Picnic ensembles for 1871

Now that we have seen how artists interpreted outdoor clothes in the early 1870s, lets take a look at some real outfits that might have been worn to picnics in 1871.

For the ladies, dresses would most likely be of plain, unpatterned fabric, trimmed with fringe, braid, and bias strips in either matching or contrasting tones.  The silhouette and would demonstrate the change from the back heavy, oval hoops of the 1860s to the bustled 1870s silhouette.  Fabrics would be of wool, silk, or cotton depending on the weather, and how fashionable and up-to-date the wearer was.

Four silk dresses:

Outdoor dresses, 1867-1871, Metropolitan Museum of Art

If the weather was relatively cool, very fashionable ladies might wear highly trimmed silk dresses, such as this one:

Dress, 1868-69, UK, Collection of the V&A

The design and trim of this dress are very similar to the one shown in Monet’s painting on Monday.

In warmer weather, light cotton dresses similar to the ones shown in Monet’s Women in the Garden would be ideal.

Day dress, 1869, UK, Collection of the V&A

These dresses are quite easily soiled and torn, but also easily put together.  They seem to have been extremely common in the late 1860s and early 1870s, with the bustled effect becoming more and more pronounced as the years went on.

The more practical minded were likely to wear much simpler dresses, such as these:

Afternoon dress, European, 1865-1871, Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dress, 1870, American, Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Older women could wear looser fashions:

Dress, UK, ca 1870, Collection of the V&A

If you wanted to be practical, and fashionable, a wool dress with bright trimmings, such as this one, would be ideal:

Dress, about 1868, American, Boston Museum of Fine Art

Do click on the image to be taken to the museum’s page, because the back view of this dress is lovely.

All of these dresses would be worn with hats, gloves, parasols, and various wraps and shawls: accessories images coming tomorrow!

And what would men wear?  Ummmm….the stuff you see in paintings and drawings.  Not many examples of their extent garments were preserved.

Rate the Dress – Rose Atherton’s 1845 fantasty

Last week Wallis Simpson’s Yves Saint Laurent frock showed us that while the question of whether you can ever be too rich or too thin is still up for debate, having too many bows will drop your score in ‘Rate the Dress’.  The dress just missed out on a 7 out of 10 – coming in at 6.94 out of 10.

I wonder if knowing that Wallis wore the dress coloured it in your mind, so this week, we look at a frock that doesn’t belong to a particular person. Rose Atherton isn’t a woman – it’s a song about a woman.  In 1845 the songsheet was illustrated by a most interesting sketch of artist A. Newsam’s idea of a ‘Rose Atherton’.

Newman depicts his Rose in a simple dark skirt, and an off-the-shoulder military inspired bodice and an off-the-head straw hat.

You can see a larger, mirror image, of the same drawing here.

I find the mix of mid-Victorian fashion and fantasy fascinating.  But attractive?

That part is up to you to decide.

Rate the Dress on a scale of 1 to 10

Let’s go on a picnic!

I was asked what a middle class English family would have worn to a picnic in 1871.

What fun!  I love picnics, and 1871 is such a fun period for them – such ridiculously over the top day dresses for ladies.

This week I’m going to be exploring the question through period prints, paintings, and real clothes.

First, let’s start with some prints and paintings, so that we can get an idea of what a full scene would look like:

These three prints show relaxed picnic scenes in 1871.  The first two are set in England, and the last one, based on the musicians, is probably set in America, and appears to show a less respectable scene.

The thing about prints is that they are often like today’s fashion spreads: glamourised, romanticised, and with ensembles based on the very latest fashions.

The thing about real life is that it isn’t like fashion spreads.  Most people wear clothes they have owned for a few years or more.  Not everyone is pretty, or charming.  So a picnic in 1871 would feature clothes from throughout the 1860s.

Paintings of the 1870s, thanks to the unromantic bent of the Impressionists, are actually a much better source, even if they are a few years later.

Camille Monet (1847–1879) on a Garden Bench, 1873

Camille Monet was known to be a bit of a clotheshorse, but Monet’s paintings of her show her in the same dresses over 7 years apart (at times), so we can assume that at least some of her clothing was a bit older than the paintings she is shown in.  Camille’s beige and black dress seems to have been a popular colour combination for outdoor wear: it’s certainly practical.

The man leaning against the back of the bench (a neighbor), substantiates the images in the prints: men wore top hats even for picnics and informal outdoor occasions.

The Monet Family in Their Garden at Argenteuil, Édouard Manet (French, 1832–1883), 1874

Clearly, shirtsleeves and rough pants were also an option, at least in your own garden, or for a very informal picnic.

Going back to romanticised, glamourous images, the king of Victorian glamour painting, Tissot, has an image of a picnic:

James Tissot, Holyday (The picnic), 1874

Prettified it may be, and a few years late, but it does give us a fantastic glimpse into picnic accessories (and don’t you love the gentlemen’s striped hats!)

Tissot also shows us what young girls would have worn for outdoor wear in England in 1871(ish)

James Tissot, On the Thames, a Heron, 1871-1872

Awww…so sweet!

More on Wed after Rate the Dress

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Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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