The Panier Polonaise- Part 3

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! 🙂


The Panier Polonaise- Part 2

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…


The Panier Polonaise- Part 1

The Mid-Bustle Era/Natural Form Era was a time of fashion transition and that saw the development of several new styles. As mentioned in several previous posts, this new look often consisted of polonaise and basque bodices combined with narrow skirts and low demi-trains. However, styles were not always “new,” often they were revivals of earlier styles, somewhat modified. Today we look at one of these styles, an 18th Century style revival called the “Panier Polonaise,”1“Pannier” is the proper spelling currently in use but we will stick with the earlier “panier” spelling to avoid confusion. as described in the February 1880 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:

According to Peterson’s, it was “the latest and prettiest thing of the kind that is out in Paris” and a pattern of it was offered as a supplement in the February 1880 issue.2It would be interesting to locate the actual pattern. Peterson’s goes on to describe the pattern further:

The large notches [on the pattern pieces] show where the plaits [pleats] are arranged to make the panier, on the seams, where the front joins the side back. The notch, in the back seam of the skirt of the back, shows where he looping, or rather bunching, is placed at the back. It all goes in a bunch, from the notch, down to the end of the seam. The looping may be placed higher up if preferred.

The skirt, worn with this polonaise, has five double box-plaits, extending from the waist in front; and there are two straight breadths, forming the back, each edged with two narrow, knife plaited ruffles. The back of the polonaise falls over this. These straight breadths are better made to hang loose from the waist, being sewed into the side-seams, where the box-plaited front ends. A cambric foundation is used to arrange the box-plaits upon and for the back part of the under petticoat.

By the letters, it will be seen where the several pieces of the polonaise join each other. In the sleeve, it will be seen, the under-part is very narrow, and the slope different at the hand; but upon putting it together, it will be found all right, and is a very nice-fitting sleeve. Trim the edge of the polonaise with a narrow knife-plaiting.

Look familiar? Well…here’s a version the Panier Polonaise style in the February 1880 issue of Demorest’s Family Magazine:


To be continued…


Close-Up: Early 1880s Style

Today we leave fashion plates and illustrations behind and turn towards 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! 🙂



1880 Style- Some Details

The styles of the Mid-Bustle/Natural Form Era were a definite contrast from what had come before and by 1880 we see this in full flower. The early 1870s fashion silhouette of the fully trained bustle dress had given way to a slender, tightly sculpted cylindrical silhouette that had minimal, if any, bustling or padding. The above fashion plate from the May 1880 issue of Peterson’s Magazine clearly shows this style while at the same time showing a variety of individual styles within the overall trend. Here’s a another fashion plates:

The first thing that immediately catches the eye in the above plates is that the bodices are long, covering the hips in varying degrees- with the train disappearing, bodices could extend downwards, unimpeded. The next element that’s striking is the use of various forms of draping and ruching on most of the skirts. Yes, a few are plain and smooth but overall, it would seem that the skirt front was now a palette for displaying various decorative schemes. One especially popular style the “Louis XV” style which incorporated many late 18th Century style elements:

Bodice style could also take up a polonaise style with the bodice back forming part of the train, or at least helping to place emphasis on it (in varying degrees):

Peterson’s Magazine, April 1880

Finally, just to distinguish between basque and polonaise, below are images of two patterns that were offered for sale in the January 1880 edition of Demorest’s Family Magazine:

Now let’s look at some extant dresses:

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

Side Profile

Style-wise the above dress is similar to the plate in that the bodice is cut in a polonaise style, emulating a coat and underlying waistcoat/vest covering an narrow underskirt; the horizontal rows of pleating on the skirt further emphasize the skirt’s cylindrical silhouette. Note that the bodice back extends down to form part of the train. With its demi-train so it’s fair to say that this dress was meant for more formal public events.  Here’s another dress that captures a similar style:

Day Dress, c. 1875-1880; Wadsworth Atheneum (1968.213)

This one’s shows a little variation with the skirt combining both horizontal rows of overlapping contrast fabric along the bottom hem along with asymmetrical draping further up. The rows of contrast fabric are continued onto the demi-train. It could be argues that the bodice of more a basque style since it’s obvious that the the outer “jacket” is merged with the inner “waistcoat” are actually one piece and it doesn’t appear that any part of it extends further down to form a train. It’s a subtle difference but obvious if one looks closely. In future posts, we’ll be discussing early 1880s fashion more and exploring the various individual styles that were out there.