Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Slimming- the 1870's

When most people think of fashion in the Victorian Era, they think of ladies decked out in walking dresses with bustles, tiny hats perched on their tall hairdos, parasols and walking sticks in hand as they chase a murderer down the foggy streets of London with Sherlock Holmes. The 1870's mark the beginning of this mental picture with a revolutionary change in fashion.

Though skirts have been supported by bustle pillows for a good decade now, the traditional idea of a skirt featuring a bustle began to emerge during this decade. Near the end of the 1860's, the volume in the skirts drifted toward the back, and at the beginning of the 1870's, they narrowed significantly, and continued to shrink in width as the decade wore on. It also appears as though slight trains became popular for both day and evening.

Source. An early decade bustle.
A much narrower example from later in the decade.
It appears as though some bustles drifted a little low, rather than protruding right from the natural waistline.

Sleeves for day wear narrowed to a natural width, often with elaborate cuffs. The necklines were high, (although not as high as during the 1850's and 60's) and either squared, v-necked, or high necked.

As for evening, necklines were low and wide, as they had been for several decades, and sleeves were very short.

Near the beginning of the decade, waistlines were still at the natural waist. As the decade progressed, the waistlines of some day dresses began to drift downward, just past the hips and beyond.

An early decade example where the bodice ends right at the hips.

A later decade example where the bodice ends above the knees.

Silk's popularity stayed strong for both day and evening since the 1850's, and trims, ruffles, patterns, and other decorations were back in full force. Darker jewel tones appear to be popular colors of the decade.

Gorgeous color and tassels.

Hairstyles changed dramatically in the early-mid decade from the low, simple buns of the 1860's to tall, elaborate updos, incorporating ringlets and bangs. Hair accessories were popular for evening.

Source. A mid-late decade hairstyle.

Hats became much smaller than the bonnets of the 1860's that covered the entire head. In the 1870's, hats perched on top of the hair, some slanted towards the forehead.
Now I must be the bearer of bad news. Unbeknownst to me until I started researching the 1870's, our friend Franz Xaver Winterhalter died in 1873. To be honest, it leaves me at a bit of a loss. I've gotten pretty spoiled to Winterhalter's beautiful paintings which so wonderfully represent the fashion of the decade. Well, at least for the 1870's and 80's we'll have the exquisite works of James Tissot, whose parents were in the fashion industry. (The top image of this post is also a painting by Tissot).

Source. Click here for a larger view, it beautifully shows evening dresses of the period, with wide, low necklines, narrow sleeves, ribbons and ruffles, and high hairdos.
In my second week running of unintentionally watching films set in the decade I'm researching, I watched Kate and Leopold the other night, and thoroughly enjoyed it. In a nutshell, a British duke living in 1876 (played by Hugh Jackman) travels through time to modern day New York (well, 2001, when the film was made) and falls in love with a businesswoman (played by Meg Ryan) who then has to choose between her career and love. The highlight of the film is a sequence where Hugh Jackman sits at a piano and plays/sings "I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General" from The Pirates of Penzance. There are several anachronisms and historical inaccuracies (for instance, The Pirates of Penzance didn't debut until 1879, even though Leopold claims to have attended the premiere in 1875), and a smattering of profanity, but the story, the dialogue, and the characters are completely charming. Unfortunately, the portion of the story set in the 1870's is very brief, and very few images from those scenes are available to put in this post, but if you're up for some rapid-fire costume spotting, there are some great ones in there. The film is well worth a watch.

Next week we venture into the 1880's, where we'll see small, subtle changes, rather than the swift transformation from hoop skirt to bustle. Au revoir until then!

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