And For Another Waist And Skirt Style…

And continue the theme of 1890s waist and skirt style, today we focus on another skirt and waist combination that was featured in an 1896 edition of La Mode Pratique:

Here’s a rough translation of the description:

Dinner dress for a young woman; satin skirt; batiste bodice with polka dots decorated with a yoke and a belt of guipure lace1Guipure was a heavy lace consisting of embroidered motifs joined together by large connecting stitches.; draped satin collar; long white suede gloves.

This is a very elegant version of the waist and skirt style with the skirt being constructed of a brown silk satin combined with a waist/bodice2The terms “bodice” and “waist” or “blouse” were often used intern changeably. The term “corsage” was also used both in English and French. Often the lines seem to blur. constructed from a silk batiste trimmed with a matching lace collar and belt made of a white or ivory guipure lace (hard to tell from the illustration). What is also interesting is that the waist is a belted waist, meant for wear over the dress rather than being tucked in at the skirt waist line. Finally, to complete this outfit, there is also a pair of white suede gloves.

As can be seen from the above illustration, this style is a bit more formal than what was normally associated with the typical waist and skirt style of the era- that of a simple skirt and blouse-like shirtwaist (or waist. Here, the belted waist becomes more formal, bordering on a conventional dress bodice but yet, not quite; filling a niche- dressy but not too dressy- and is a perfect way to make an outfit serve in multiple roles. Moreover, we believe that this style is a perfect candidate for being recreated, because of its versatility. To us, the belted waist is a very under-represented style when looking at today’s recreated garments yet it was a very popular style of the 1890s. The belted waist came in a variety of styles for a number of price points to include sewing patterns for the home-sewer like these:

And here’s an extent example:

Day Dress, Cotton, c. 1890s; Augusta Auctions

We hope that you’ve enjoyed this close-up of just one of many waist and skirt styles that were in existence during the 1890s and we hope to be posting more in the future. 🙂

Today’s 1890s Fashion Feature…

Today’s 1890s style is a skirt and waist combination that was featured in an 1896 edition of La Mode Pratique:

Roughly translated, the description reads:

The skirt is a very dark purple Liberty velvet. The silk blouse is a water- green brocaded silk blouse with soft pink designs.; Water green brocaded. A light light lace imitating point d’Angleterre (English lace)1A bobbin lace of English origin.; velvet collar and belt.

What is most notable is that we’re seeing a very refined version of the waist and skirt combination style that was becoming extremely popular during the 1890s. While originally intended as practical garments for everyday wear, the style illustrated above takes the style further with the skirt made from a violet silk velvet, presumably obtained from Liberty London. The waist is a water green silk brocade with what appears to be a soft pink colored floral design. To establish a better of idea of “water green,” here’s a picture of some silk habotai in that color, subject to the differences in color that can arise from computer imagery:

The above style is the perfect demonstration of how what was originally meant as a simple practical outfit has now been elevated into something more high fashion. This elevating process has been a constant element in the evolution of fashion both during the late Nineteenth Century and today. Probably the best example today is how jeans were transformed from simple practical pants that were intended for manual laborers has now been elevated into high fashion, and on some occasions, haute couture.  We hope you have found this to be as inspiring to you as it’s been for us. 🙂



And For More On Waists…

In our last post, we discussed the development of the waist (or shirtwaist) during the Mid 1890s and how waists were more than just simple blouse-like garments. Today, we take a step back where we find that even in the late 1880s, the waist was developing as part of a complete outfit. One example of this can found in the March 1889 issue of Demorest’s Family Magazine where a pattern called the “Sybil Waist” was offered for sale:

According to the description:

The least expensive washable goods, cashmere, veiling, and other light qualities of woolens, surah and India silks can be made up after this model, which will be very popular for summer wear either with various skirts, or with one made of the same goods. It is the same back and front, and, if preferred, the part below the belt can be worn under the skirt, which can be lifted high enough to make the waist as short as desired.

Surah in light colors, sometimes striped in two colors. as pale blue and pink, or cream with pink, or blue, is now being made into waists of this style for summer wear with different skirts. Some have fine tucks, as illustrated; others have the spaces shirred; and still others are smocked, or honey-combed. The pattern will admit of either of these arrangements. For simpler materials and washable goods, the tucks are preferable; and a full skirt of straight breadths, with a broad sash tied in a large bow at the back, combines nicely with it. Though most effective, it is not essential that velvet should be used in combination.

The above style is interesting and reinforces the idea that the waist was not simply a separate fashion item but also, it was part of an integrated outfit. Here is an example of extant dress similar to what was envisioned with the Sybil Waist:

Day Dress, Cotton, c. 1890s; Augusta Auctions

The waist’s style is very similar to the Sybil Waist- collars, cuffs, and decorative details can vary but the basic style is pretty much the same.

The above example was found on the Augusta Auctions website and while the dating is imprecise, it seems to fit into the early 1890s pretty nicely. The dress and waist/bodice are made of a cotton fabric and it definitely leaned more towards “casual wear.” In a similar vein, below are two more extant waist examples:

Shirt Waist, c. 1890s; FIDM Museum (2003.793.7AB)

Shirt Waist, c. 1890s; Museum of Fine Arts Boston (2006.1180)

Waists are an interesting element in 1890s style and the idea of entire dress outfits that incorporates the waist as an integral element represented a new and interesting fashion development and provides a fertile field of reconstructing historical fashions.

Trending For March 1895- Waists

In this post, we move forward a few years to 1895 to take a look at some of the latest fashion trends that were now in full flower.  One of the most noteworthy trends was the waist and skirt combination. As noted in the March 1895 issue of Demorest’s Family Magazine,

The most important feature in woman’s dress now is the convenient separate skirt with its variety of plain or fancy waists, with which its owner can adapt it for almost any social function. A skirt of black moire, satin, or crépon, and one of white satin, with half a dozen corsages [bodices], high and low, are the most useful gowns a woman can have for a short visit to gay social centers during the season.

All the ingenuity which was formerly expended on the whole gown is now lavished on the corsage; and while the main features—greatly expanded sleeves and drooping blouse front—are similar in all, the skillful modistes yet contrive to make no two alike. They have the advantage of fabrics and trimmings which were never before approached in beauty. There are silk crêpes and crépons in every conceivable weave and in all evening shades, at prices that bring them within the reach of all; and they are much to be preferred to chiffon unless it is accordion-plaited.

The plaited chiffon waists are extremely chic, and must remain exclusive because of their cost; but the puffed ones do not approach
them in elegance, and are fragile in the extreme, even looking mussed in the shops, before they are worn. Some of the handsomest waists are of white or pale-tinted satin or silk, veiled with jetted or spangled black lace. Worn with black or colored skirts they are suitable for the theater or receptions.

As indicated above, the waist and skirt combination offered added flexibility in wardrobes that hadn’t previously existed while giving full scope to creativity in terms of fabric and trim choices as well as construction details. In short, the waist could be as plain or as elaborate as the wearer desired.  To better visualize the possibilities, the same issue of Demorest’s provides us with some illustrations of waist patterns which Demorest’s offered for sale:

No. 4, The Theater Waist, is especially interesting in its construction:

…velvet, white or cream lace, and mousseline de soie of any light.becoming color. The back is entirely of velvet, and the lace is carried entirely around the arm holes.

The velvet back is not something one would normally associated with a waist and it could be argued that this was more of a transitional garment that offered the convenience of a waist while having more substance found in bodices. This may be an exception but it still introduces an interesting idea, especially when the waist/skirt combination was being touted as an alternative outfit suitable for wear at a variety of social occasions.

How elaborate could a waist get? Well, pretty elaborate as demonstrated by this pattern offered for sale in the April 1894 issue of the The Deliminator:


And the waist itself:


In the pattern description for the above waist, it’s noted that a variety of fabrics can be utilized to include “all varieties of fancy plaid and changeable silks, woolens of any description, and such fashionable cottons such as gingham, percale, chambray, and crépon.” To us, this garment is bordering on an unstructured bodice (the structure, no doubt, supplied by the corset) and while it may be a matter of semantics, there’s definitely been a blurring of clothing definitions.

It would appear that the characterization of the waist as being a simple blouse-like garment is not the case but instead, was much more refined garment that often mimicked the bodice and as such was considered a complete upper garment in its own right, acceptable wear for a variety of social occasions. Also, while more simple waists were worn in combination with a short jacket, it would also appear that many of the more elaborate waists were worn as outerwear in their own right (although a coat no doubt would have been worn in colder weather).

Unfortunately, we have been unable to locate any extant waists of the elaborate type so the search will have to continue but clearly these garments were work- it’s doubtful that the trouble and expense of creating and printing the necessary patterns would have been undertaken if this hadn’t been the case. In the end, the idea of the waist as a near-bodice is a thought-provoking one and bears more study.