Fashion Friday


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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10 thoughts on “Fashion Friday”

  1. RowennaRowenna

    I love the bustle silhouette–I'm forever trying to finagle a way to make a formal gown influenced by it–but a literal interpretation would be pretty unwearable.

    Hmmm…as a child of the 80s I'm embarassed now by how I thought it was cool to match my scrunchie to my leggings. Yeah. Not cool. Neither were scrunchies as a category.

  2. jesswords10jesswords10

    I like this research! You make me want to watch Anne of Green Gables, "Oh Marilla, look at the puffs!" she cries as she enters the doorway sideways in her fancy new dress! hahaha

  3. Jody HedlundJody Hedlund

    Love your blog, Kathy! I write historicals too and am always on the lookout for new interesting facts and information!

  4. Shellie SakaiShellie Sakai

    HaH! You forgot the infamous tube top of the seventies! And no I will not post a pic! LOL! Wonderful blog, I liked the bustle, since I have some junk in my trunk a bustle would be unnecessary! Good job!

  5. Kim StenbergKim Stenberg

    Your blog is a real find! Keep writing; I will keep reading. By the way, how do you upload multiple images in an entry?


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