dating, clothes, photographs, 1880s, fashion
Figured silk and chiffon dress, Sara Mayer & F. Morhanger, 1889-92. Museum no. T.270&A-1972
Sara Mayer & F. Morhanger (designed and made by)
Figured silk, overlaid with chiffon, velvet ribbon, machine lace, with striped velvet
Museum no. T.270&A-1972
Given by Lord and Lady Fairhaven
This dress features a high, upstanding collar, which is a distinctive and fashionable feature of 1880s daywear. The sleeves sit close to the line of the body, as opposed to the 1890s when they were exaggerated into a 'leg of mutton' shape. The body itself is curvy, with an emphasised hourglass waist created by a rigid whalebone corset.
It is elaborately trimmed. Many high-end dressmakers of the late 19th century emulated the work of the House of Worth, which produced the most luxurious gowns created from bold French silks, combined with ingenious design touches in embroidery, lace and chiffon.
It was worn by one of the two Rogers sisters, Cara or Anna, daughters of a wealthy American industrialist. Cara Rogers later became Lady Fairhaven - she was a 'Dollar Princess', one of several heiresses who came to Britain in the late 19th century, and married into the British aristocracy bringing much-needed glamour and financial capital. Lady Fairhaven kept several spectacular outfits bought in Paris and New York for her sister and herself in the 1880s and 1890s.
Figured silk and chenille afternoon dress, Halling, Pearce & Stone, 1879-81. Museum no. T.238&A-1916
Afternoon dress (bodice and skirt)
Halling, Pearce & Stone
Satin, trimmed with figured silk, chenille tassels and machine-made lace, lined with silk and cotton, reinforced with whalebone
Museum no. T.238&A-1916
Given by Miss Bertha H. Davey
By 1880 women’s fashions were becoming very elaborate. This ensemble demonstrates the ‘over-upholstered’ look, with a variety of fabrics, rows of tassels and lace embellishment, all used on one outfit. Hitherto the train was found only on evening dress, but the high neckline and elbow-length sleeves indicate that this dress was for formal afternoon wear. The bodice is in the ‘cuirasse’ style, extending into a point below the waistline. The dress bears the label of the maker: Halling, Pearce and Stone. Following the example set by Charles Worth in Paris, dressmakers had begun to identify the clothes they made. This can be seen in professionally made clothing from the late 1870s onward.
Evening dress, C.F. Worth, about 1881. Museum no. T.63&A-1976
Evening dress (skirt and bodice)
Charles Frederick Worth (1826-95)
Silk satin, trimmed with pearl embroidery and machine-made lace, lined with white silk, the bodice supported with whalebone struts, machine and hand sewn
Given by Mrs G.T. Morton
Museum no. T.63&A-1976
This silk satin evening dress, designed by Charles Frederick Worth, represents the height of couture fashion in the early 1880s. It was worn by Mrs Granville Alexander, a daughter of the U.S. sewing machine pioneer, Isaac Singer. The donor was her great-niece.
The bodice is seamed and gored for a moulded fit. It extends into drapes at the hips and merges with the train, which falls in inverted pleats from the seams of the bodice. The inside of the skirt is hooped at the back, with tapes for adjustment, to create the bustle effect. The elegant cut, combined with the rich materials and embroidery, makes for a flattering silhouette.
Worth was a celebrated Parisian couture dressmaker. He was born in 1825 in Bourne, Lincolnshire, and started working at the age of 12 in a draper's shop in London. Eight years later he moved to Paris, where he opened his own premises in 1858. He was soon patronised by the Empress Eugenie and her influence was instrumental to his success. Made-to-measure clothes from Worth, as from the other great Parisian fashion houses, were an important symbol of social and financial advancement.
Evening dress, E. Wiggins, about 1887. Museum no. T.278toB-1972
E. Wiggins (retailer)
Silk satin and velvet, with beaded decoration and cotton lining
Museum no. T.278 to B-1972
Given by Lord and Lady Fairhaven
This evening dress shows how fashion was changing in the late 1880s. The bustle is no longer predominant and emphasis is focused on contrasting fabrics and decorative effects. The closely fitting bodice of dark green velvet is embellished with an iridescent beaded panel. The separate skirt is made from shot cream silk, trimmed with iridescent bead motifs over which machine-made lace is asymmetrically draped. One side of the train is faced with a triangular panel of gold and white figured silk. According to the Lady's World of 1887: 'Skirts now never have two sides alike'.
The grosgrain waistband is stamped in gold 'E. Wiggins, 52 West 21st Street, N.Y.' The paper label stitched to the waistband carries the name of the wearer, 'A. P. Rogers'.
The dress is very similar to a fragmentary one from the same source, now in the collection at Norwich Castle Museum and marked 'Laferrière', a well known Parisian couturier.
Portrait of Ellen Terry, Frederick Hollyer, 1886. Museum no. 7864-1938
Photograph, portrait of Ellen Terry
Frederick Hollyer (1837-1933)
Given by Eleanor M. Hollyer, 1938
This photograph shows the actress Ellen Terry (1847-1928), one of the most celebrated and loved actress of her day. She was a famous devotee and advocate of aesthetic dress.
Aesthetic dress was popular in the 1880s and 1890s, particularly amongst artistic and literary circles. Those who supported it repudiated tight corsetry and cumbersome petticoats in favour of looser, less restrictive clothes. In this photograph, Ellen Terry is not wearing a bustle even though exaggerated bustle pads were worn for most of the 1880s.
Portrait of Ellen Terry with her children, Frederick Hollyer, 1886. Museum no. 7862-1938
Photograph, portrait of Ellen Terry with her children Edith and Edward
Frederick Hollyer (1837-1933)
Museum no. 7862-1938
Given by Eleanor M. Hollyer, 1938
Hollyer was the photographer of choice for the artistic set of the late 19th century. His Portraits of Many Persons of Note fills three volumes with nearly 200 portraits and comprises a pictorial Who's Who of late Victorian and Edwardian celebrities. Ellen Terry (1847-1928) was one of the most celebrated actress of her day, her children Edith and Edward followed in her theatrical footsteps.
Portrait of Mrs Walter Crane, F. Hollyer, 1886. Museum no. 7811-1938
Photograph, portrait of Mary Frances, Mrs Walter Crane
Frederick Hollyer (1837-1933)
Museum no. 7811-1938
Mary Frances Andrews had married Walter Crane, the painter, illustrator, designer, writer and teacher, in 1871. She is shown here in a high-waisted, uncorseted dress that was derived from classical costume. It was of a kind promoted in artistic social circles as 'Rational Dress'. The photographer, Frederick Hollyer, was a leading specialist in the photographic reproduction of paintings, but he devoted one day a week to sitters from artistic and literary circles. His atmospheric photographs contribute considerably to our understanding of the period.
Dress, C.F. Worth, about 1889. Museum no. T.268&A-1972
Dress (skirt and bodice)
Charles Frederick Worth (1826-95), probably
Wool, with figured satin panels, edged with silk braid
Museum no. T.268&A-1972
Given by Lord and Lady Fairhaven
With its minimal bustle and strong emphasis on the sleeves, this day dress illustrates the smoother silhouette that began to appear in the late 1880s. It is said to have been worn by Cara Leland Huttleston Rogers of New York, later Lady Fairhaven.
The bodice is waist length, panelled with satin and edged with black moiré ribbon. It is trimmed at the back with a made-up bow with long pendant ends. The dress fastens at the shoulder over a boned, green silk bodice lining. The sleeves are long with a high pleated shoulder. Collar and cuffs are faced with gold beaded tulle. The skirt has a slightly draped front, with the back flared and arranged in deep pleats. It is mounted over a green silk petticoat, and boned and taped to a bustle shape at the back. The skirt may have been altered and have lost a side panel.
A machine-woven label 'Worth Paris' has been stitched to the waist tape. Charles Frederick Worth (1825-95) was a celebrated Parisian couture dressmaker. He was born in 1825 in Bourne, Lincolnshire, and started working at the age of 12 in a draper's shop in London. Eight years later he moved to Paris, where he opened his own premises in 1858. He was soon patronised by the Empress Eugenie and her influence was instrumental to his success. Made-to-measure clothes from Worth, as from the other great Parisian fashion houses, were an important symbol of social and financial advancement.
Summer dress, designer unknown, about 1885. Museum no. T.224&A-1927
White cotton, trimmed with Bedfordshire Maltese lace, machine-stitched and hand-finished
Museum no. T.224&A-1927
Given by Mrs. Phayre
This light summer dress would have been ideal for a hot climate. It is said to have been made in 1885 in Clifton, a district of Bristol in the West of England, and worn in Burma. It has the fashionable bustle shape and copious trimmings but is comparatively hard-wearing, light and easy to wear. It would also have been easy to wash, unlike the silk satin dresses that were fashionable during this period. Dresses with asymmetrical drapes and inserted waistcoat effects were in fashion from 1884. The West End Gazette for February 1885 illustrated a similar example (page 178).
Satin and chenille dress, designer unknown, about 1880. Museum no. T.113-1964
Satin, trimmed with applied beading, chenille tassels and needle lace, lined with cotton, reinforced with whalebone, edged with brush braid, machine and hand sewn
Museum no. T.113-1964
Given by Mrs. A. Nicholls
According to the donor, this dress was worn by her mother on her wedding day. It could have been her 'going away' ensemble, or it could have been the dress she wore for the actual ceremony. Because weddings in those days took place in the morning, daywear with long sleeves and high necks was the acceptable style. For her wedding, a woman invariably wore a coloured dress that would serve as a ‘best dress’ for years to come. By 1880 the skirt was quite slender in profile, often with an overskirt swathed in front, gathered over the bustle at the back and falling into a train. The horizontal bands of applied frills and ruching on the skirt are typical decoration for this period. The bodice is tight-fitting and designed to suggest a jacket.
Evening dress suit, Morris & Co, about 1885. Museum no. T.171&A&B-1960
Evening dress suit (jacket, waistcoat, trousers)
Morris & Co
Wool barathea with satin buttons and ribbed silk lapels; lined with black satin
Museum no. T.171 & A & B-1960
Given by Mr B. W. Owram
This is an example of a formal evening dress which would have been worn to smart dinners, the theatre and other fashionable evening entertainments. It was important at this period to be properly dressed in public and private. A fashionable man needed clothes to suit all occasions, both work and leisure. This meant that he sometimes had to change his outfits six or seven times in the space of a day.
In 1888 the dinner jacket was introduced for more informal evening wear. Unlike the evening dress suit, which was cut with tails, the back of the dinner jacket was cut whole. Since then evening dress has altered very little. Any stylistic changes were very subtle, affecting details such as the length and width of the lapels or the fullness of the trousers. The jacket of this evening suit still has the 'button stand' around the outer edge of the lapels. This is a feature that disappeared in the 1890s.
Dress, designer unknown, about 1888. Museum no. T.164&A-1937
Satin, with machine-embroidered panels and silk collar, cuffs and front with a velvet warp-figured stripe
Museum no. T.164&A-1937
Given by Miss Sophie B. Steel
This trained overdress is styled to suggest a man's coat of the Directoire period in France. (In the aftermath of the French Revolution, the years 1795 to 1799 were a time when the country was run by an executive power - the five 'Directors' - that was in turn overthrown by Napoleon Bonaparte.) The Queen magazine of August 1888 illustrated a very similar 'Directoire' reception dress, and in November of that year commented: 'the petticoat falls in gathers from the waist . . . corresponding with the large revers (and) . . . the large cuffs . . . The sides of the coat hang down plain and straight . . . all the fullness being gathered into a cluster in the centre of the back below the waist.'
This dress is made of satin. The bodice fronts are faced with machine-embroidered panels and trimmed with Japonaiserie (Japanese-inspired exoticism) buttons of cast-metal. The dress fastens with a half-belt and buckle. The collar, cuffs and front of the separate skirt are made of silk with a velvet warp-figured stripe. The skirt is mounted on glazed cotton and over a boned foundation.
Dress, designer unknown, about 1885. Museum no. Circ.204&A-1958
Jacquard-woven silk, mother-of-pearl, cotton and whalebone
Museum no. Circ.204&A-1958
Given by Rev. W.H. Padget
This elegant bustle dress displays a dense pattern of violets springing from a bed of vine leaves. The design would have been woven by a powered jacquard loom and is an example of good commercially produced fabric.
The floral design complements the construction of this dress, accentuating the closely fitted lines of the bodice and drapery on the front of the skirt. It also flows in sweeping folds over the bustle, which by the mid-1880s jutted out almost at right angles from behind. Bustles were often a separate structure attached around the waist and included crinolettes made of steel half-hoops, down-filled pads and wire mesh structures. By 1885 the bustle was often incorporated into the back of the foundation skirt itself in the form of a small pad attached to the waistband and horizontal rows of steel which could be pulled into a curved shape. This dress has a foundation skirt of grey denim that is cut straight in front and gathered and pleated at the back to follow the lines of the separate bustle worn underneath.
Riding habit jacket, Messrs Redfern & Co., 1885-6. Museum no. T.430-1990
Riding habit jacket
Messrs. Redfern and Co. (designed and made by)
Flannel trimmed with mohair, lined with sateen
Museum no. T.430-1990
Given by the Honourable Mrs. S.F. Tyler
For much of the nineteenth century fashionable women wore dark woollen tailored jackets inspired by men's coats. By the 1880s their dress was so similar that some observers noted that from a distance it was difficult to distinguish very young ladies from young gentlemen. This was no doubt helped by the fashion for wearing bowlers, top hats, cravats, waistcoats and trousers under skirts.
Many women's jackets were embellished with details borrowed from military uniform. Braiding was a popular form of decoration inspired by ornamentation on regimental dress as well as the flamboyant hussar designs. This elegant example is based on the regimental patrol jacket characterized by parallel rows of applied braid across the breast, looped at intervals into designs known as 'crow's feet' because of their distinctive shape. Here the rows are shortened, and fanciful whirls at the proper right edge and on the collar do not relate to military models. This imaginative combination of vertical and horizontal trimming emphasizes the length of the bodice rather than its width and ensures that the waist appears relatively small.
The tailoring firm Redfern and Co., made this riding jacket for May Primrose Littledale. They were famous for their sporting costumes, smart tailor-made dresses and coats suited to everyday fashionable wear. During the mid-1880s Redfern incorporated braiding into many of their designs for walking outfits and outdoor jackets. The Queen magazine of 10 May 1884 commented on some particularly striking examples including, 'The "Hungarian" ... lavishly adorned with finest mohair braid, and finished with knotted cords; and the "Polish", of royal blue "faced" cloth ... handsomely braided across the front.' Unfortunately May did not have long to enjoy wearing this jacket as she died soon after it was made.
Portrait of Agathonike Ionides, G.F. Watts, 1880. Museum no. CAI.1142
Painting, portrait of Agathonike Ionides
George Frederick Watts OM, RA (1817-1904)
Museum no. CAI.1142
Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides
The sitter is Agathonike Fenerli (1845-1920). The wife of Constantine Ionides, a wealthy art patron and collector. She is shown in aesthetic dress.
Aesthetic dress was popular in the 1880s and 1890s, particularly within artistic and literary circles. Those who supported it repudiated tight corsetry and cumbersome petticoats in favour of less restrictive clothing. They did, however, favour luxurious trimmings such as lace, as shown here.
Velvet court shoe, designer unknown, 1885-90. Museum no. T.206&C-1927
Silk velvet with silk ribbon, lined with satin and leather, with diamante buckle
Museum no. T.206&C-1927
Given by the Ingram family
For much of the first half of the 19th century flat shoes were popular amongst fashionable women. However, after a long absence heels began to make a comeback around the mid-century. Low-cut slip-on shoes or 'court' shoes were the most popular form of women's footwear during the 1880's and 1890's.
The curved construction of the heels on this brown velvet pair was influenced by the heel shapes from the previous century. It was known as the 'Louis' after the famous French kings of the 1700s. The diamanté buckle is also a reference to the extravagant styles of the 18th century although here it is smaller and less showy than its predecessors.