John Redfern/Redfern & Sons, Part 3

Today we will look a bit more at Redfern’s work. Although he was known for his tailored styles, there was also a softer side:


Day Dress, Redfern, 1892; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1981.515.1a, b)

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The label to go along with the dress.

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This is an excellent example of a “transitional” dress, moving from the late 1880s to the early 1890s. The basic fabric is a striped silk that is understated- if you look carefully at the stripes, you can see a series of curved lines (it’s unclear what exactly is creating this effect since there are no close-up pictures available). In contrast to the earlier late 1880s style, the bodice ends at the waist. Also, in continuation of earlier style trends, the bodice has been constructed so that it gives the appearance of being a jacket with a separate shirtwaist underneath (what could be termed the “faux waistcoat/shirtwaist effect”).

The trim on the skirt is relatively restrained and one can see that there is no bustle present (or perhaps a vestigial one in the form of a small pad set in the rear). With the high collar, minimal trim, and muted fabrics, it creates a style that reads “rich and conservative.” This is an elegant but by means daring dress design.

Walking suits made up a large part of Redfern’s market and in here is just one example that was at a recent auction:

8836a539b7712369ddc34a1dc8ba0cef (1) H3839-L13431958 (1)  H3839-L13431980 (1)

H3839-L13431974 (1)

From the above, one can see the detailed soutache trim that was characteristic of many of Redfern’s designs.

H3839-L13431968 (1)

H3839-L13431962 (1)


Matching hat by Louise & Company, Regent Street

According the auction website, this dress dates from circa 1889 and I tend to agree. One can see a definite bustle effect; it is not as extreme as those characteristic of the mid 1880s but it is still there. Also, the sleeves are form-fitting with no excess gathering or “kickout” at the sleeve caps. The dress itself is constructed from a wool fabric and the bodice is boned and trimmed in fur along the bottom. The bodice stops at the waist and has a slight basque-like curve in the front and tails in the rear to accommodate the fullness of the bustle. The skirt itself is side-buttoning.

Unfortunately, there are no details as to the provenance of the dress so all we can go on is the auction description and what can be seen in the photographs. Overall, this fits nicely in the continuum of Redfern’s designs during the late 1880s and early 1890s.

In our next installment, we will take a lot at Redfern’s later designs that increasingly become more mainstream, moving away from the tailored garments.

To Be Continued… 

John Redfern/Redfern & Sons, Part 2

We continue the Redfern story further. As previously mentioned, Redfern came at women’s fashion from the perspective of a tailor and it was event in his work. One of the Redfern’s specialties was what could be called “sportswear Victorian style” and this was evident in his riding habits. From a style perspective, riding habits were relatively conservative and had a minimum of embellishments because of their function as clothes for riding a horse.  Below are some examples:


Riding Habit, Redfern, 1885 – 1886; Wool flannel trimmed in Mohair braid, sateen lining; Victorian & Albert Museum (T.430-1990)


Front profile view. It must be noted that the lighting must have been vastly different because the color is completely different from the other pictures.



9cbd3df36c8f3eb50119c2fcaceaa4bcThe above riding habit is interesting for several reasons. First, it’s a two-tone, something not often seen in riding habits of the 1880s, with a black skirt and a royal blue bodice. Also, one can see distinct military influences with the Mohair braid patterns on both cuffs and the use of Brandenburgs on the front in a style reminiscent of Hussar-style uniforms. The braid patterns on the back skirt also take this idea further. Finally, the most striking aspect is that the coat is asymmetrical, the right flap overlapping the right and then flaring out wider towards the top, creating an almost double-breasted effect. The overall effect is a stylish look yet it keeps to the conservative style convention characteristic of riding habits. Finally, it must be noted that with little exception (at least outside of frontier places like the American West or South Africa, women rode side-saddle during this era and skits tended to be over-sized.

Here’s a little more information on the provenance of the above garment:

The tailoring firm Redfern and Co., made this riding jacket for May Primrose Littledale…During the mid-1880s Redfern incorporated braiding into many of their designs for walking outfits and outdoor jackets. The Queen magazine of 10 May 1884 commented on some particularly striking examples including, ‘The “Hungarian” … lavishly adorned with finest mohair braid, and finished with knotted cords; and the “Polish”, of royal blue “faced” cloth … handsomely braided across the front.’ Unfortunately May did not have long to enjoy wearing this jacket as she died soon after it was made.

Redfern’s military style is also evident in this jacket:


Jacket, Redfern, c. 1880 – 1910; Black and white wool tweed trimmed in red piping; Goldstein Museum of Design (1977.005.009)

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Like the riding habit above, The above jacket displays distinct military styling and especially in the use of the buttons and piping trim. In the front, we see the same flared double-breasted style flap although this time it’s only the buttons that provide the decorative embellishments. Unfortunately, the Goldstein Museum of Design, where the jacket resides, provides little in the way of background information but based on the style and the similarity to the riding habit, the late 1880s or early 1890s is mostly likely not too far off. It would have been nice to have known what the original skirt looked like that went with this.

In the above examples we see Redfern’s tailoring at work, creating structured garments that are almost severe- only the fabrics and trim soften things a bit.  In the next installment, we’ll look at some more of Redfern’s work and see that he didn’t just make tailored garments.

To be Continued…