New fashions for 1881 were paying tribute to older fashions. For instance, the fuller back in skirt fashions was said to be “presaging a return to the old crinoline, but the progress…towards that once favorite style, is a slow one, and it is more probably the English ladies, with their usual good taste, will rest content with a full and gracefully-draped bouffant, supported in its place by a small crinolette.” Dresses also continued to be worn short and have trains that were considered “vogue for ceremonious indoor toilettes.”
Gathered bodies remained in favor at this time and the pointed and round basque were both equally popular and fashionable. Polonaises were worn and, to a certain extent, were fashionable because they were seen as convenient. Sleeves varied, but they were fuller and more roomy at the shoulder part of the armhole than they had previously been. Additionally, mantles and jackets were extremely popular for fall. They were created from “rich materials, such as broths, brocaded satins and velvets…[and] trimmed in an equally rich manner with passementerie, rich lace, chenille, and heavy silk embroideries.”
The illustration to the left shows six different costumes popular for October 1881. The first costume on the far left is a Dark-green Brocade, trimmed with embroidery. The body is pointed front and back and ornamented with a collar and plastron. The overskirt is draped in the front and back and placed over a underskirt made of long plissés.
The next fashion is a Matineé created from cashmere and trimmed with brocade. The long jacket has collar, cuffs, a pocket, and revers of brocade with a underskirt ornamented by a plissé flounce and edged top and bottom with brocade.
The long Dressing Gown in the center left is created from blue poplin trimmed with yellow silk braid.
The wool Promenade Costume, center right, has a jacket cut round with a plastron in front and the neck is open en V. It is filled in with satin bouillonné and trimmed by revers. The drape across the plissé is trimmed by revers, and the drape across the plissé underskirt is brocade. It forms a pouff (poof) behind and has a large bow in front.
The Beige Costume is trimmed with the same colored satin. The jacket is cut round, trimmed in front by bows, and has folded drapes. The drapery at the waist forms a large bow at the back. The overskirt is gathered in front and at sides, and trimmed with satin bows, and the back is draped on a plissé underskirt.
The last fashion, a Promenade Toilette is created from English woolen fabric is trimmed with plaid. The long jacket is made with two pockets and is crossed with folds of plaid that form bows and ends at the back. A second drape is laid across the front, under which is a skirt, buttoned in the middle to imitate the jacket. The skirt then falls at the back, and the underskirt is made of a deep plissé.
The Promenade Costume in the illustration to the right is created from poplin and satin and sports a new sleeve style for 1881. The body is pointed in front, trimmed by gathered gilet and revers, and the back is trimmed with a large satin bow below the waist. The front of the overskirt is cut in two points and meets at the right side under gathers formed by the satin sash. The underskirt consists of a flounce of poplin, and a satin bouillonné and is headed by five rows of gathers.
The Percy Visiting or Carriage Costume is created from blue satin and cashmere and is trimmed with Irish crocheted lace. The cuirasse body is pointed back and front and is rimmed with a wide collar and lace and with two revers of satin. The overskirt is made of draped cashmere and edged with lace. The back is formed with the same draperies as the front and has a bow, and the underskirt consists of deep satin pleats, edged by a small plissé.
The Hilda Promenade Costume is trimmed with brown velvet. The jacket is cut with two points in front and trimmed with a band of velvet. The overskirt is draped in front and gathered at the left side, along with bouillonné. The back of the jacket is cut en princesse and forms drapes at the back over a double plissé flounced underskirt.
The illustration to the left shows a Morning Costume, Reception Toilette, and Promenade Costume. The Aberdeen Morning Costume is created from checked cheviot. The body is buttoned at the back and gathered round the neck and waist. It is worn with a Suisse belt. The overskirt, which is a continuation of the body, drapes in front and falls gracefully behind, over a plissé underskirt. Bows ornament the sides of the skirt.
In the center is a Reception Toilette created from black satin and brocade. The body is pointed in front and forms a plissé coat-shaped skirt that is trimmed with a large brocade bow. Half the sleeve is satin and the other half brocade. The overskirt in front consists of encharpes of satin and brocade, which is gathered in the middle, and a flounce is also formed of half brocade and half satin.
The Grace Promenade Costume is created from English woolen lustre and a striped fabric. The body is round in front, and, in the back, it is slightly raised under a large bow. A ribbon starts at the side seam and the back and front are gathered at neck. The overskirt opens in front upon a plissé underskirt, and, it has bouillonné at side and is puffed at the back.
- Thomas, Mrs. Edward (Jane), The London and Paris Ladies’ Magazine of Fashion, Literature and Fine Arts, Vol. 54, No. 610, London: Kent & Co. 1881.