In European and European-influenced countries saw the final triumph of undress or informal styles over the brocades, lace, periwigs and powder of the earlier 18th century. In the aftermath of the French Revolution, no one wanted to appear to be a member of the French aristocracy, and people began using clothing more as a form of individual expression of the true self than as a pure indication of social status. As a result, the shifts that occurred in fashion at the turn of the 19th century granted people the opportunity to present new public exterior identities that provided insights into their individual private selves. Katherine Aaslestad indicates how “fashion, embodying new social values, emerged as a key site of confrontation between tradition and change.”
For women’s dress, the day to day outfit of the skirt and jacket style was practical and tactful, recalling the working class woman. Women’s fashions followed classical ideals, and tightly laced corsets were temporarily abandoned in favor of a high-waisted, natural figure. This natural figure was emphasized by being able to see the body beneath the clothing. Visible breasts were part of this classical look, and some characterized the breasts in fashion as solely aesthetic and sexual.
In Britain, Beau Brummell introduced trousers, perfect tailoring, and unadorned, immaculate linen as the ideals of men’s fashion. In Germany, republican city-states relinquished their traditional, modest, and practical garments and started to embrace the French and English fashion trends of short-sleeved chemise dresses and Spencer jackets. American fashion trends emulated French dress, but in a toned down manner with shawls and tunics to cope with the sheerness of the chemise. However, in Spain, members of the Aristocracy, as well as citizens of the lower class, united and rebelled against French enlightenment ideals and fashion by dressing as majas and majos to contain their Spanish pride.
By the end of the eighteenth century, a major shift in fashion was taking place that extended beyond changes in mere style to changes in philosophical and social ideals. Prior to this time, the style and traditions of the “Ancien Régime” prevented the conceptualization of “the self”. Instead, one’s identity was considered malleable; subject to change depending on what clothes one was wearing. However, by the 1780s, the new, “natural” style allowed one’s inner self to transcend their clothes.
During the 1790s, there was a new concept of the internal and external self. Before this time, there had only been one self, which was expressed through clothing. When going to a masquerade ball, people wore specific clothing, so they could not show their individuality though their clothing. Since, for everyday dress, most people wore similar clothing, people used accessories to show their individuality. These accessories and the detail on the clothing were more important than the shape of the dress.
Incorporated in this new “natural” style was the importance of ease and comfort of one’s dress. Not only was there a new emphasis on hygiene, but also clothing became much lighter and more able to be changed and washed frequently. Even upper class women began wearing cropped dresses as opposed to dresses with long trains or hoops that restricted them from leaving their homes. In a sense, women were influenced by male fashion, such as tailored waistcoats and jackets to emphasize women’s mobility. This new movement toward practicality of dress showed that dress no longer was a way to categorize between classes or genders; dress was meant to suit one’s personal daily routine. It was also during this time period that the fashion magazine and journal industry began to take off. They were most often monthly (often competing) periodicals that allowed men and women to keep up with the ever-changing styles
The fashion canvas of the 18th century changed radically as the 19th century began and simpler, lighter brushstrokes were applied. Fashion in the first two decades mimicked classical Grecian drapery with its fluid lines. Bodices were minimal, cut to end under the bust thereby achieving a high waist that defined the silhouette. Necklines were predominantly low. Sleeves could be long or short.
The fiddle-back bodice, with side, back and shoulder seams that were placed to form a diamond shape, was typical of this period. Dresses generally opened in the front, with pins or drawstrings as the closures, while the skirts of the dresses had side openings, if any at all. The desired effect was one of simplicity. White was the most popular color and any applied trimming was used sparingly. Fabrics were lightweight, with embroidery and details that did not interrupt the aesthetic flow.
Women: soft, subtle, sheer classical drapes; raised back waist of high-waisted dresses; short-fitted single breasted jackets; morning dress; walking dress; evening dress; riding habits; bare bosoms and arms; hair: parted in the center, tight ringlets over the ears
Men: fitted, single-breasted tailcoats; cravats wrapped up to the chin; sideburns and “Brutus style” natural hair; tight breeches; silk stockings; accessorized with: gold watches, cane, hats outside
The previous design simplicity was replaced with decorative excess. Horizontal hem treatments added focus to skirts. Wide lapels created shoulder emphasis and the sleeves and shoulders were further emphasized with extended wings.
Surface ornamentation, color and print positively abounded. Three-dimensional effects in trimmings were achieved with padding. The waistline dropped much closer to its natural spot and was often accentuated by a wide belt. Pelisses and Spencer jackets continued to be worn for warmth.
1840s fashion is characterised by low and sloping shoulders, a low pointed waist, and bell-shaped skirts that grew increasingly voluminous throughout the decade. Evening dresses were often off the shoulder. Hair was parted in the centre with ringlets at the side of the head, or styled with loops around the ears and pulled into a bun at the back of the head. Paisley or crochet shawls were fashionable accessories, as were linen caps with lace frills for indoor wear, and large bonnets for outdoors. Capes with large collars were fashionable.
Very fashionable men sported low, tightly cinched waists, with rounded chests and flared frock-coats that gave them a rather hour-glass figure inspired by Prince Albert. They also wore tight trousers and waistcoats, with high upstanding collars and neckties tied around them. Hair was worn quite long, but swept to the sides. Moustaches and side-burns were popular.
four significant facts that were to seriously affect fashion of the future. Firstly the sewing machine had been invented, secondly clothes would in future become couture design led, thirdly synthetic dyes would make available intense colours. Fourthly in 1860 the crinoline domed skirt silhouette had a flattened front and began to show a dramatic leaning toward the garment back.
Charles Worth thought the crinoline skirt unattractive. However, he is associated with it, as he did manipulate the style, as a result the shape soon changed to a new trained, softer bustled version, which only the really rich found practical.
Right – Dress designed by Charles F. Worth for Empress Elizabeth of Austria and painted by Winterhalter in 1865.
In 1864 Worth designed an overskirt which could be lifted and buttoned up by tabs. This top skirt gave a lot of scope for added ornamentation and by 1868 it was being drawn and looped right up at the back creating drapery and fullness.
The New Princess Line 1866
In 1866 the new Princess gown also changed the line of fashionable dress. The Princess gown was cut in one piece and consisted of a number of joined panels fitted and gored from shoulder to hem that gave the figure shape through seaming.
The Gabriel Princess gown with a small neat white collar was mainly made in grey silk and followed the fuller skirt lines of the era. This is the dress style often used to depict the constrained buttoned up repressed governess character of Jane Eyre in films. Later Princess styles were slimmer and much more form fitting. Sleeves in day dresses were often of a banana shape.
By 1867 with the fullness bunched up to the back of the skirt creating a polonaise style, crinolines and cages suddenly disappeared evolving into tournures or bustles. The bustles supported accentuated drapes on the hips
After 1868 Worth’s overskirt really caught on in England and contrasting underskirts and gown linings were all revealed as the over top skirt was divided or turned back. Other top skirts were called aprons and they were also draped making the wearer look like a piece of elaborate upholstery. Rounder waistlines were fashionable and waistlines even began to rise very slightly. On the left a tiered soft bustle ball gown of 1872. Right – Apron style tablier top layer half skirt over bustle. From 1870, ball gowns always had a train. Soon by 1873 the train was seen in day dress. By 1875 soft polonaise bustle styles were becoming so extreme that the soft fullness began to drop down the back of the garment and form itself into a tiered, draped and frilled train. Painting of tiered frill bustle dresses – Fashion history.Trains were very heavily ornamented with frills, pleats, ruffles, braids and fringing. The sewing machine instead of simplifying sewing, just became a tool to add more ostentation. The other main feature of the style change was the introduction of the cuirasse bodice which dipped front and back extending a little over the hips. By 1880 the soft bustle styles of the 1870s had totally disappeared. By 1878, women of the late Victorian era have a very different look about them compared to earlier Victorian women.
The soft polonaise style bustle styles were replaced by Princess sheath garments without a waist seam with bodice and skirt cut in one.
By 1878 the cuirasse bodices had reached the thighs. The cuirasse bodice was corset like and dipped even deeper both front and back extending well down the hips creating the look of a body encased in armour.Picture of slimline trained dress costume history.
By 1880 the two ideas merged and the whole of the dress was in Princess line style with shoulder to hem panels. The silhouette was slim and elongated even more by the train. No bustle was needed for the cuirasse bodice or Princess sheath dress, but a small pad would have helped any trained fabric to fall well. The gowns of the 1880s were almost always made in two colours of material. Vivid colours such as deep red, peacock blue, bright apple green, royal blue, purple, mandarin, sea green were used alone, in combination, or in tartan fabrics. Some colour combinations were very strange.
At night ladies evening dresses were in softer hues and although they were extravagantly trimmed in contrast fabrics and very décolleté, they followed the general line of fashion
The leg of mutton sleeves continued to develop and sprouted high above the shoulders, By 1895 the sleeves swelled into enormous puffs similar to those of 1833. As happened in 1830 to balance the huge shoulders the skirt widened and flared, whilst keeping the waist tight and handspan narrow.
Queen Victoria’s influence over fashion was long gone. People who were in mourning still followed court guidelines on mourning dress. The real royal influence in fashion was the wife of the Prince of Wales, Princess Alexandra. Together they set the tone for society and fashion in the last decade of the century in the 1890s and into their own reign of the Edwardian era from 1901 to 1910.