Trending For The 1890s: The Wrapper

As with many garments, the wrapper started off as a simple, practical garment that was intended for informal wear at home. However, as with all fashions, the wrapper gradually morphed into a more elaborate garment that could be quite elaborate and was clearly intended for more a more public wearing at home, at least for close friends. The popularity of wrappers can be attest to in the variety of patterns that were available on the market and they were widely advertised as with this one from the Butterick Publishing Company that appeared in the February 1895 issue of The Delineator:

And here’s just one of their patterns, No. 7437:

And for a description:

This illustrates a Ladies’ wrapper. The pattern, which is No. 7437 and costs 1s 6d or 35 cents, is in thirteen sizes from twenty-eight to fourty-six inches bust measure…

Refined women are careful to be gowned as neatly when attending to their domestic duties, as when receiving formal callers, and the wrapper here shown, being planned with especial grace and precision,
will be a general favorite for a variety of indoor uses. Figured challis showing blue tints is here combined with plain silk.

The garment receives its trim and close adjustment from the lining, which extends only a trifle below the waist-line and is carefully fitted by double bust and single under-arm darts; and the fronts and back are shaped to outline a round yoke on the fitted lining, and are turned under deeply at the top and  shirred to form a frill heading; the fullness is drawn well to the waist-line and collected in short rows of shirring, and the part of the lining exposed with round-yoke effect is faced with silk. The rolling collar is of silk and had square ends that flare prettily, and a silk rosette decorates the front the front at the waist-line at each side of the shirring.

The full sleeves are mounted on coat-shaped linings, which are revealed with round-cuff and faced with silk. A band of silk decorates the lower edge of the wrapper. The wrapper may be developed in inexpensive silk, cashmere, Henrietta1Henrietta cloth is tightly woven twill fabric, usually made completely from extremely fine wool although silk warp threads were often used., challis or any pretty washable fabric, dark and pale tints being equally effective; and decoration may be contributed by a material that contrasts harmoniously.

Whew, that’s a mouthful! From the description, it’s clear that this is not a “simple” garment and that some work is required to pull this off successfully. 🙂

However, as with all fashion, there was also some push-back in regard to wrappers. In a commentary on warm weather clothing in the July 3, 1897 issue of Harper’s Bazar, it’s noted that:

While a thin gown fits well and is clean. it is the prettiest apparel possible, but when it is soiled, or, worse still, when it is in the form of a
loose Mother Hubbard wrapper, it is slovenly in the extreme. Many women who are neat in winter seem to think that carelessness of attire in summer is permissible and conducive to coolness. They therefore, on the hottest days, cast aside collars and cuffs, ruches and ribbons, and the other dainties that make women attractive and in their own homes remove their corsets, put on thin wrappers, and look generally deplorable. Still in the hope of keeping cool, they take as little exercise as possible and perform only such work as is absolutely necessary.

As a matter of fact this kind of self-indulgence is a mistake. Heat, like every other is comfort, grows in its power over us as we allow our minds to dwell upon it. We can not totally ignore its existence, but if dressed coolly and becomingly, we go about the duties of the day, we shall actually suffer less than if we cast aside outward conventionalities and devote the energies of our bodies and souls to keeping cool.

The woman who has not the time to sit still and pant and fan suffers infinitely less with heat than does her indolent sister. This kind of thing is after all, entirely a matter of habit, and a well-fitting gown, when one is accustomed to it, will prove quite as comfortable as the loose, unbelted, and thoroughly untidy wrapper. An abundance of will-power and a goodly supply of patience are the best qualities with
which to provide one’s self at this trying period of the year.

The arguments in the above commentary reflects the Victorian precepts of the importance about maintaining appearances and looking tidy. While one can argue the about the merits of the above commentary, it is interesting that loose-fitting wrappers are singled out because they encouraged a “slovenly” appearance. This is a bit reminiscent of the criticism leveled at athleisure wear today. It’s interesting that many of the same criticisms leveled at certain styles over a hundred years ago once again turn up again, albeit in a slightly different form.

Stay tuned for on wrappers in future posts. 🙂

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