Mid-1890s Style: Evening Gowns

For fashion, the 1890s was all about “going large” and that was especially true during the years 1895-1897 when fashion reached extreme levels with massively sized gigot or leg-of-mutton sleeves, narrow waists and large gored skirts. This trend was especially evident with evening gowns1The terms “evening gown” and “evening dress” are used somewhat interchangeably. For the purposes of consistency, we have chose to use the term “evening gown.” as can be seen below with these fashion illustrations:

Evening Gowns, 1895; Le Moniteur de la Mode

This style is interesting in that it utilizes a prince line combined with the hourglass “X” silhouette and gigot sleeves.

Illustrations are useful but nothing beats the real thing. Here’s some examples of extant evening gowns from the high 90s:

Evening Gown, c. 1895; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1979.346.59a, b)

Rear View

And for some close-ups of the shoulder/sleeve:

Close-Up Of Shoulder

Shoulder Detail

Why do these shoulders give off a Dynasty 1980s vibe? 🙂 Below is something a little different with a different sleeve color and fabric:

Evening Dress, c. 1895; Nordiska Museet

The black velvet sleeves offer an interesting contrast to the silk bodice and skirt not only in colors, but also in luster. The sleeves seems to suck up all the light around them while the silk skirt and bodice do just the opposite. The gown pictured below also does a similar thing although it’s a bit muted:

Worth, Evening Dress, c. 1896 – 1897; Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti via Europeanafashion

Here we have a contrast between the brown velvet bodice inserts and the gold silk bodice and skit. The eye is definitely drawn towards the bodice and by extension, the face. The circa 1893 gown design by Maison Worth below also offers an interesting contrast:

Worth, Evening Ensemble Dress, 1893; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.622a–c)

The silver gray and gold floral design skirt and outer bodice make an interesting contrast to the red silk inner bodice and skirt insert panels. Here the contrast is between colors rather than luster. Now for something a bit different, there’s this circa 1895 gown design by Maison Rouff:

Maison Rouff, Evening Dress, c. 1895; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.2339a, b)

Three-Quarter Rear View

And again, there’s contrast but this time between the ecru lace skirt and ivory silk bodice, also trimmed in ecru-colored lace- here the contrast is between textures. Also, the cut of the bodice is interesting, more reminiscent of an 18th Century design with its waistcoat silhouette. Finally, we see an inversion of the velvet/silk contrast theme in this circa 1887 gown, also from Maison Rouff:

Maison Rouff, Evening Dress c. 1897; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.332a, b)

Three-Quarter Rear View

With the above gown, the skirt and outer bodice is made from a salmon/peach silk velvet combined with a gold/champagne belt and under bodice. However, most of the gown is dominated by the salmon/peach silk velvet while the gold/champagne belt and under bodice give a pop of color. Also, the bodice is small in relation to the skirt with the skirt dominating. The above is only a small sampling of the variety of evening gowns that existed but it should give an idea of some of the period aesthetics. Stay tuned for more posts! 🙂

Trending For January 1890- The Leg Of Mutton Sleeve

Sleeves are a major style element on every garment and was given special emphasis during the 1890s with its signature leg of mutton sleeves which grew to fantastical proportions by mid-decade. But as with all fashion trends that go to extremes, their origins are more modest and that was the case when it came to sleeve style. Here’s an illustration that from the January 1890 edition of Peterson’s Magazine:

This illustration was part of a sleeve pattern that was included in the January issue but unfortunately it’s not available as part of the electronic file (perhaps one day we’ll be able to locate an original issue of the magazine itself and scan an electronic version). What’s interesting here is that it’s got a gathered sleeve cap but definitely nothing extreme. Just to provide some context, here’s a few fashion plates:

Godey’s Fashions, September 1890

Peterson’s Magazine, February 1890

Fashion Plate, Winter 1890

Now fashion plates can be a bit deceptive in that they portray the ideal concept but they’re a good starting point. Let’s now look at some extant dresses…

Day Dress, c. 1888 – 1890; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (60.897a-b)

The sleeves in the above day dress are towards the fuller side and there’s a gradual tapering towards the wrists. Here’s another example:

Reception Dress, c. 1890; Goldstein Museum of Design (2013.004.012)

The small sampling shown above only gives a hint of the shift in styles that was happening during these years. Stay tuned for more in future posts. 🙂

 

19th-Century American Dress: Behind the Scenes at The Costume Institute Conservation Laboratory

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has one of the most extensive collections of late Nineteenth Century garments. One of the more notable examples from their collection is one that should be familiar to anyone with a familiarity with 1880s fashions and is often cited as a perfect example of the mid to late 1880s silhouette:

Evening Dress, American, c. 1884 – 1886; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.63.23.3a, b)

Curious to know more about this dress? Well, now you can with this video that was produced by the Met:

And For A Little Color…

Dior has always been a source of inspiration for us, both in style and color. Today, we came across these views from Dior’s Fall 2018 Couture Collection:

The color palette is simply exquisite, consisting of a series of cool shapes of green, and here’s the requisite palette:

All of the above colors are appropriate for the late 19th Century and here’s just a few examples from extant dresses:

Ballgown, Worth, 1898; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1324a, b)

Felix, Day Dress, c. 1889; Albany Museum of History and Art (u1973.69ab)

Worth, Ballgown, 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.68.53.11a, b)

Worth, Day Dress, c. 1890 – 1893; Kerry Taylor Auctions

Tea Dress, Worth c. 1895; Palais Galliera (GAL1964.20.4)

Now that’s some color inspiration! 🙂

A Trip To The Fashion Museum Bath, Part II

The second dress we viewed at the Fashion Museum Bath was a complete contrast to the first: this time we were looking at an ivory-colored evening dress/day dress that was also made by the House of Worth either in the early 1890s (unfortunately there’s not a precise date). Once again, we’ll start with some general views of the entire dress:

The two above views really show off the skirt front and because it’s lying flat, one can readily discern the longer trained skirt back. The lining is a rough cotton and from what we could tell, the pieces have been flat-felled (although we can’t be 100% certain).

Unfortunately, given the close space I was working in, I was unable to get a good full-length picture so these will have to do. The dress is constructed of an ivory/pink blush silk moire fabric with both bodice and skirt having vertical stripes with alternating pink blush and ivory strips of which the ivory strips have the watered silk appearance characteristic of moire. The bodice sleeves and neck are three-quarter and trimmed with silk lace and ribbons. Here are a few more views that show off the fashion fabric better, in the bright morning light the pink blush was almost lost to the naked eye.

Here’s a closer view of the bodice:

The above two pictures give a good view of the bodice front. The buttons are fully functional and it appears that the buttonholes were sewn in by hand, utilizing strips of gimp. Below are two views of the bodice back:

The bodice has the characteristic back “tail” that laid over the train and one can get a good look at the fashion fabric itself. The pink blush stripes are very subtle and faint in some places- possibly a product of sun fading. Below are some more views of the skirt:

The above two pictures give a good view of the hem on both sides. On the outside, one can see a combination of pleating combined with small bows. On the inside, the hem is a simple double-fold with a hidden catch stitch. Below is a detail view of one of the sleeves:

And here’s the bodice opened up to reveal the interior:

As with most bodices of the period, the interior is lightly boned on top of the major seams to give the bodice structure. The bone casings are made of a gauze silk/cotton(?)-like fabric and have been stitched into the lining and seams allowances.

Boning channels have been sewn in parallel to the buttonhole line.

And, if you have ever wondered just what sort of stitching was used for finishing the interior of the bodice, here’s a good close-up view:

Interior view of the bodice with stitching and the iconic Worth label.

Judging from the skirt and the bodice, we’d date this one from the early 1890s. The longer skirt back suggests that a bustle appliance of some sort would have been worn, most likely probably a pad (small pads were still in use during the 1890). Because of the bodice’s fragility, I was unable to get a good look at just how large the sleeve caps are but there’s definitely some room there. It’s definitely not the full-blown gigot sleeves of the mid 1890s but the style of the bodice is definitely headed that way. The skirt is composed of multiple gores, at least five to seven (we were unable to get an exact count).

From this picture, one can get a good idea of the fashion fabric.

The fashion fabric, as stated previously, is an ivory/pink blush silk moire fabric with both bodice and skirt having vertical stripes with alternating pink blush and ivory strips of which the ivory strips have the watered silk appearance characteristic of moire. This is an interesting choice of fabric and it’s pretty subtle. Although it’s hard to say with 100% certainty, this dress reads “bridal” and it would certainly work for that purpose although it could just as easily answer as a better visiting/afternoon dress or even a reception dress, depending on the event. Well, this pretty much wraps up our visit to the Fashion Museum Bath and we want to thank the staff for their assistant and patience. We hope to return in the near future and view some more dresses from their collection. Merci beaucoup! 🙂