History of Fashion 1840 - 1900

1840s

Women

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.

Men

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.


1850s

Women

In the 1850s, women's skirts were domed and bell-shaped, supported by crinoline petticoats.They often featured deep flounces or tiers.Long bloomers and pantaloons trimmed with lace were popular.Tiered cape-jackets were fashionable, as were paisley patterned shawls.Deep bonnets were worn and hair was swept into buns or side coils from a centre parting.

Men

Men wore matching coats, waistcoats and trousers, with hairstyles characterised by large mutton-chop side-burns and moustaches, after the style set by Prince Albert.Shirts had high upstanding collars and were tied at the neck with large bow-ties.High fastening and tight fitting frock coats were also very fashionable; though a new style called the sack coat (a thigh-length, loosely fitted jacket) became popular.The bowler hat was invented around 1850, but was generally seen as a working class hat, while top-hats were favoured by the upper classes.


1860s

Women

1860s women's dress featured tight bodices with high necks and buttoned fronts. White lace was popular for collars and cuffs, as were low sloping shoulders that flared out into wide sleeves. The skirt continued to be full and bell-shaped until around 1865 when it began to lose its volume at the front and move its emphasis towards the back. Hair was worn with a centre parting tied into low chignons at the nape of the neck, with loops or ringlets covering the ears. Ornaments for evening wear included floral wreaths, ostrich feathers, pomegranate flowers, wheatears and butterflies.

Men

In the 1860s it was fashionable for men's coats and jackets to be single-breasted and semi-fitted, extending to the mid thigh. Waistcoats were often collarless and single-breasted, and trousers were occasionally cut from a narrow check cloth. High, starched collars were worn with cravats and neck-ties. Hair was parted from the centre and moderately waved. A particular hairstyle, known as 'Dundreary whiskers' or 'Piccadilly weepers', were long pendant side-whiskers worn with a full beard and drooping moustache.


1870s

Women

1870s women's fashion placed an emphasis on the back of the skirt, with long trains and fabric draped up into bustles with an abundance of flounces and ruching. The waist was lower in the 1870s than the 1860s, with an elongated and tight bodice and a flat fronted skirt. Low, square necklines were fashionable. Hair was dressed high at the back with complicated twists and rolls, falling to the shoulders, adorned with ribbons, bands and decorative combs. Hats were very small and tilted forward to the forehead. Later in the decade wider brimmed 'picture hats' were also worn, though still tilted forwards.

Men

Coats and jackets were semi-fitted and thigh-length. Generally, both jackets and waistcoats were buttoned high on the chest. Shirt collars were stiff and upstanding, with the tips turned down into wings. Hair was often worn parted in the centre, and most forms of facial hair were acceptable, though being clean shaven was rare.


1880s

Women

1880s women's dress featured tightly fitting bodices with very narrow sleeves and high necklines, often trimmed at the wrists with white frills or lace. At the beginning of the decade the emphasis was at the back of the skirt, featuring ruching, flouncing, and embellishments such as bows and thick, rich fabrics and trims. The middle of the decade saw a brief revival of the bustle, which was so exaggerated that the derriere protruded horizontally from the small of the back. By the end of the decade the bustle disappeared. Hair was worn in tight, close curls on the top of the head. Hats and caps were correspondingly small and neat, to fit on top of the hairstyle.

Men

For men, lounge suits were becoming increasingly popular. They were often quite slim, and jackets were worn open or partially undone to reveal the high buttoning waistcoat and watch-chain. Collars were stiff and high, with their tips turned over into wings. Neckties were either the knotted 'four in hand', or versions of the bow-tie tied around the collar.


1890s

Women

In the early part of the decade, women wore tight bodices with high collars and narrow sleeves, much as they had done in the previous decade. From about 1893 however, sleeves started expanding into a leg-of-mutton shape, which was tight at the lower arm and puffed out at the upper arm. Wide shoulders were fashionable and horizontal decoration on the bodice further exaggerated the line. Skirts were worn in a full-length, simple A-line. Masculine styles and tailoring were increasingly popular, and women sometimes sported a shirt collar and tie, particularly when playing golf or out walking. Hair was worn high on top of the head, in tight curls. Hats were small or wide with lots of trimming, but generally worn squarely on top of the head.

Men

The three-piece lounge suit was very popular and regularly worn from the 1890s onwards, and it became increasingly common to have creases at the front of the trousers. Frock coats were still worn, but generally by older or more conservative men. Collars were starched and high, with the tips pressed down into wings, though by the end of the century collars were more frequently turned down and worn with the modern long, knotted tie style. Hair was cut short and usually parted at the side. Heavy moustaches were common, and older men still sported beards. Some men now went clean-shaven.


Learn about the history of fashion from 1900 - 1970

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The Origins of Italian Fashion 1900-1945 (Paperback)||RF20F

The Origins of Italian Fashion 1900-1945 (Paperback)||RF20F

SPECIAL EXHIBITION PRICE £15.00 (RRP £19.99)   The Origins of Italian Fashion examines the history of Italian fashion fro…

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Tue 09 December 2014 14:30

Members are invited on an exclusive tour of the warehouse to learn more about the company’s history and see the incredible array of extraordinary costumes.

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