Victorian French Lingerie

Victorian French Lingerie: Example of a New and Elaborate Under-Petticoat in 1899. This one is made with turchon lace and French embroidery with hem-stitiching between the lace and embroidery. Author's Collection
Example of a New and Elaborate Under-Petticoat in 1899. This one is made with turchon lace and French embroidery with hem-stitching between the lace and embroidery. Author’s Collection

The concept that lingerie and undergarments were visually appealing, did not become a thought until the late nineteenth century during the Victorian Era. At that time, some of the best lingerie that could be purchased came from France. In fact, it was common for nineteenth century English and American visitors to travel to France to purchase French lingerie for their wedding trousseau.

Victorian women also wore French lingerie for other reasons. Some women found they obtained some form of personal enjoyment from it. After all, many pieces of French lingerie captivated the eye because they were practically works of art with their fine embroidery and pretty ribbons and bows. The French also viewed lingerie in a different light than did most English or American women. Their view allowed Victorian lingerie wearers to focus on how they felt rather than how they actually looked in it. This in turn allowed wearers of French lingerie to enjoy an aristocratic elegance even if they belonged to the ordinary working class. However, there was also this tidbit about French lingerie: Continue reading

Animal Fads and Fashions in the 18th and 19th Century

Monstrosities of 1818, Courtesy of Library of Congress
Fashion “Monstrosities of 1818,” Courtesy of Library of Congress

It seems as if animals have always had some affect on fashion. Beavers were all the rage in the 17th century to the point they became decimated in Europe and paved the way for North America to become the premier supplier of beaver pelts. But it was not just beavers that consumers wanted. Other animals became fashionable and all sorts of crazes for these animals appeared in the 1700 and 1800s. Moreover, these animal fads and fashions were not just popular in London or France, they were popular across the European continent. Some of the fashionable animals of these times included the stoat, giraffe, chimpanzee, rhinoceros, and various birds. Continue reading

Images of Bourbon Restoration Fashions 1814-1819

Bourbon Restoration Fashions from 1814, Author's Collection
Fashions from 1814, Author’s Collection

The Bourbon Restoration began after the fall of Napoleon, and, at the time, as “the white flag floated from the dome of the Tuileries … there was a passion for white gowns.” These white gowns were generally trimmed at the bottom with flowers and worn to both private and official balls. In addition, there was “more than one lady at the court of Louis XVIII [who] trimmed the edge of her skirt with a wreath of lilies, while she altered but little the shape of her gown, which remained as short waisted as under Napoleon I.”

In 1814 and 1815, besides the passion for white gowns, many French women were also seized with “anglomania” when it came to fashion. But this predilection for everything English was not embraced by everyone. For instance, when one mother tried to get her young daughter to wear an English dress, the daughter replied, “Gracious! how frightful! what dreadful taste! To think of wearing English fashions!” Continue reading

Victorian Fad of False or Artificial Calves

Victorian fad
Sample of the Roman Fall, Author’s Collection

Victorians embraced many unusual fads. For instance, besides adopting the famous stooping fashion of the Grecian Bend, some Victorian women adopted Alexandra of Denmark’s limp and were even willing to wear mismatched shoes to achieve it. Men likewise adopted a strange fashion. It was an S-shaped posture known as the Roman Fall. But there was also another unusual fashion that Victorians embraced. It was wearing false or artificial calves, a fad that actually started in Georgian times.

So what were false or artificial calves? One person wrote they were “nothing more nor less than the sculpture of cords, wires, and cotton.” Another person maintained they were usually “composed of lamb’s and other wool woven into the material of merino leggins [sic], just like a pair of masculine drawers; sometimes brain [was] used, and in all cases the imitation [was claimed to be] very artistic and perfect.” Continue reading

Hairstyles of 1870

Parisian Hairstyles of 1870, Author's Collection
Parisian Hairstyles of 1870, Author’s Collection

According to Peterson’s Magazine, hairstyles of 1870 were “not [any] less high upon the summit of the head than they were [the previous] … year; quite the contrary, only the chignon has disappeared.” Although the hairstyles might have been the same size in height, the back of 1870 hairdos were flatter and consisted of curls, plaits, or twists located at the neck. In fact, the back was often so low hairnets became fashionable once again, and in particular, “the variety [of nets] called ‘invisible’ … once more [were] called into requisition.”

Ornamentation of the 1870 hairstyles occurred at the front with bows universally worn at the time so that “no lady appears to fancy that her toilet is complete without one.” The bows often matched a woman’s dress and were made from wide ribbon with two loops, and arranged precisely as Alsatian women wore them. Sometimes the four-looped bows were narrower, but women found these four-looped bows “neither so pretty, nor so stylish-looking [as the more fashionable and wider two-looped bows].” Continue reading

Hairstyles with Bonnets in 1864

Hairstyles with Bonnets: Apartment Headdress, Author's Collection
Apartment Headdress, Author’s Collection

During the 1860s, Henri de Bysterveld, a French hairdresser and editor of the Gazette of Hair, published several books and elevated hairdressing to an art form. His hairstyles relied on Greek, Roman, and Louis XIII to Louis XVI times for inspiration. Bysterveld often used ornamentation, such as feathers, flowers, or jewels, and it was claimed he was a magician when it came to hair, as he offered innumerable ways to arrange a woman’s hair appropriate to her face and complexion. Some of his more complex and popular coiffures were published in books. Some styles that Bysterveld created, relied on kerchiefs, caps, or bonnets and the following are some of those styles.

The Apartment Headdress, as it was known, was, according to Bysterveld, “equally suitable for a brown or fair complexion and for every age, when the physiognomy allows it.” It was achieved by separating the hair from the forehead so as to form a “Mary Stuard without separation.” Behind the catogan, a chignon was formed with a fork comb that was fixed to a piece of hair and turned before being locked firmly into place. A fanchon, which was French for kerchief, was placed over the head to ornament the style. Continue reading

French Fall Fashions 1867

French fall fashions for 1867 continued much in the same vein as earlier 1867 fashions. Creatively trimmed skirts ranged in length from the ankle to the floor, and paletots remained another popular part of a fashionable woman’s toilet. Colors for fall varied, although they were somewhat darker in color than the summer fashions. Fabrics for winter ranged from silk to alpaca to muslin. Ornamentation on toilets included such decorations as fringe, epaulettes, bows, bouillonne, and diamond-shaped lozenges. Bonnets and hats tended towards low, round crowns and were decorated with ribbons, lace, and flowers. Continue reading

French Summer Fashion 1867

French summer fashion for 1867 continued to have skirts with trains and to range in  length from the ankle to the floor. Paletots and peplums, a short overskirt, were popular, as were white, blue, and pale colored toilets made from silk, muslin, and poplin. Flowery embroidery was also popular for the summer, and bonnets and hats were often made from tulle with flowers or ears of corn trimmings. Continue reading

French Spring Fashions 1867

French spring fashions for 1867 were primarily created from silk. Skirts ranged in length from the ankle to the floor, often had trains, and remained wide, as it was the height of crinolines. Green and pale grays were two of the more popular colors for the spring season and a variety of scallops were in vogue, which were also incorporated into girl’s costumes. Bonnets continued to be worn with walking and visiting toilets. Continue reading

French Winter Fashions 1867

French fashions for the fall of 1867 were generally made from either silk or velvet. Paletots were popular and so were narrow sleeves. Skirts remained wide—as it was the height of crinolines—and skirts ranged in length from the ankle to the floor. Greens, grays, and purples were the predominate colors at this time, and hats and bonnets tended to be small. Among the publications showing the latest fashions was The Young Englishwoman, a publication that also included literature and needlework. Its fashion plates and a description for the winter months of 1867 are shown here. Continue reading