Thursday, November 15, 2007

Satin carriage dress, about 1889

This well-tailored dress (with a separate bodice and skirt) is made of dark red silk satin and cut velvet. With its high neck and long sleeves it would have been worn in the daytime and, in particular, for making afternoon visits or taking the air in a carriage.

The small puffs on the shoulders point the way to a fashionable enlargement of the sleeves in the early 1890s. By 1895 the very large, leg-of-mutton shape was back in fashion.

Pink and black silk dress, about 1893

This pink and black silk dress with half-sleeves of black lace came from La Samaritaine, a Paris department store.

Large department stores were a new way for women to buy their clothes in the later 19th century. Dresses could be ordered and made to measure in the dressmaking workrooms of these shops.

Crimson and black evening coat,1894

This dramatic evening coat from the late Victorian period looks as if it was made by one of the great French couture houses. In fact, it was bought from the London department store, Peter Robinson, and illustrates how splendid some of the ready-made clothes of this time could be.

A coat of this kind would be worn at night, to a ball, the opera or a very grand dinner. It is made of a rich crimson silk satin patterned with black and with jet trimmings. It has the extremely large, full sleeves fashionable in the mid 1890s.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Woman's dress, late 1850s

A day dress of printed wool muslin, worn with patterned silk shawl, straw bonnet, kid leather gloves and a folding parasol.

Small parasols, with silk canopies (often trimmed with a deep silk fringe) and ivory handles were used when travelling in a carriage. The jointed handles allowed them to be folded up in an enclosed space.

Both parasols and deep-brimmed bonnets shielded the face from the sun – a suntan and freckles were not admired at this period.

Women's day dresses, 1830s

The dress of printed wool, on the left, worn with a white embroidered cotton pelerine collar shows the full ‘gigot’ or leg-of-mutton sleeve fashionable in the mid 1830s.

By the end of the decade, sleeves were much more closely fitting as seen in the green and purple printed wool dress of about 1838, on the right. This is worn with a wide-brimmed bonnet of finely plaited straw trimmed with silk ribbon, and a printed wool shawl.

This was the style of dress fashionable when the young Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837.

Silk pelisse, 1810 - 1815

The pelisse was a type of light overcoat fashionable at this time. It was cut on similar lines to the dress, with a short waistline, long sleeves and a high neck. This pelisse is made of a soft twilled silk called ‘sarsenet’ (often mentioned by Jane Austen in her novels and letters of the same period). These coats were usually lined and were sometimes interlined with lambswool so they were probably warmer than they might appear.

Women's dresses, 1870s

These three fashionable day dresses show how the bustle replaced the crinoline to create a new shape of skirt in the 1870s: flatter at the front and fuller at the back.

As the crinoline passed out of fashion in the late 1860s, a new type of support, known as the bustle, was worn under the skirt. The bustle could take several different forms, such as stiff frills of horsehair cloth or small wire frames.