Millinery fashions for 1881 were based on varying materials and styles depending on the season. For instance, straw was the popular springtime material for hats, and, in general, hats were large, whereas bonnets were small and worn close to the head. This close-fitting bonnet shape was still in vogue when summer started, and hats for the seaside were coarse straw, lined with velvet or plain or gathered satin, trimmed with flowers and worn large “so as to shade the face thoroughly.” For fall, bonnets remained small and close-fitting. Many were composed entirely of one material, such as leaves, feathers, or beads. Some fall bonnets were also created from plush and trimmed with flowers or beads, arranged en diademe.
Similar to bonnets, hats were created from plush and then trimmed with feathers. In fact, a rage existed in 1881 for “feathers of all kinds, from the close pheasant’s breast to the long graceful plumes of the ostrich.” Fall hats were opposite of bonnets in size and because hats remained large and picturesque-looking, when it came to winter hats, the most fashionable material was plush. In addition, during the bitter winter months, many women wore long black lace shawl veils on top of their bonnets to keep their ears and necks warm. Continue reading →
Flower bonnets were all the rage in 1880, but a handsome feather was also “fashionable and stylish, and when gracefully and tastefully arranged, … always becoming.” Yet, feathers were not particularly cheap. The nineteenth century fashion magazine, The Delineator, noted:
“A handsome feather is a prize … More especially is the purchase of a black feather a measure of discretion. It may cost considerable … but years of service, and its undiminished stylish appearance, will more than pay for the original cost.”
Of the feathers available, it was the ostrich feathers that were considered to be the most “novel.” They were long and curly and usually displayed in twos and of contrasting colors: “cardinal and sulphur, sage-green and cardinal, peacock-blue and mauve, or lavender and old-gold.” Additionally, much to the delight of hat wearer’s was the demise of “placing three funeral-looking black … [feathers] on the side of bonnet, each one waving a different way … for the sight of the nodding plumes was anything but agreeable or artistic.” Continue reading →
The most popular spring bonnets in 1878 were the “French chip, soft English straws, and … rough fancy braids with a piping of velvet between the rows of braid.” They were popular because they were supposedly of exceptional quality and much more durable than bonnets of former seasons. White and black bonnets were equally fashionable, with straws being colored primarily in brown, black, gray, or ecru. Additionally, bonnet styles for middle-aged women were usually large with flaring brims filled in with lace frills.
The latest bonnets were also comfortable shapes, moderate in size, large in the head, and close-fitting in front. Crowns tended to be square at the top, low behind, and “finished by a straight curtain band, or one … indented in the middle.” Satin was the primary trimming, and beads were frequently used as a “special feature of spring garniture,” along with a variety of artificial flowers and feathers. Continue reading →
aigrette—a French word used to denote the plume or feathery tuft on top of a bird’s head. “Hence the term came to…designate the long, delicate…feathers which being stuck upright in a lady’s headdress…[gave] a majestic appearance to the person.” The word also came to be associated with jeweled ornaments shaped as feathers and worn on a woman’s head during the eighteenth century, but, by the nineteenth century, almost any plume, even if flowers, were noted to be an aigrette. Additionally, during the nineteenth century, an aigrette was attached to a woman’s hat during the day and worn alone as a headdress at night. Continue reading →
The hat was considered one of the most important items of a woman’s toilette. One twentieth century writer noted its importance stating:
“When a clever woman chooses a hat, she is careful that the shadows it casts on her face are becoming to her. Every hat throws it own set of shadows, and I doubt whether any two hats produce exactly the same shadow effect. A woman can alter the whole contour of her countenance by wearing a hat of a certain shape. If her face is thin, she will select a large hat, which will give the impression of plumpness, and a different kind of hat if her face is full. Every woman knows this, and most of them are aware that it is the varying shadows which bring the different effects. Without her hat many a woman loses much of her picturesqueness — or thinks she does, which comes to the same thing [and] that’s why hats are generally worn.” Continue reading →
Fashionable hats for September 1898 were “variable and whimsical” They also included toques, carriage hats, and leghorns. One of the latest fashions for millinery in 1898 was the forward tilting hat with a drooped effect over the eyes. Trimmings at this time were often “elaborate, and the long spangled quill and spangled wing [vied] … with the ostrich feather and sweeping aigrette. Massed upon the brim and about the crown [were also] nets, laces, and mousseline de soie,” a fine, lightweight crisp fabric created from silk.
Among the fashionable hats of September 1898 was the Dressy Toque, shown to the left. It was designed for the theatre or for other dressy events. It was created from black puffed chiffon, and to give the toque height, “a pair of handsomely jetted curled quills [were] placed at the left side.” In addition, brilliant red silk roses were placed low so that they touched the hair giving it “a stylish completion.” Continue reading →
Victorian women wore hats year round and summer hats of 1898 were “well-dressed in a wealth of blooms that, if reproduced by the florist, would ensure his fortune.” Roses, violets, poppies, and other brilliant colored flowers were popular for the season and often placed high in the back, graduating to nothing in the front. Transparent textiles were one of the most popular ornamentation for the hot summer months, although feathers still held a prominent role and were “adjusted with an air of lightness extremely pleasing to the artistic eye.” Hat shapes did not have much variation in 1898 but two of the more fashionable shapes were the sailor and the English walking hat. As to how hats were worn, the wearing of hats up and off the face was just beginning to take hold, although the fashion did not supplant “the much-favored dipped shapes … [because they protected] the eyes from the glare of the sun.” Continue reading →
Towering crowns, either pointed, square, or well-concealed were once again “modish” in 1896, and as height was an essential for the fall season of 1896, crownless or low crown hats were made high with trimming. Brims remained broad and frequently “cast a shadow over the eyes.” Plumage was as important as ever and hats often looked like “winged things, so extravagantly [was] plumage used in their decoration.” Birds of all sorts were fashionable but New Guinea’s Bird of Paradise and its variations (Black Bird, Jobi Bird, King Bird, Magnificent Bird, Twelve-Wired, Red Bird, Lesser Bird, and Great Bird) was the bird most popular for millinery fashion in 1896. Because of the bird’s popularity, American zoologist and conservationist, William Temple Hornaday, listed the bird as nearly extinct in the early 1900s. Part of the reason the bird was so popular was noted by The Delineator:
“[Its beautiful garb of yellow and brown … [and its] long, full tail, naturally a shaded yellow, is dyed in every conceivable hue and is used alone as an aigrette or with birds.” Continue reading →
Gloves have been around since the time of antiquity and were once called “the clothing of the hands.” One writer described gloves of the 1800s as “an object of luxury, elegance, and refinement,” but gloves were worn for many other reasons than fashion. Besides being used for fashion, they were also worn for comfort or protection from the elements and for recreational reasons, such as when driving, skating, or playing croquet. One source noted that new styles of gloves were appearing every year with elastic wristbands being one of the latest fashions of the early 1850s. Gloves also came in variety of colors and were produced from a variety of materials that ranged from beaver, calf, or lambskin to cotton, worsted, or silk. Continue reading →
In the winter of 1896, medium and high crowned hats prevailed with large hats being particularly in vogue. Flowers and foliage were seen on nearly all winter hats no matter what size and were also associated with fur. Birds and feathers were also another important millinery decoration at this time. The Delineator, a well-known fashion magazine, noted this stating, “birds, supplemented by the graceful tail-feathers of the Paradise bird … are perched on both large and small hats against the crowns or wherever they will appear most advantageously.” To secure these birds, wings, quills, or feathers to the hats, they were tacked in place or inserted firmly into ribbon nests, “made usually with outstretched loops.” Continue reading →