We arrive at 1860
with four significant facts that were to seriously affect fashion of the future. Firstly the sewing machine had been invented, secondly clothes would
in future become couture design led, thirdly synthetic dyes would make available
Fourthly in 1860 the crinoline domed skirt silhouette had
a flattened front and began to show a dramatic leaning toward the garment
Charles Worth thought the
crinoline skirt unattractive. However, he is associated with it, as he did manipulate the
style, as a result the shape soon changed to a new trained, softer bustled version, which
only the really rich found practical.
Right - Dress designed by Charles F. Worth for
Empress Elizabeth of Austria and painted by Winterhalter in 1865.
In 1864 Worth designed
an overskirt which could be lifted and buttoned up by tabs. This top skirt gave
a lot of scope for added ornamentation and by 1868 it was being drawn and looped
right up at the back creating drapery and fullness.
In 1866 the new Princess gown
also changed the line of fashionable dress. The Princess gown was cut in one
piece and consisted of a number of joined panels fitted and gored from shoulder
to hem that gave the figure shape
The Gabriel Princess gown with a small neat white collar was mainly
made in grey silk and followed the fuller skirt lines of the era. This is the
dress style often used to depict the constrained buttoned up repressed governess
character of Jane Eyre in films. Later Princess
styles were slimmer and much more form fitting. Sleeves in day dresses were
often of a banana shape.
By 1867 with the
fullness bunched up to the back of the skirt creating a polonaise style, crinolines and cages suddenly
disappeared evolving into tournures or bustles. The bustles supported
accentuated drapes on the hips.
Left - Women in the Garden by Claude Monet 1866-7. The Louvre Paris.
After 1868 Worth's overskirt really caught on in
England and contrasting underskirts and gown linings were all revealed as the
over top skirt was divided or turned back. Other top skirts were called aprons
and they were also draped making the wearer look like a piece of elaborate
upholstery. Rounder waistlines were fashionable and waistlines even began to
rise very slightly. On the left a tiered soft bustle ball gown of 1872.
Right - Apron style tablier top layer half skirt over
From 1870, ball gowns
always had a train. Soon by 1873 the train was seen in day dress.
By 1875 soft polonaise bustle
styles were becoming so extreme that the soft fullness began to drop down the
back of the garment and form itself into a tiered, draped and frilled train.
Trains were very heavily ornamented with frills, pleats, ruffles, braids and
fringing. The sewing machine instead of simplifying sewing, just became a tool
to add more ostentation.
Left - Painting 'Too Early' by James Tissot 1873 - Guildhall Art Gallery UK.
The other main feature of the style change was the
introduction of the cuirasse bodice which dipped front and back extending a
little over the hips. By 1880 the soft bustle
styles of the 1870s had totally disappeared.
The soft polonaise
style bustle styles were replaced
by Princess sheath garments without a waist seam with bodice and skirt cut in
one. The Princess line sheath had a bodice line similar to the very tight
fitting cuirasse bodices which had been getting longer and longer.
Right - Slim fitting trained dress with cuirasse
bodice 1876. By 1878 the cuirasse bodice reached the thighs.
By 1878 the cuirasse bodices had reached the thighs. The cuirasse bodice was corset like and
dipped even deeper both front and back extending well down the hips creating the
look of a body encased in armour.
By 1880 the two ideas
merged and the whole of the
dress was in Princess line style with shoulder to hem panels. The silhouette was slim and elongated even
more by the train. No bustle was needed for the cuirasse bodice or
Princess sheath dress, but a small pad would have helped any trained fabric to
Left - The cuirasse bodice of 1880 reached the hem
actually becoming the princess panel dress. It made an exceptionally form fitting draped sheath dress which was
elongated even further by the train.
The slimline style needed good
dressmaking skills to get a flattering
fit. When done well it was attractive, but all too often swathes of fabric were
wrapped and arranged across the garment in an effort to disguise poor
dressmaking skills. It was not a very practical garment and only really suited to the very slim and those
who did not have to work. As a fashion it barely lasted 3 years.
Suddenly out of
nowhere in 1883 a new jutting out shelf like style of bustle appeared. It had
been shown in Paris in 1880, but as a fashion took off later outside of Paris.
It reappeared even larger
than ever as a hard shape that gave women a silhouette like the hind legs of a
horse as shown in the page heading.
Right - The second hard bustle style 1883.
The new bustle dress had a different look. It had minimal drapery
compared to the former and a slimmer more fitted severely tailored princess bodice,
with a much flatter front. What drapery there was, was tidily arranged at the
front of the dress as a small apron. Soon even that disappeared. For
support the spring pivoted metal band Langtry bustle gave the correct foundation
for the wider skirts. See Crinolines
Right -La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat 1884-6. Art Institute Chicago. This later bustle
fashion was very moulded to the body and the heavy corsetry gave an armour like
rigidity to the silhouette. The pointed bodice began to look quite tailored.
Tailored garments had been introduced in 1874 and their influence on design was
subtle, but led eventually to the tailor made suit so fashionable in the 1890s.
In 1887 the sleeves were
slimmer, plain and close fitting. The sleeves look like quite a
different style than on the bustle dress of the 1870s which had sleeves that
would not have looked out of place on dresses of 1860.
By 1889 silhouette
changes now couturier led were changing more rapidly and the sleeve developed a very slight leg of mutton
outline which soon needed support.
Right - Dress of 1889 showing signs of elevation at
the sleeve head.
It's interesting to
note how late Victorian women embraced the sharper tailored jacket fashion which
gave them a different posture with a more confident air reflecting the ideals of
early female emancipation. Other military and more tailor made styles of jacket
were also popular. Some dresses also had a more severe air about them.
Left - Tailor made suit of 1895.
There are similarities in the period 1885 with 1985 when
women also showed their strength in the corporate workplace with
through more masculine tailored, shoulder padded clothes. A similar broad shoulder trend
occurred in the Utility Clothing era of the
1940s when women did work usually thought of as men's
The gowns of the 1880s were almost always made in two colours of material.
Vivid colours such as deep red, peacock blue, bright apple green, royal blue,
purple, mandarin, sea green were used alone, in combination, or in tartan
fabrics. Some colour combinations were very strange.
At night ladies evening dresses were in softer hues and although they were
extravagantly trimmed in contrast fabrics and very décolleté, they followed
the general line of fashion.
Gradually the skirt widened and flared as the fullness of the bustle began to
fall into pleats down the garment back eventually disappearing to nothing.
before the bustle foundation softened until only a small pad was left by 1893.
The armour like hour glass figure soon developed into the S-Bend shape corset
which set the Edwardian
Corsetry silhouette until 1907-8.
The leg of mutton sleeves continued to develop and sprouted high above the
shoulders, By 1895 the sleeves swelled into enormous puffs similar to those of
1833. As happened in 1830 to balance the huge shoulders the skirt widened and
flared, whilst keeping the waist tight and handspan narrow.
Queen Victoria's influence over fashion was long gone. people who were in
mourning still followed court guidelines on mourning dress. The real royal
influence in fashion was the wife of the Prince of Wales, Princess Alexandra.
Together they set the tone for society and fashion in the last decade of the
century in the 1890s and into their own reign of the Edwardian era from 1901 to
1910. Read more detail about the era 1890-1914 in the section La Belle
Époque 1890-1914 Fashion and The Mood
of Edwardian Society.
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