dating, clothes, photographs, 1870s, fashion
Silk dress with bustle, designer unknown, about 1872. Museum no. T.101&A&B-1972
Dress (dress, peplum and belt)
Silk, trimmed with silk braid, lined with glazed cotton and buckram, faced with silk and ribbon
Museum no. T.101&A&B-1972
Given by Miss A. Maishman
This ensemble is typical of fashionable women’s daywear of the early 1870s. The silk has a figured pattern of black and white leaves on a speckled ground. The dress is trimmed with silk braid. There is an overskirt over the back of the dress, accentuating the bustle that was now being worn underneath. Open sleeves of the kind seen here were very fashionable in the early 1870s. The fashion magazine 'The Queen' shows a dress with the same squared-edge sleeve in an issue for August 1870.
Cotton walking dress with braid, designer unknown, about 1872. Museum no. T.128toB-1923
Cotton, trimmed with silk braid, fastened with bone buttons
Given by Miss Julia Reckitt and Messrs G. F. and A. I. Reckitt
Museum no. T.128 to B-1923
This is a jaunty, sensible woman’s outfit of the early 1870s designed for boating or seaside walking. A hemline just at the ankle indicates a garment intended for walking outdoors. The style of the dress has been inspired by the colours and stripes of sailors' uniforms. It is made of cotton, so it is easily washed and dried. Despite its practical use, the ensemble still incorporates the details of fashionable dress, with an overskirt in front and a bustle worn underneath at the back.
Silk day dress, designer unknown, about 1870. Museum no. T.152toB-1966
Silk, trimmed with silk ribbon and silk satin, lined with glazed linen, machine and hand sewn
Given by Miss R. Wilson
Museum no. T.152 to B-1966
By 1870 the circumference of the skirt had reduced considerably from its proportions in the mid-1860s. Fullness remained at the back, where it was swathed over a bustle and tied with tapes on the inside to allow the skirt to drape in a becoming fashion. This ensemble illustrates the decorations, especially fringing and applied ruffles, that were popular at the time. The unfitted jacket and fairly loose-fitting skirt suggest that the ensemble might have been worn by an older woman.
Fine wool morning coat, designer unknown, 1870-5. Museum no. T.5-1982
Fine wool, with a velvet collar; edges bound with wool braid; buttons covered in sateen; partially lined with twilled silk, and sleeves lined with twilled cotton
Museum no. T.5-1982
The morning coat was originally a single-breasted tailcoat, worn in the early 19th century, and also known as the riding coat (or 'Newmarket'). By the 1850s it was shaped halfway between a riding coat and a frock coat. It was usually single-breasted and was known as the 'cutaway', as the fronts sloped away elegantly to the broad skirts behind.
This example is a variation of the morning coat. It was introduced in 1870 and was known as the 'University' or 'Angle-fronted' coat. The fronts were cut at an acute angle from the second button, exposing much of the waistcoat.
The morning coat was worn during the daytime, as the name suggests. It became so popular that it began to rival the frock coat for day and business wear. Manners for Men (1897), by Mrs Humphry, stated:' For morning wear the morning-coat or jacket of the tweed suit is correct. After lunch, when in town, the well-dressed man may continue to wear his morning coat or the regulation frock-coat, with trousers of some neat, striped grey mixture.'
Morning coats were usually made of dark colours, and the fabrics included worsteds, diagonals, hopsack, ribbed meltons and beavers. The collars were often faced with velvet and the edges were bound, corded or stitched.
This example has large wide sleeves, as was fashionable for the period. It also has wide lapels and is buttoned very low on the chest. After 1875 coats tended to be buttoned much higher. The Gentleman's Magazine of Fashion (1875) justified this fashion for health reasons: 'Medical men ascribe many deaths during the past winter to the fashion of low collars and to gentlemen not being sufficiently protected by their clothing at the throat and neck.'
Cotton velveteen coat, designer unknown, 1873-5. Museum no. T.3-1982
Cotton velveteen, lined with silk, wool twill and cotton, edged with wool braid
Museum no. T.3-1982
As the frock coat became formal daywear in the 1850s, a more informal style of coat, called the morning coat was introduced. It had skirts that were cut away in front. This early 1870s morning coat was known as the ‘University’ style. It is characterised by sharply angled cut-away fronts, short length and double-breasted style. The wide collar and lapels are typical of the 1870s, as is the loose sleeve.
Silk satin evening dress with tiers of lace, designer unknown, 1876-8. Museum no. T.130A-1958
Silk satin, trimmed with silk ribbon and machine-made lace, lined with cotton, reinforced with whalebone, machine and hand sewn
Given by Mrs Thérèse Horner
Museum no. T.130&A-1958
This ensemble characterises fashionable evening wear for women in the late 1870s. The elbow-length sleeves and square neckline show that it was probably a dinner dress rather than ball gown. Tiers of machine-made lace adorn the skirt and bodice; an overskirt of satin swathes the front of the dress. The bodice extends into a point below the waistline in front and back. This was a new style, known as a ‘cuirasse’ bodice, which appeared in fashion magazines about 1875 and remained fashionable through the 1880s.
Ruched silk dress, designer unknown, about 1873. Museum no. T.51&A-1922
Great Britain or France
Silk and ruching
Given by the Marchioness of Bristol, Ickworth, Bury St Edmunds
Museum no. T.51&A-1922
The ruched skirt and draperies on this dress reverberate with intense colour, revealing the fashion for bright new synthetic dyes. Their inception owes much to the work of Sir William Henry Perkin (1838-1907), who discovered the first famous artificial colour by accident in 1856 when he was a student at the Royal College of Chemistry in London. While experimenting with a synthetic formula to replace the natural anti-malarial drug quinine, he produced a reddish powder instead of the colourless quinine. To better understand the reaction he tested the procedure using aniline and created a crude black product that ‘when purified, dried and digested with spirits of wine gave a mauve dye’. This dye created a beautiful lustrous colour that Perkin patented and which became known as ‘aniline violet’ or ‘mauveine’.
Perkin’s discovery led to a revolution in synthetic colour from the late 1850s onwards. Textile manufacturers soon turned to his aniline process and the resulting fabrics were characterised by an unprecedented brilliance and intensity that delighted the consumer. Women’s dresses acted as a perfect advertisement for these rich hues, especially as trimmings usually matched the colour of the gown. In August 1859 the satirical journal ‘Punch’ described the craze for purple as ‘Mauve Measles’, a disease which erupted in a ‘measly rash of ribbons’ and ended with the entire body covered in mauve. Soon other synthetic dyes were being produced with evocative names such as ‘acid magenta’, ‘aldehyde green’, ‘Verguin’s fuchine’, ‘Martius yellow’ and Magdela red’ to match their gaudy appearance. This dress is coloured with a chemical dye which closely resembles the aniline violet and purple fabric samples dyed with Perkin and Sons Colors shown in the ‘Practical Mechanics Journal: Record of the Great Exhibition’, 1862.
Jacquard silk dress with ruching and lace, designer unknown, 1878-80. Museum no. Circ.606-1962
Jacquard woven silk, ruched silk trimmed with machine lace
Given by Miss K. Greaswell
Museum no. Circ.606-1962
During the late 1870s the fashionable female silhouette changed. It moved away from the exaggerated padding provided by the bustle (a device worn under the skirt to push it out) to sheath-like dresses that emphasised the natural shapely curves of the body.
Princess dresses, like this one, suited this style particularly well. The bodice and skirt were cut in one piece with no seam at the waist. This construction created a long narrow line and a smooth fit over the contours of the bust and hips, accentuated by the figure-hugging corsets worn beneath.
The fitted look was also achieved by cutting the bodice with five seams at the back and inserting front darts that curved in at the waist and then out again. The bodice was often fastened at the centre front or, as in this example, with a concealed hook and eye closure on one side.
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, Mrs. Golding, 1879. Museum no. T.63-1939
Mrs. Golding (unknown)
Figured silk, trimmed with machine embroidery, net and machine-made lace
Museum no. T.63-1939
Given by Mrs W. A. Horn
This ensemble characterises fashionable evening wear for women in the late 1870s. The elbow-length sleeves and square neckline show that it was probably not a ball gown, but worn for dinner or the opera. By the late 1870s the profile of the skirt had narrowed considerably. The back draped over a bustle, and on evening dresses extended into a train. Cloaks and mantles were still worn for warmth outdoors, but their shape had slimmed down considerably after the 1860s, so as to follow the contour of the dress underneath. Those worn with evening dress were often trimmed with feathers, braid and beaded embroidery.
Corded silk afternoon dress, designer unknown, 1872-5. Museum no. T.112toB-1938
Corded silk, trimmed with corded silk, lined with cotton, faced with silk, edged with brush braid, machine and hand sewn
Museum no. T.112 to B-1938
Given by Miss M. Eyre-Poppleton
The influence of masculine tailoring can be seen in the cuffs and bodice revers of this woman’s afternoon dress. The overall effect is quite severe, with all the decoration based on the application of a darker blue silk. Fashion is moving away from the fussier trimmings of the early 1870s. This garment is well made, with cleanly cut and finished appliqué and seams, indicating the work of a professional dressmaker.
Double-breasted frock coat, designer unknown, 1871. Museum no. T.47-1947
Museum no. T.47-1947
Given by Mr A. W. Furlong
This is an excellent example of a double-breasted frock coat. Formal gentleman's daywear of the later 19th century was usually of black or blue-black wool. The jacket, trousers and waistcoat that comprised the suit could be of one colour and were then known as 'dittos'. Alternatively, a contrasting waistcoat and trousers were often worn to add colour and variety to the outfit. This style continued until the 20th century and became identified as the city business man's suit of black coat, striped trousers and bowler hat (replacing the top hat).
This suit is said to have been worn by the donor's father, Robert O'Brien Furlong, C.B., at his wedding in Dublin on 29 June 1871.
Dress, designer unknown, 1870-3. Museum no. T.182&A-1914
Aniline dyed silk, lined with cotton, trimmed with satin and bobbin lace, reinforced with whalebone
Given by Mr Leonard Shields
Museum no. T.182&A-1914
According to the donor, this dress was worn by his 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 mornings, daywear with long sleeves and high necks was the acceptable style. For her wedding a woman often wore a coloured dress that would serve as a ‘best dress’ for years to come.