht (4468/001-002

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.


Become a Patron!

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. 🙂


Become a Patron!

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! 🙂


Become a Patron!

Designing For The 80s – Part 1

Jean Béraud, Le Bal Mabile, c. 1880

Previously, we discussed our approach to designing an 1870s dress. Today, we’re going to move up a decade to the 1880s and as with the 1870s, there are a seemingly overwhelming number of choices. But more importantly, the decade can actually be split into two distinct periods where we see the basic silhouette drastically shift to first, the slender, upright silhouette of the Mid-Bustle or Natural Form Era and then second, the Late Bustle Era characterized by a drastic return to a full bustle/trained silhouette similar to the one found in the 1870s. Also, as with basic 1870s style, early 1880s style was characterized by a basic all-encompassing silhouette but all of the other details were far from uniform and there were a bewildering variety of choices available in fabrics, trims, and color choices.

Edmond-Louis Dupain, Elegant Lady Walking Her Greyhounds on the Beach, 1882

So where to begin? Let’s start with the silhouette- as can be seen in the above painting, the silhouette emphasized an upright cylindrical look that largely de-emphasized the use of excess fabric and training/bustling. The previous focus on the draping and gathering of varied fabrics over a bustle shifted towards the more controlled use of fabrics and trim to create a style with clean, sharp lines. One can see this shift in focus with some further illustrations:

Petersons_Sept 1880

Peterson’s Magazine, September 1880

Below are some examples, albeit idealized, of the basic style which could be found for both day and evening wear:

Journal Des Demoiselles 1880

Journal Des Demoiselles, 1880

However, we do want to note that while the train was de-emphasized, it didn’t entirely disappear but its use was restricted mostly to evening/reception dresses and ballgowns in the form of a demi-train that added further style impact to the overall dress.1The full train was mostly confined to extremely formal dresses. For day dresses, the demi-was mostly omitted as can be seen in the fashion plates below:

Revue de la Mode_1880_1

Revue De La Mode, 1880

Journal Le Printemps October 1881

Journal Le Printemps, October 1881

Journal Le Printemps June 1881

Journal Le Printemps, June 1881

Journal Des Demoiselles 1881

Journal Des Demoiselles, 1881

In examining this relatively short-lived period, it must be noted that the term “natural form” is somewhat of a misnomer in that the term refers to the ideal of the reform dress movement which centered around the idea that clothing should enhance the body’s natural form rather than constrict and re-shape it. The styles of 1878-1883, like there predecessors, relied on structured undergarments to modify the body’s appearance- something that dress reformers did not have in mind. So with that said, let us explore a bit…We start with this reception dress from the early 1880s:

C.I.38.61ab_F

Reception Dress, French, c. 1881 – 1883; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.38.61a, b)

C.I.38.61ab_d

Close-Up Of Front

C.I.38.61ab_S

Side Profile

C.I.38.61ab_TQL

Three-Quarters Rear View

Rear View

The above dress illustrates several elements of the Mid-Bustle Era style and in particular, the silhouette which is slim and cylindrical with a minimal bustle. Day dresses tended to have either no train or at most, a demi-train while evening dresses and ball gowns retained a longer train. However, either way, the train was low, flowing from the bottom of the skirt rather than off of an elevated bustle. The use of rows of vertical pleating on the rear of the skirt combined with rows of flounces trimmed with embroidered leaves on the front help emphasize the vertical lines. Finally, the ruching on the bodice front also reinforces the idea of vertical lines. Finally, just for completeness, here’s some details:

Detail of bodice.

(To be continued…)



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: