Group Portrait- 1890s Style

And just for something different, we found this interesting group image from the late 1890s illustrating warm weather daywear:

In this group portrait, one can see a variety of shirt waist styles ranging from the fairly plain to ones with elaborate pleating and ruching. Also, the two women with neck ties caught our eye- they’re very similar to an ascot. The skirts are fairly similar with no obvious adornment and topped off with sashes or belts. Finally, it must be noted that the hats overwhelm everything else and definitely catch the eye on first view- each one is unique and very elaborate styling. The one in the middle is especially interesting with it’s avian theme; it’s hard to tell if that’s a complete bird, just the wings, or something that simulates a bird. 😉 Ultimately, the shirt waist was one of the defining elements in 1890s fashion and the variety of styles and materials that they were used is amazing and it’s even more amazing seeing them in a period image. Stay tuned for more! 🙂

From the September 25, 1898 edition of the Los Angeles Times.



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.