Women’s Dress Fashions for August 1881

1881 Costume, Author's Collection
1881 Costume, Author’s Collection

Important changes in fashion were seen in August of 1881. First, one of the most important changes was women’s taste in semi-masculine attire. The desire for it had apparently died out. According to one writer, “No lady now thinks dressing, even for the country, in such a style that she might be mistaken for her younger brother.” This change also meant jackets disappeared and were replaced by “elegant feminine Mantles and Mantelets.” There were also no more skirts that were so tightly tied in the back that it “prevent[ed] all freedom of locomotion.” Skirts were also becoming wider and fuller, but only in the back because the front and sides of skirts remained plain, which rendered “it necessary to adopt a modified form of tournure to keep the drapery and fulness [sic] of skirt in…place.” When it came to dress bodices, one of the principal features was the increase in gathers and full pleats, which were particularly popular during cold weather as it increased the warmth of the dress. Additionally, with gathered bodices, sleeves were “always puffed, fulled, or gathered” and also had fullness at the shoulder.

(Left to Right) De Salis Costume, Dashwood Dinner Toilette, and Montressor Visiting Costume, Author's Collection
(Left to Right) De Salis Costume, Dashwood Dinner Toilette, and Montressor Visiting Costume, Author’s Collection

Three costumes for August 1881 are shown in the illustration at the left. The first, on the left, is a De Salis Costume for concerts and receptions. It is made from voile, a thin fabric, and plaid silk. The jacket has a plissé plastron, which is crossed by cord. The back of the skirt has three pleats headed with a bow of cord, and a plaid sash crosses the front and is fastened under the drapes at the back. The rest of the tablier is of voile, vandyked, and edged with cord. The underskirt is created from plaid that is edged by a plain plissé  and headed with a bouillonné.

In the center is the Dashwood Dinner Toilette created from light brown satin and trimmed with either embroidery or white satin. The body is pointed in front and forms a plissé coat tail behind, which is trimmed with a large bow. The folds in front are created from satin and a wide piece of  embroidery. Additionally,  a narrow piece of embroidery runs around the back and along the wide pleats of the skirt. The underskirt is plissé.

The blue Montressor Visiting Costume is for a young lady. The jacket is gathered at back and front, and the overskirt is elegantly draped both sideways and over a double pleated petticoat. The back is also draped. The sleeves are gathered in a small bouillonné at the top and at the wrist.

(Left to Right) Guiché Promenade Toilette, Mérode Reception Toilette, and Kilmorey Promenade Costume, Author's Collection
(Left to Right) Guiché Promenade Toilette, Mérode Reception Toilette, and Kilmorey Promenade Costume, Author’s Collection

The Guiché Promenade Toilette is the first toilette shown on the left in the illustration to the right. It is created from blue and white striped percale trimmed with Cluny lace. The body is gathered Cape fashion, and is plissé under the belt, which is fastened at the side with bows and ends. The tunic is draped and edged with lace. The sleeves are the old leg-o’-mutton shape revived and modernized for this time period with a lace cuff. The petticoat is composed of plissés and bouillonné and has bottom flounces edged with lace.

The Mérode Reception Toilette, in the center, is created from black silk and trimmed with black satin. The jacket has coat tails and is edged with satin piping. The same satin serves for the bows and for the drapes which cross the long plissé of the front skirt. Four wide folds simulate a sash in front, at back, and at the sides. The dress is draped over a plissé skirt and is caught up with satin bows.

The Kilmorey Promenade Costume is created from dark green cashmere and worn over a petticoat of olive-green satin. All the bows are also olive-green. The jacket is slightly open in front, and, at the back, the polonaise overskirt is draped on it, under a bow, and, in front the polonaise is cut in vandykes, which allows the satin petticoat to show.

(Left to Right) Amicia Promenade Toilette, Kinsale Mantilla, and Otway Traveling Costume, Author's Collection
(Left to Right) Amicia Promenade Toilette, Kinsale Mantilla, and Otway Traveling Costume, Author’s Collection

The Amicia Promenade Toilette, shown on the left in the illustration to the left, is created from drab cloth. It has a simple back and the body is pointed in front and trimmed with a sash of Algerien, as is the revers and the two flounced petticoat. The overskirt is pleated and drapes to the side under two full box pleats, which fall gracefully at the back on the plissé underskirt.

The black Kinsale Mantilla, shown in the center, is trimmed with passementerie, lace, fringe, and ribbons. It is gathered down the front, back, and on the shoulders.

The Otway Traveling Costume of cheviot is shown on the right. The body is cut round and is trimmed with a cape and collar. The skirt consists of two flounces, and the polonaise is draped by a bow on the left side. Additionally, there are two bows on the right side and the back is draped.

(Left to Right) Hervey Toilette, Duncombe Costume, and Freycinet Seaside or Traveling Costume, Author's Collection
(Left to Right) Hervey Toilette, Duncombe Costume, and Freycinet Seaside or Traveling Costume, Author’s Collection

The first fashion to the left in the illustration to the right is a Hervey Toilette created from satin trimmed with lace. The body front is gathered into a yoke, and, at the back, the gathers are carried down to the waist. The polonaise in front is looped up in folds, and a long revers is edged with lace. The petticoat is composed of a long and rich pleated skirt, and a small plissé. The sleeve is a newer style made entirely of plissé, gathers, and bouillonnés.

The Duncombe Costume for the seaside or promenade is created from satinette and pompadour. The body forms a jacket and has a well-draped polonaise behind that is trimmed with a revers. The tablier is draped and ornamented with bands of pompadour, and three-pointed drapes are sewn under the tablier and fall over the plissé petticoat.

The Freycinet Seaside or Traveling Costume is made of shot silk and trimmed with bands of red-satin fabric. The elegant costume is cut en Princesse and forms two points in front that are looped up the middle by a bow. At the back it forms a pleated jacket and drapes over a well-pleated petticoat. Additionally there is a gathered cape with a smart little collar.

References:

  • Thomas, Mrs. Edward (Jane), The London and Paris Ladies’ Magazine of Fashion, Literature and Fine Arts, Vol. 54, No. 608, London: Kent & Co. 1881.

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