Fashion Evolution- The Late 1870s

In keeping with the theme of fashion evolution, here’s a post covering fashion evolution during the late 1870s. Enjoy! 🙂


The late 1870s were a time of transition as styles moved away from the full bustled trains characteristic of the First Bustle Era and evolved towards the cylindrical silhouette of the Middle Bustle Era or Natural Form Era. The transition to the Middle Bustle Era could be said to have begun as early as 1875-76 although it wouldn’t come into full flower until 1878-79. The June 1877 issue of Peterson’s Magazine notes that:

There are three popular styles now, the Princess polonaise, basque bodices, with upper and lower skirts, and Princess dresses. The prominent points in the best polonaises are the long seams in the back, the plainness of the tournure, and sufficient length to give a slender effect. Fringes and wide galloons are the trimmings universally used, and the galloon is very generally arranged in sloping lines, or a long V down the back from shoulders to waist; small fichus, or mantles or the same material, complete the costume. The aim appears to give the costume the effect of a Princess dress; and in most cases, the merest glimpse of the under-skirt is all that is visible; therefore it is made both narrow and clinging, and is usually trimmed all round alike. The drawing-string across the back breadths is always added, no matter how closely the skirt is cut to the figure.

In these new dresses the shoulder-seams are very short, the neck is cut very high at the back, and the tight sleeves have the upper half slightly gathered on the elbows, to fit the arm more perfectly.

From the above commentary, it would seem that there are three styles at work: the older conventional basque bodice and skirt combination dress; the princess line dress; and the princess polonaise which appears to be somewhat of a hybrid between the first two styles.

Le Moniteur De La Mode, 1877

So how do these styles appear? Well, to begin, here’s one princess dress design that was marketed as a pattern in the October 1877 issue of Peterson’s:

Here’s another princess dress style, this time from the April issue of Demorest’s Family Magazine, that was also marketed as a pattern:

The above design is described as a:

A short, tight-fitting “Princess” dress, with the front opened at the left
side in “Breton” style, side-forms front and back extending to the shoulders, and side gores under the arms. A wide sash is draped across the front, and tied loosely in a knot at the left side, and the edge of the skirt is finished by a side plaiting. The back piece is full, being crossed by three clusters of shirred tucks, and is finished by a deep flounce that is, in its turn, ornamented with three side plaitings [pleats]. Two back pieces are given with the pattern,the full outer piece extending the entire length, and a shorter plain piece to which the shirred tucks are to be secured. The sleeves are trimmed to match the back. The collar may be of the same material as the dress, or be of lace, to suit the taste. The design can be suitably made up in a variety of dress goods, excepting perhaps the heaviest, and is especially desirable for thin fabrics, and a combination of colors or materials.

The above description pretty much hits all the high points as to what characterizes the princess dress design and there was a lot of variation in terms of fabrics and trim. Below are a few images of extant princess dresses:

Day Dress, c. 1870 – 1880; V&A Museum (CIRC.606-1962)

 

Day Dress, c. 1876 – 1878; Manchester City Galleries

Day Dress, Princess Line, c. 1878; National Museum, Prague (H2-193316)

Next, there’s this design for a house dress in the “Princess polonaise” style that was also marketed as a pattern:

In the description of the dress, it’s noted that “the polonaise is trimmed to correspond with the skirt and that it’s princess in form and slightly draped at the back where it’s caught up in a row of ribbon to match.” Essentially, this dress consists of a skirt and polonaise with the polonaise cut in single long pieces in the princess style, with no sewn waist.

The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, July 1877

Here’s another take on the princess polonaise style that was offered for sale as a pattern in the February 1878 issue of Demorest’s Family Magazine:

The description for this style is given as:

A “Princess” polonaise, having drapery in folds across the front, and revers turned back from the sides and joined over a full platting added to the short back pieces somewhat in the manner of a train. The design is tight-fitting, has a seam down the middle of the back, and is cut with side-forms carried to the shoulders; darts are taken out under the arms, and the fronts are fitted with the usual number of
darts on each side and buttoned down their entire length. The design is adapted to all classes of dress goods, and may be trimmed in any manner that will correspond with the material chosen.

Just for reference, here’s another illustration of this style:

Image result for princess polonaise

Finally, the basque bodice and skirt combination style was predominant during the early to mid 1870s and it could take a number of different forms. Below are a few examples from 1876-77:

Day Day, c. 1875 – 1877

Worth, Ensemble-Reception Dress, c. 1877 – 1878; Cincinnati Art Museum (1986.1200a-c)

Dinner Dress, c. 1876; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1975.227.3)

Day Dress, 1876; Philadelphia Museum of Art (1969-147-1a,b)

The above examples of all three styles are just a fraction of the wide variety of styles that were out there but it does convey that there were a number of different styles in circulation during the mid to late 1870s. Ultimately, the basque bodice and skirt combination would be left behind and by 1880 we see an almost complete transition in styles. Of course, as with every style shift, there were hold-outs who clung to older styles but as a mass movement, it was clear that styles were evolving. In future posts, we’ll attempt to further document fashion changes that occurred during the late Nineteenth Century so stay tuned! 🙂



Shades Of Green…

The color green in its various shades has always been one of the color cornerstones of the Lily Absinthe color palette. Below are a few dresses that illustrate the range of greens that have appeared in some of our designs:



 

1890s Evening Wear, Part 4

ball gown fashion plate 1899

By the mid 1890s, the gigot sleeve trend was in full bloom and while perhaps not as extreme as the sleeves found on day dresses, it did exert an influence on evening dresses.
Fashion Plate Ball Gown 1897 Evening Gown

Evening Gown c. 1894 Morin-Blossier

Morin-Blossier, Evening Gown, c. 1894; Vintage Textile sales website

Evening Gown c. 1894 Morin-Blossier

Close-Up Of Bodice

Maison Felix Evening Dress 1895

Maison Felix, Evening Dress, 1895; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.65.16.1a–d)

Evening Gown c. 1895

Evening Gown, c. 1895; The Museum at FIT (2007.27.1)

The above are just some examples of the gigot sleeve trend going on during the mid 1890s. Although not as extreme as the sleeves found on day dresses, we still see greater attention paid to this area than before.

Evening Gown Ball Gown Worth c. 1896 - 1897

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

However, as with all fashion trends throughout the ages, a particular style will be developed to an extreme and a subsequent reaction will arise in opposition. This was the situation with gigot sleeves and by the late 1890s, sleeves had once again acquired become slender proportions. Fixing a precise date as to when this shift began is not easy but even as early as late 1896, there were rumblings in the fashion world as detailed in this passage from the September 13, 1896 edition of the Los Angeles Times:

The world may stop wondering now, for at last Mrs. Fashion has consented to speak about autumn and winter modes. The gist of her talk, however concerns skirts and sleeves (after all the two vital points of dress) both of which are to grow beautifully smaller and narrower until the reaction against width has been satisfied.

Already indeed, the circumference of the smallest skirt is reduced by more than half of what it was in the spring while a skirt  with godets all around is to midish opinion, almost as old fashioned as overskirt and paniers [sic].

In reaction, evening dress sleeves began to become somewhat simplified with an emphasis on decorated straps or sleeves constructed with loose layers of gauze/tulle. Of course, there was a wide degree of variation in the sleeve style but nevertheless, one can see a movement away from the over gigot style.

Doucet Ballgown 1898 - 1900

Doucet, Ballgown, 1898 – 1900; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.3275a–c)

Doucet Ballgown 1898 - 1900

Three-Quarter Front View

Doucet Ballgown c. 1898 - 1902

Doucet, Ballgown, c. 1898 – 1902; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.3274a, b)

Worth Ballgown 1898

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

Worth Evening Dress 1896

Evening Dress, Worth, 1896; Palais Galliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris (GAL1978.20.1)

Worth Ball Gown 1899

Worth, Ball Gown, 1899; Metropolitan Museum of Art (26.381a-b_front 0004)

Aside from the sleeves, there was little else to distinguish evening dresses during the 1890s- all were designed in a distinct hourglass style with narrow waists and large multi-gored skirts with trains of varying length. Finally, although the pronounced bustles of the late 1880s had disappeared, padding was still used as a means of maintaining  a smooth silhouette and providing support to the train.

Transitions in fashion styles is not always clear-cut and direct, rather it’s often more of a blur as an older style gives way a newer one. Fashion change came at a much slower pace than what we see today and changes that were measured in years are now measured in months, if not weeks and days. By no means to we profess to have the last word when it comes to evening fashions of the 1890s but rather, we try to point out some of the salient featured. We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief tour of 1890s evening wear and we look forward to posting more about this in the future.



1890s Evening Wear, Part 3

The high 1890s- that period from 1895 through 1896 when enormous gigot sleeves, acres of lace, and multi-gored skirts ruled the fashion world and evening wear was no exception. In this post, we continue our survey of 1890s evening wear with a focus on ballgowns in particular; also, as noted in the last post, in the mid 1890s, the gigot sleeves trend also affected evening wear but to not as great extent as was the case with day wear.

So, what was the mid-1890s ballgown like? Here’s a brief description from the September 14, 1895 edition of the Los Angeles Times:

To approach the new. ball dress from a technical standpoint is to talk at once of the cut or its skirt. ‘Tis sliced out of taffeta in two straight front and three wedge-shaped back pieces, for in these days of undivided skirt patterns all the fullness goes to the rear. Underneath it Is braced by a lining of stiffly starched muslin and inside up to the knees are mewed a great many overlapping flounces of silk muslin edged with lace or rows of little variegated palettes.

As was the case for daywear, the basic style centered around creating an “X” or hourglass silhouette through a combination of corsetry, gored skirts, and wedge-shaped tops. Gigot sleeves helped accentuate the top but they were used in varying amounts of fullness and in some instances were minimal such as with these examples:

 

Ball Gown Jeanne Paquin 1895

Jeannie Paquin, Ballgown, c. 1895; Staatliche Museen Berlin (2003,KR 424 a-c)

Evening Dress Ball Gown 1897 Worth

Worth, Evening Dress, 1897; Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation via Europeana (2006.6.0416)

And now for some with more elaborate sleeve treatments:

Evening Dress c. 1895

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

We would be inclined to say that the above dress is more of an evening dress than a ballgown but sometimes the dividing line can be fluid. And here’s a ballgown with a bit more sleeve:

Evening Gown Ball Gown Worth c. 1896 - 1897

Worth, Ballgown, c. 1896 – 1897; Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti via Europeana Fashion

Doucet Ballgown 1897

Doucet, Ballgown, 1897; Metropolitan Museum of Art (49.3.26a, b)

From most of the extant examples, it would appear that when it came to mid-1890s ballgowns, their design pretty much followed the general trends of the time with the exception that the sleeves which tended to not be as extreme as was found with daywear. On the other hand, evening gowns (a more general term for dresses that were worn for formal occasions other than balls) tended towards daywear in sleeve style. In the end, it’s logical that ballgowns would diverge some from sheer practicality:- ballgowns placed an emphasis on bare arms and a low cut bodice (a continuation of the earlier 1870s and 80s style), and gigot sleeves worked against this.

It’s easy to get lost in all the details and that especially with evening wear. In the next installment, we’ll delve more into the late 1890s. Stay tuned!

(To Be Continued…)

 



1890s Evening Wear, Part 2

John Lavery Ball Gown 1894

John Lavery, “Miss Mary Burrell”, 1894 – 1895; Glasgow Museums (35.297)

And now we move on to the Mid 1890s when gigot (aka leg-of-mutton) sleeves began to come into its own as a major fashion trend. The gigot sleeve built on the “X” or wasp-waist dress silhouette that had slowly began to take hold in 1890 – 1891. As the decade progressed, the size of gigot sleeves increased to excessive proportions to the point of absurdity as satirized in this 1895 cartoon in Punch:

All joking aside, the gigot sleeve was a revival of an earlier style that was popular during the 1830s (yes, that which is old is new again! 😉 ) and as with its earlier incarnation, sleeve size ballooned to extreme size. Here are a couple views of the 1830s version:

Image result for 1830s gigot sleeve

Image result for 1830s gigot sleeve

Gigot sleeves could be quite large and complex to the point where special structures were needed to support them:

 

Gigot Sleeves Pattern

Pattern For A Gigot Sleeve

And now, we’ll see some examples as it applied to 1890s evening wear, first with a creation from Worth, circa 1895 – 1896:

102401

The dress is constructed from an ivory colored silk that’s better illustrated below.

35.134.2ab_F

Front

35.134.2ab_B

Rear

And for some detail:

And for another example from 1894:

Evening Dress 1894

Evening Dress, 1894; Cincinnati Art Museum (1996.375a-e)

 

Evening Dress c. Mid-1890s

Evening Dress, c. Mid-1890s; National Museums of Northern Ireland

Evening Dress c. 1895

Evening Dress, c. 1895; Nordiska Museet

From the above, we have a good representative example Mid-1890s evening dresses. Now, it must be noted that while evening and day dress sleeve styles tended to mirror each other, it was not so strict when it came to ball gowns and in the next we’ll look at this phenomenon further.

(To be continued…)