[My Chamber of Textile Thoughts. No: LXIII | By Viveka Hansen]
The aim of this post is to give a brief text summary and a few images of female fashions, together with some thoughts about women’s possibilities or wishes to stay fashionable and to keep, mend or remodel clothing through their lives. Fashion in chronological order is seen as the most natural way to study fashion history, when for example looking at 19th-century garments. Another perspective arises when looking backwards in time, which must have been the normal view for generations of that era – one could only compare with the past or maybe have some slight knowledge of next seasons new details for various garments!
Looking back on previous fashions; could include what fashions they used in their youth, clothing inherited from their mothers youth, possible studies of old lady’s/fashion magazines, comparisons with old portraits if they belonged to wealthy families etc. How did all this form their up to date fashion of their present time? How interested were the 19th century everyday women of fashions of the past? This post is not aiming to answer all these questions but to give a few example of these circumstances by looking backwards in time from 1914 to approximately 1810.
A Fashion study from 1914 to 1885
- 1907-1914. A dark skirt with a sash at the waist and white blouse with embroidery, pleats and lace now increasingly popular, a fashion clearly seen in many photographs from the Edwardian era. Skirts no longer trail on the ground allowing the shoes to be seen, an altogether more comfortable style. Corsets also go out of fashion at the end of this period.
- 1900-1907. Tightly-laced hour-glass waist still demanded by fashion. Lightweight and light-coloured material becoming popular, often adorned with extensive machine-made lace. With the new century the skirt begins to drag slightly at the back. A slightly forward-leaning look helped by tightly-laced corsets is favoured, a fashion persisting with small changes up to 1907. After this date corsets become longer and straighter in form. Large hats add to the effect. Long cream-coloured gloves or mittens matching the lightweight and light-coloured clothes were also extremely popular in the Edwardian era.
- 1898-1900. Development of white shirt and high collar. Stiffness disappears from the skirt in favour of a more fluid bell-like model with a matching jacket which could be worn open at the front. Hats now larger than in the 1880s and often decorated with a large feather.
- 1893-1897. The waist still tightly-laced with the bodice pointed at the back. Ample puff sleeves a new fashion at this time, preferably in contrasting material so as to attract the maximum attention. Skirt falling free in a new flat line, an innovation during this decade.
- 1892-1893. Bustles and crinolines no longer used; the skirt simpler and free-hanging – over a starched petticoat – often decorated with velvet ribbons. Heavily boned bodice, high collar, often with a ornamental brooch and a shoulder section that may be decorated with lace, fringes etc.
- 1885-1890. The bustle shrinks, dropping out of use about 1890; the material used becomes simpler and the train disappears. A trend towards somewhat more comfortable clothes.
From time to time during the whole of the 19th century the favoured style happily looked back to bygone times – a so-called revival – which was combined with new needlework techniques and constantly changing fashion trends to create a complex interplay between new and old in female dress. But it was not only historical inspiration that affected clothes but also influence from the stricter forms of men’s clothing, from both exotic imported goods and impressions of nature. In other words, these fluctuating crazes were derived from an enthusiasm for either nature, historical clothes and objects, or geographically distant places. These ideas also mixed with new expectations created by industrialisation to make a powerful impact on women’s clothes.
A Fashion study from 1880 to 1871
- 1875-1880. Bustles still in fashion, with the train even longer and richly decorated with ribbons, fringes etc. Velvet and silk often added. The upper part now like a jacket lying half over the bustle at the back. Small and ornately decorated hats typical of this period, a style continuing into the 1880s. The bodice built up in an increasingly complicated manner with many metal supports to ensure a perfect fit for the upper part of the body.
- 1871-1875. Bustle now used to extend the dress behind as far as possible, leaving it flat in front, but trailing somewhat at the back; usually a three-piece dress extensively decorated with frills, lace, ribbons, flowers etc. Clothes extremely impractical and uncomfortable for both walking and sitting.
A Fashion study from 1864 to 1837
- 1862-1864. Skirts now reach their greatest extent, to resemble a balloon usually draped with a black or white machine-made lace shawl. Skirt trailing to some extent at the back. The parasol, which needed to match the rest of the outfit, now became an ever more vital accessory.
- 1850s. Sleeves getting wider to reach their greatest extent about 1857-58, skirt very wide and held by a gathering; heavy brocade-woven silk, preferably decorated with fringes and ribbons; dresses often three-piece with a fringed triangular shawl. A growing trend away from the horsehair crinolines that increased the breadth of the skirt, in favour of the new crinoline frames that considerably increased the skirt’s extent all round.
- 1840-1843. Heavier dress material, often fine brocade-woven silk or wool. Even more marked pointed waist tightly drawn together with a more tightly sitting bodice than before; narrow arms often with pleats, very wide skirt but tight gathering at the waist. The skirt sometimes now adorned with fringes and ribbons, and with an overall increase of decoration. Cap now quite small and worn on the back of the head and fastened with ribbon with brow and front hair left bare.
- 1837-1840. Day dress, usually in silk or fine wool with printed flowered pattern. Sleeves now generally narrower, width only remaining in the middle with the upper sleeve; wrist gathered in, pointed waist (a novelty) and great width in the skirt which is gathered together tightly. Often a small cape over the shoulders in matching material. The bonnet now reaches its greatest size, often decorated with silk, velvet ribbons and feathers.
A Fashion study from 1828 to 1830
- Cotton day dress, upper sleeves more voluminous (and now at their puffiest) with the puff stretching halfway down the sleeve and ending in a cuff; the waist lower and often marked by a belt or sash; the skirt wider, often richly embroidered and sometimes decorated with a variety of ribbons. Even if the passion for white cotton material was now in decline, it had not yet ended.
Various research demonstrates that women traditionally “collected” many garments in their youth – either purchased, sewn by a professional dressmaker or tailor, stitched by herself or by a female relative. For most individuals one must emphasise that these clothes were often altered and re-used in all the ways possible. The ordinary woman’s wardrobe must at regular intervals obviously have seen new additions throughout her life, whilst some clothes lasted for a life time or were even inherited by her daughters. How often a woman altered the fashion, was of course highly individual, probably more often the younger and richer she was, and many times middle-aged and elderly women “stayed in the same fashion style” as in their younger years.
- Ashelford, Jane, The Art of Dress – Clothes and Society 1500-1914, London 2002.
- Art Galleries Committee of the Corporation of Manchester, Women’s Costume 1800-1835, 1835-1870, 1870-1900 & 1900-1930 (4 books), Manchester 1952.
- Hansen, Viveka, The Textile History of Whitby 1700-1914 – A Lively Coastal Town Between the North Sea and North York Moors, London & Whitby 2015.
- Whitby Gazette, 1900-1914 (Whitby Museum, Library & Archive).
- Whitby Museum, Costume Collection & Library (Based on personal research in 2007-2010 of a wide range of 19th century clothing).
PLEASE REFERENCE AS FOLLOWS:
- Hansen, Viveka, ‘Fashion & Remodelling of Clothing – A Reverse Chronology from 1914 to 1810 (F 8) ‘, TEXTILIS , (June 5, 2016); http://textilis.net/ (Accessed: Day/Month/Year)