Early Princess Style…

It’s generally accepted that the princess dress style began to gain traction around 1876-1878. However,  as with most fashion trends, the princess dress didn’t just spontaneously appear but rather it was a product of an evolutionary process that we’ve managed to trace back to at least 1874.  One of the more logical places for the princess style to develop was with house dresses because of their simple, relatively loose construction. Below are two designs that were offered for sale as patterns in the October 1874 issue of Demorest’s Family Magazine:

The Griselda Polonaise is described as:

The recent styles, however furnish a concession to the rage for jackets, and by a clever addition of a “basque,” or “jacket ” back, give the effect of two separate parts to the costume. A stylish example of this is illustrated in the “Griselda” polonaise, one of the prettiest, and at the same time, one of the most practical designs of the season. It is long, straight around, with just enough fullness to make it graceful, and is fitted with a slashed basque, which comes far enough forward to furnish the jacket effect. The revers collar extends into square tabs at the back—tho ends of which are finished with woolen ball, or tasseled fringe to match the basque. Plaitings may be employed if the design is used in the making of an alpaca suit, but the whole amount of fringe required, will not be over a yard and a-half.

What is interesting about the “Griselda Polonaise” is that it’s not referred to at all as a princess dress but rather focuses on the faux jacket style that serves to create an illusion that there are two separate parts the dress. Of course, one look at the dress front illustration makes it clear that this is a one-piece garment.

The Camilla Gabrielle as:

A new style of the princess dress will be found in the “camilla” gabrielle, a very dressy design, easily arranged however, and adapted to a wide class of materials…it forms a ladylike indoor dress for either city or country, requires a comparatively small amount of material, and but little trimming to make a stylish dress.

Both of the above styles are very elegant versions of the indoor house dress while at the same time emphasizing that they don’t require a lot of expensive materials.  Here’s an extant example of a house dress from circa 1875:

House Dress, 1875; Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti

This dress has a princess silhouette and is constructed from a combination of lavender and dark purple/eggplant silk taffeta. This style is very similar to the above engravings from Demorest’s with a few  variations on decorative treatments. What’s striking about this dress is the use of contrasting dark and light panels, a feature that would become common into the late 1870s. Also, we can see that with this style, it wasn’t too far of a leap to migrate into a full-blown day dress suitable for wear outside the house as can be seen with this example:

Another interesting feature about the earlier princess style dresses is that we can also see an evolution from a long polonaise into a more proper dress and this is evident with the these two dress styles that appeared in the June 4, 1876 and August 2, 1876 issues of Le Moniteur de la Mode:

In the above two fashion plates, one can see very visible underskirts that are more than simple hems but rather suggest that the style started with a two-piece skirt and polonaise with the polonaise becoming longer to the point where an underskirt was either no longer needed or remained in a vestigial form with an elaborate hem and train.  Now, just to throw some other elements into the princess dress style, there’s this plate, also from an 1876 issue of Le Moniteur de la Mode:

Here we see the princess line combined with an outer redingote combined with the suggestion of an underskirt and waist/vest (we believe that much of this would have actually been of a one-piece construction.  The redingote, combined with the wide lapels and elaborate tails, definitely reads Directoire; whether this was solely a concept piece only depicted in a fashion plate or actually makes for interesting speculation. In the end, the only major takeaway from all of this is that fashion evolves while at the same time combining other style elements in a seemingly endless variety of combinations and it can be said that there’s definitely a lot to consider in designing a recreation of the princess style dress, whether it’s a house dress, tea gown, or full-blown day/afternoon dress.



Some More Redingote Style…

Redingote style turns up over and over again in late Nineteenth Century fashion and this was especially true during the Mid-Bustle/Natural Form Era. From roughly 1877 through 1883, the fashion silhouette moved away from the earlier bustled style to a more slender, cylindrical silhouette. One interesting example of this redingote style can found in this dress:

Day Dress c. 1875-1880; Norsk Folkemuseum NF.1935-0014)

What especially makes this dress interesting is that the redingote incorporates the low demi-train characteristic this period. Also, from the photos, it appears that the redingote gives the appearance of having been cut from one piece of fabric thus giving it a princess-line appearance (albeit incomplete). At the same time, while the basque bodice and under-skirt appears to be separate pieces, this still give a very princess line effect. Without actually examining the dress in person, it’s difficult to say for sure but from what we can tell, it appears the redingote and the bodice are attached and most likely the bodice is a faux bodice, just nothing more than two front pieces. Here’s a closer view of the bodice:

Also the dress designer is unknown to us, it appears that they cleverly combined a number of style elements together in a well-blended manner. This period in fashion never fails to amaze us and is always a source of inspiration. 🙂

Redingote Redux

Redingotes…just when you thought we’ve exhausted this topic, we managed to find another interesting redingote dress design that we just had to share. 🙂 Today’s find is from the December 1890 issue of Demorest’s Family Magazine and was offered for sale as a sewing pattern as the “Francillon”:

Here’s the accompanying description:

An essentially stylish garment, tight-fitting, with a plain redingote back combined with the style of front shown. The illustration represents it made in broché serge of a rich garnet tint, with revers, standing collar, and sleeve-facings of black velvet, a vest of garnet silk brocaded with gold filigree gold clasps at the throat and waist, and a narrow border of black Persian lamb on the collar, revers, and sleeves. The hat is of pearl-gray felt, trimmed with gray, ostrich-tips and faced with garnet velvet.

The design is equally suitable for inexpensive materials, and being a thoroughly protective garment is adapted for the most practical uses, it being easy to make it more simple by the omission of the revers and the full vest.

In the “Francillon,” one can see the Directoire style influence in the wide lapels/revers  which should come as no surprise as both styles existed together back in the late 1700s. The fabric choice, broché serge, is an interesting one that it’s a wool twill fabric fabric (serge) with an ornamental pattern that’s has the appearance of being finely stitched or embroidered (i.e. a brocade); in actuality, the pattern has been woven (broché and brocade are often used interchangeably). Below is a modern day version:

Metallic Gold/Peach/Beige Soft Wool Brocade

For recreating historical garments, redingotes such as the above are ideally suited in that a variety of fabrics and trims can be used and these can be as utilitarian or fancy as the maker desires. For us, the redingote is an especially interesting garment because there’s normally not much use for them in Southern California- the weather usually doesn’t get very cold so there’s little incentive to make these. Of course, one could utilize lighter fabrics such as tropical weight wool or linen but in the end, this style is probably going to be observed more than actually recreated, at least for us. 🙂

More On The Redingote…

In our last post, we noted that there were two basic redingote styles during the late 1880s/early 1890s: the functional coat meant to be worn as outerwear and the redingote as part of a complete dress style. In this post, we’re going to focus on the redingote as a dress style. For a little history, the redingote’s origins go back to the 18th Century and the term itself is a French corruption of “riding coat.” Initially, the redingote was a closely fitted coat with a flared skirt and was intended to be worn while horseback riding. Over time, the redingote evolved to something more formal that was worn for a number of social occasions. The redingote was inspired by men’s styles and as such they were typically made by a tailor as opposed to a mantua-maker. For a little historical context, here are some illustrations:

Redingote, c. 1790; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.2009.120)

Now let’s take a look at some redingote styles from the late Nineteenth Century starting first with this style featured in the April 1881 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:

Below is a full description of the style:

No. 2 Is a walking costume for a young lady, the material of which is summer camel’s hair cloth, light twilled flannel, de laine, de beige, albatross, cloth, or any of the endless variety of spring fabrics, may be used for this style of dress. The skirt, has, first a narrow knife-plaiting two and a-half inches deep. Over this, a side plaiting, or more properly a kilt-plaiting, a-half yard deep, on to which a puff is laid, six inches
from the bottom. This puff is gathered with a cord in the edge.

The polonaise is a revival of the old fashioned Redingote—cut with loose fronts and a tight-fitting back—belted in at the waist to fit the figure. This garment is double-breasted and finished with a rolling collar of silk or velvet. The belt, cuffs, loops, and ends, forming the garniture of the polonaise, are all made of silver silk or velvet, to match, or else of a contrasting color, or darker shade of the same color.

From the illustration may be seen about how far in front to leave the garment open. The edges arc simply piped with the silk. The fullness in the back is arranged in irregular pouffs. A similar bow of loops and ends is placed at the back, just below the waist line. The bows may be made of ribbon, if preferred. Ten to twelve yards of double width material will be required. For collar, cuffs, and belt, three-quarters of a yard of silk or velvet. One yard extra for loops or four yards of ribbon. Two dozen buttons. Fancy buttons are most fashionable.

Besides the technical details, what’s interesting is that the idea that the polonaise is a revival of the redingote. This is an interesting proposition although we’re more included to think that it’s more of a blurring of styles. From the example above, it would seem that the redingote itself has been modified to be more loose towards the bottom and treated as more of an overskirt.  Moving forward, we see another Redingote style in the September 1888 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:


Unfortunately, there’s no description but it’s clear that this style runs fairly true to the classic 1790s style with a double-breasted front combined with skirt opening up to reveal a patterned underskirt. And for a little variation, there’s this style from the October 1890 edition of Peterson’s Magazine:


The above dress is described as a:

…handsome street or traveling gown. It is made of gray cashmere or camel’s hair. The petticoat, of two tints of gray in stripes, is kilt-plaited [pleated] on the left side, up to the waist. The overdress is the newest style of redingote polonaise, the front of which has a few plaits near the waist to give a slight fullness. The back of the skirt is very full. The trimming for this gown is of gray plush or fur, as the individual taste may decide…

The above redingote is styled as more of a robe than a coat but the effect is similar. Another variation of sorts can be found in these two dresses by Pingat:

Reception Dress, Emile Pingat, c. 1885; Shelburne Museum (2010-75)

Three-Quarter Rear View

Pingat, Promenade Dress, 1888; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.7758a, b)

Rear View

Right Side Profile

These two dresses are very similar in style and look back more to the mid-Eighteenth Century with  the cut of the coat and trim details. The redingote dress style was an interesting style variant in the 1880s and 1890s and while in many respects it reflected its 18th and early 19th Century predecessors, it also added new elements such as the robe. Unfortunately for us, there are not a lot of extant examples out there so we’ve had to work through fashion publications and the fact that patterns were offered through publications such as Peterson’s and Demorest’s suggests that there was a demand for these designs by the public. In the future, we’ll be posting more on this subject and hopefully in the meantime, we’ll have found more interesting examples to show you all. 🙂

Trending For The Late 1880s/Early 1890s- Redingotes

In this post, we continue the outerwear theme, but this time with the redingote. Like the Directoire style, the redingote had its origins in the early 19th Century and so it only makes sense to also see its revival, albeit in a more limited form. So what defined this style? Some insight can be found in the January 12, 1889 issue of Harper’s Bazar in a description of Parisian fashion trends:

The garment most worn this winter, which hitherto has been as mild as that of Nice, is the redingote; and if severe weather should suddenly set in and oblige us to take refuge in furs, suspending the usefulness of the redingote, it will resume its ascendancy again next March. Made as it is now, it closely resembles a man’s coat. The revers are cut and rolled in the same fashion, the sleeves are similar, and the bodice of the street dress over which it is worn, usually of cloth, or Cheviot [a variety of wool fabric], or sometimes faille, bears the same relation to it as the masculine waistcoat to the coat.

The redingote, which is almost as long as the dress, is worn with different dresses, but if it is slashed in the back the breadths of the dress are usually of the same color, only the bodice front and skirt being different, as for instance, a black redingote over a dress which has back breadths of black faille. The great and unfortunate popularity which it has attained is entirely owing to our unusually mild temperature. All the fur-lined long cloaks and small wraps are as yet unemployed although doubtless their turn will come.

Beside the redingote cloak there are many pretty redingotes which form part of the dress, of brocade, or of Pompadour silks; these have revers turned back on the front, sometimes meeting at the waist with the open space above filled in by a lace plastron; below the waist, it spreads apart again, displaying a skirt of glacé silk, with embroidery or passementerie, or of a crêpe de Chine embroidered.

Simpler but not less pretty is a redingote  of plain or changeable silk opening on a plastron and skirt front of ancient silk— some old silk of the eighteenth century, which may possibly have been employed for furniture drapery in the interim, and is now restored to its original use. There is a perfect rage for old-time silks at this moment, and when one does not possess a sufficient quantity to make an entire skirt front, still there must be enough at least to furnish a gathered plastron and a collar and cuffs for a dress restored to its original use.

The above is interesting in that it differentiates two styles of redingotes: one that was a full-on coat; and one that was part of a dress style. The coat style is fairly straight-forward and functional as noted in the December 1891 issue of Demorest’s Family Magazine:

Probably there is no garment more convenient and comfortable for cold weather than a redingote: it is thoroughly protective, the arms are free, and it constitutes a complete walking-costume in itself. The “Lorenza” is a perfectly plain, double-breasted garment with a lap in the middle seam in the back, and is adapted to all seasonable materials suit able for outer garments. The illustration represents tan-colored, rough-surfaced cloth, trimmed with seal far. The hat is of brown velvet with brown ostrich-tips and a bow of orange-colored velvet.

Here’s an illustration of the Lorenza pattern redingote:

For a better idea of what they looked like, here’s one extant redingote that I found on the Augusta Auctions website:

In viewing the above redingote, it appears that it’s most likely late 1880s vintage: it’s structure is clearly shaped to accommodate a bustled skirt. This is an interesting combination of functional and decorate styles and definitely fulfills its function as outerwear. In our next post, we’ll explore the “dress redingote” style a bit more so stay tune! 🙂