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.