Fashions from the 1890s

Slippers. 1892. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Yes, this fashion thing is a thing we’re doing now. Today’s post will focus on the last decade of the 19th century, the 1890s, which saw another remarkable change in the female silhouette. The most remarkable feature of the 1880s dress (which the next post will focus on, yes, this is going to get methodical) was the bustle which could grow to enormous proportions. In the 1890s the weight of the dress shifted to its sleeves while the skirts grew flat again. Hats remained a reasonable size. Bicycles became a fixture of upper class life which necessitated special cycling costumes designed to allow the wearer to move her legs while remaining reasonably covered. Corsets allowed for a normal body posture, unlike the S-corsets that soon would make their debut, focusing mostly on creating small waists.

1898 advert for corsets. The main functions of the corset is to support the breasts and clinch in the waist but it doesn't alter the female figure or silhouette drastically.

Without further ado, here are some examples.

Mourning Dress. 1894-1896. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Wedding Dress. Jean-Philippe Worth, 1896. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dinner Dress. Worth, 1892. The Kyoto Costume Institute. This is perhaps one of my favourite dresses of all time.

All of these gowns have two things in common: the sizeable sleeves and a natural waistline. In Danish these massive sleeves are lovingly referred to as “ham-sleeves.” However, it was becoming increasingly normal and popular for upper-class women to engage in different forms of exercise.

Ball Gown. Worth, 1894. The Kyoto Costume Institute.

Bathing Suit. 1895-1900. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Can you imagine wearing a bonnet to go swimming?

Gym suit. Ca. 1893-1898. The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

(Walking) Suit. Jacques Doucet, 1895. The Victoria & Albert Museum

Riding Ensemble. 1896. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Cycling ensemble. ca. 1895. The Kyoto Costume Institute

Another difference between the end of the century fashions and fashions from the rest of the Victorian periods is the headwear. Bonnets grew consistently smaller towards the end of the century until they caved in altogether and became hats. The 1890s was the first century where women exclusively wore hats instead of also bonnets.

Hat. Ca. 1892-1895. The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Hat. 1890s. the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Shoes. 1895. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

As for shoes, their basic shape stayed much the same throughout the century.

Capelet ca. 1895 via The Victoria & Albert Museum.

You can see how the capelet lifts upwards towards the shoulders to make room for the large sleeves of the gown worn underneath.
Next up: The 1880s. Yes, it’s going backwards. It’s my blog I do what I want etc etc.

I am so sorry that the format in this post is so jacked up. I’ve tried to fix it ten times now, it still refers back to the way it is now.

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1890s Summer

Three fully-clothed women hiking their skirts at the shoreline of the beach in Averne, Wallace G. Levison, 1897

It was very, very warm today which I’m told is unlikely for Edinburgh in March. At least I was wearing four layers of skirts and linen shirts, eh?

I’m not sure whether I need to express how very, very much I love old-time photographs that aren’t posed. I love them so much, you guys. So, so much.