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.


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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…