You may know the Victorian convention of a Language of Flowers, but did you know that the American 1950s had a langauge of bows?
Allow me to illustrate.
So neat, right?
Fashion from the 1880s are recognisable by two things: big bustles and slim waists. Unlike the half-hoop skirts of the 1870s, the 1880s emphasised a less volume overall and focused the bulk and weight of the gown on the bustle which could grow to startling proportions. Necklines crept upwards and shoulders remained covered at balls and certainly also during the day. 1880s corsets emphasised an hour-glass figure, tightening the waist so the bulk of the bustle would stand out in contrast. The sleeves of the gowns remained smooth, wholly unlike the enormous sleeves the 1890s would introduce into ladie’s fashion.
Exercise like croquet and tennis grew increasingly important but exercise gowns were conservative when compared with what would happen some 10-20 years later. Ladie’s hats grew small and focused their attention on the back of the lady’s head, growing into a style called “capote” which emphasised a small brim and big ribbons tied under the chin. Would you believe that I have an extant example that once belonged to a great-great grandmother of mine? As soon as I am able I’m going to take pictures of it.
In action, the size of the bustle varied from the truly enormous to a more sublte collection of cloth around the hips and back.
From the front, dresses emphasised slim waists and well-defined hips. The fabric of the skirt was flat and tight over the legs, a big change from the crinolines of some 20 years sooner and even the half-hoop skirt of the 1870s.
Bathing and swimming dresses were only just coming back into fashion in the 1880s, so tennis and croquet were the sports of the day. Croquet outfits could be pretty much any day dress, but it was important that a tennis dress could be moved in. I couldn’t imagine playing tennis in either of these dresses, though.
It is highly unlikely bustles were worn under tennis dresses, but the bustle effect would be created by pulling the fabric back and creating a modest hump.
Outwear would also have to be loose to make room for the bustles, or like in the example above, be altered so the back of the dress wouldn’t be compromised.
Often ribbons would be emphasised to compensate for the lack of shade, and tied in big, soft knots under the wearer’s chin. The one I own is a mourning bonnet and is primarily made up of black velvet and black ribbons. I really have to take photos of it for this blog.
That’s a small look into the fashions of the 1880s! Next up: the 1870s.
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.
Without further ado, here are some examples.
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.
For more Titanic fashions, check out this post from Madame Guillotine: Titanic fashion, 1912.
Let’s start up with clearing up a few things.
1) I am keeping this blog running HOWEVER since I’m currently in the home stretch (spoiler: I’ve never ever seen a game of baseball in my life) of my final year as a University student updates may be a bit sparse until I’m done with exams etc.
2) I’ll be posting a couple of posts related to the “anniversary” of Titanic’s demise. I hate using that word to describe such a sad event, but it seems it’s the best word English can offer.
3) This blog has a new layout! And whenever I find the time to make one, a new header too!
Unless you’re living under a rock, you may have noticed that Titanic’s Centennary is coming up right soon. You may also have watched Downton Abbey (which I thought was called Downtown Abbey for the longest time). I’ve watched most of Downton Abbey, mostly for the costumes because the drama in season 2 turned me off most of the characters, to be honest.
I’ve long since been fascinated with historical fashion. My mother recently reminded me that I could often be found looking through books on historical fashion I had brought home from the library, studying them quite intently.
So since the centennary of Titanic is coming up, I though I might take a look at what the ladies of Titanic and Downton might be wearing. Think what you want about the 1997 Titanic movie, Kate Winslet’s costumes were porn for fashion nerds.
Beginning with the basics, the silhouette of the Edwardian lady changed quite a bit with the advent of the S-shaped corset. The difference is illustrated below. Putting it into the words the new style of corset would push the torso forward, by putting pressure on the stomach and spine.
The gowns above show us what wearing the corset would make a gown look like in action. You can tell how the bust tips forward, and the stomach slopes inward. The dress shown from the back is interesting also, because it shows that wearing an S-corset almost creates a mini-bustle effect, harking about 30-40 years back in time.
Necklines were often high (if you can even call the above example a neckline). Ball gowns were more liberal with the amount of cleavage shown, but walking gowns, evening dresses and basically anything not used at balls would close at the neck or envelop the neck itself in fabric. This can also be referred to as “My Biggest Nightmare” in a gown. I can’t abide turtlenecks, and however much I adore the dress-type above I could never dress like that day in and out.
The pink dress almost reminds me of 1790 post French Revolution gowns. I think it’s the bodice.
Of course, it takes more than just a gown to complete an outfit.
Turn of the Century hats grew to astounding sizes and were elaborately decorated. I love how over the top they are.
And also these swim costumes, because they are amazing and I want to wear them everywhere, except, perhaps, the beach.
So that’s an insight into what Turn of the Century, Edwardian, Gilded Age, Nouvelle Vague, whichever term you prefer, ladies might wear out and about. Now, should I work my way backwards through fashion history or not? Decisions, decisions.