Today is “Fashion Friday,” where we take a look at an interesting 19thc fashion trend or clothing item, selected for its relative smirk-worthiness.  But be careful what you smirk at – we all have fashion “skeletons” in our own closets.  Just imagine what they’ll be smirking at a century from now.

The female silhouette, 1870s-1890s

The size of a 19th century woman’s dress silhouette went through quite a transformation between the time period of Gone with the Wind – where Miss Scarlett’s hoop skirts could have taken out half a Yankee battalion – and the turn of the century.

It’s a barbecue, y’all!

So, what happened after the hoop skirt style of the Civil War era?  Overall, the trend went to a slimmer silhouette, with some emphasis on the backside before that part slimmed down, too.  Here is a quick tour of the trend, via drawings from one of the fashion magazines of the time, Harper’s Bazaar:

Late 1860s-early 1870s: less train; wide, ankle-length skirts

Promenade toilettes, 7.11.1868

Mid 1870s-1880s: skirts decrease in circumference (women could get through doorways now, and not catch their skirts on fire as easily – yay!); torso becomes more structured with corsets and cuirasses (bone-lined fitted jackets); bustle takes on more prominence

1890s: hourglass figure with small, fitted waist; bustle reduces in size; leg-of-mutton sleeves are popular for a short time

Graduates’ commencement gowns, 1893; Demi-saison gowns from Paris, 1898

What some of the undergarments looked like:

Clockwise from left: bustle pad (1868); dimity bustle, back view (1881); hoop skirt w/bustle and flounce (1869);
gray coutil corset (1881)

What we women will go through to look beautiful and trendy!  (Hope you fellas appreciate it).  Now it’s time for you to ‘fess up: what trend did you really get into long ago that turned out to be a bad idea?  What photos of yourself make you laugh?  Big hair? Cropped tops? Leg warmers?  C’mon, we’re all friends here, you can tell me.  And you gentlemen, too – I’m sure there are a few style choices you regret!

In the interests of full disclosure (and fair play), I’ll share one of my fashion faux pas: the “big shoulders” of the ’80s (and remember how those shoulder pads always bunched up?)  Sorry, no photo available, but trust me – it was not a good look!

Thanks for reading,

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