Thursday, 4 October 2012

Ladies Fashion of the 1870s


Now that I have looked at underwear, I though I would continue looking at the history of ladies fashion.  Previously I looked at the 1860s, so today it the 1870s.  I have tried to include photos of actual dresses, along with fashion plates and paintings of the time to get a well rounded view of the era.

Dress (Ball Gown)

Below - French silk ball gown by Worth c 1872  and Fashion Plate from the Allgemeine Moden-Zeitung, Leipzig, 1872

We saw that by the later 1860s the full skirt fashion had given way to skirts with a fuller back, using a crinolette or ‘Tournure dress improver’ to give shape.  By 1870 the bustle was in, at least for a short time until it’s reappearance in the 1880s.   The bustle started as fullness in skirts moving to the back of the dress, and this fullness was drawn up in ties for walking that created a fashionable puff.  This  puff expanded and was then built up with supports from a variety of different materials such as horsehair and metal hoops.  

Dress, AfternoonDress, Afternoon

French silk afternoon dress by Worth c. 1872 American made silk afternoon dress from a French pattern ,with jacket c. 1874

Around the mid 187os the style altered and the skirts began narrow, hugging the thighs in the front while the bustle at the back was reduced to a natural flow from the waist to the train.  Trains were also extended and trimming was increased, as in the pictures below.

 REVUE DE LA MODE - Paris fashion plate. (207)

Silk and velvet dress. c, 1875  and French fashion late of 1875 source

A few years later and the bustle disappeared altogether (maybe they got tired of having to stand up all the time?!).  The skirt became even more tight-fitting, but still with a  trailing skirt, with a very small hoop worn underneath, mainly to keep the fabric away from the feet and a small pad at the back and a petticoat or two.  Overskirts were tighter around the foundation skirt and fancy drapes in the back were appearing in all sorts of complicated shapes, and not necessarily symmetrical (see below left). Bodices were tightened and lengthened around the non-bustle skirts, often in a different fabric or colour,  mimicking the longer corset shape (as in the pink and olive ensemble below left).  This type of style became known as the “natural form,” given it was much more natural looking than the earlier silhouette (but not as natural as the artistic form, see below).

Dresses of 1878 and Portrait of Jeanne Samary, by Renoir, 1878 show the more slim line skirt

Near the beginning of the 1880s the trend would again change to include the bustle.

During most of the 70s day bodices had high necklines that were either closed, squared, or V-shaped, and tight fitting sleeves had pleated or ruffled cuffs at the wrists.   Draped overskirts were also worn to produce an apronlike effect from the front. Three-quarter length cloaks and jackets were made to over the bustle, and short capes with wide sleeves began to make an appearance.

Square necklines were popular in evening dress, as were off the shoulder bodices, with short or three-quarter length sleeves.  This allowed the wearing of short ( and later mid-length) gloves and gave a prefect setting for elaborate jewellery or a velvet ribbon tied high around the neck and trailing behind.

 Two Dancers in the Studio (aka Dance School) 1875

The fashion of the Artistic dress with its medieval details and un-corseted lines continued through the 1870s, and tea gowns also became popular for informal occasions, such as entertaining at home, as they were easier to put on and less structured than traditional day and evening dresses, worn without a corset, and could be worn in the evening, unless one was going out.

Charlotte Wolter als Messalina 1875 Dress (Tea Gown) 

Artistic dress, Charlotte Wolter als Messalina 1875 by Hans Makart and American Tea Gown of wool, silk and cotton, c 1875

At the beginning of the 1870s Fabrics were light in colour and weight with favoured fabrics being cotton, silk-taffeta and light wool. Sleeves were often of a different fabric to the bodice, and would match the apron like overskirt, white the under skirt matched the bodice.  By the late 1870s darker colours were in favour, and two different fabrics were often of the the same colour, one matt, the other shiny, or  in two shades of the same colour.

Catharine Lorillard Wolfe (1828–1887) Dress

Portrait of Catharine Lorillard Wolfe (by Alexandre Cabanel) 1876 and  American silk dress c 1877

Leisure dress was becoming an important part of a women's wardrobe.  As well as outfits for sport such as tennis and bicycling and riding habits, seaside dress developed.  It still featured a bustle, but was made in brighter colours and was seen as more daring, frivolous and eccentric.  It makes me think of Gilbert and Sullivans Pirates of Penzance – written in 1879 the costumes are from that time and are meant to always be the same as the originals.


Seaside Dress - 1875 Journal des Demoiselles and the maids and a pirate in Pirates of Penzance source

The Gallery of H.M.S. Calcutta painted by James Tissot in 1877 shows two women in incredibly frilly and transparent summer gowns.

The Gallery of H.M.S. Calcutta  by James Tissot c. 1877

There were also bathing costumes, of course!

Image courtesy of Stella Blum's Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper's Bazaar 1867-1898

Ladies' and Children's Bathing Suits. Harper's Bazaar, 15 July 1876

And riding habits. Note the small bustle (actually looks like a longer version of the bathing dress, don’t you think?).

  Riding Habit

Equestrian-Portrait-Of-Mademoiselle-Croizette c. 1873 and American wool riding habits c,1872

Note also the hats in many of the illustrations – they were quite small, and the larger the bustle the smaller the hat, for balance. Both hats and hairstyles were taller though - added height to the wearer without creating additional bulk to distract from the overall effect, like these hats below.

Bonnet   hats

As well as hats and gloves, fans were also popular accessories.

At the Ball 1875In the Loge 1878

High hair, fan and gloves - At the Ball 1875 by Berthe Morisot and In the Loge 1878 by Mary Stevenson Cassatt

Apart from the riding habits, I think the Natural Form of the later 1870s is my favourite – almost a style that we can  pull off today (maybe minus a few trims) for bridal and evening wear, and even every day wear in a steam-punk sort of way.

Would you wear a bustle?

Deb xxx

1 comment:

  1. They are all so beautiful, wonderful pictures too! I love the way you can see the development and practicality in the clothing as women were allowed to more one, such as sport.
    Love Lil x


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