Last week’s dress was an illustration of the global fashion trade. This week’s walking dress is very English. It’s by an English maker, almost certainly of English wool, and shows the very English taste for extremely tailored womenswear. It’s still in an English museum, and was made famous by the most famous of English fashion historians: Janet Arnold.
Will you like it?
Last week: a mid-19th century day dress of Chinese silk
Last week’s dress sparked so many interesting conversations about the textile trade, and about how our personal experience and time colours how we see a garment. We also got some help from TC in translating the Chinese makers marks, and potentially identifying the maker.
Some people did think it was meant to evoke a Chinese robe, other did see it as quite bathrobe-y. I think Lynne is probably most correct when she identified it as late Medieval/Burgundian. That fits in perfectly with the late 1840s taste for Medieval and Gothic inspiration.
How much you liked the dress very much depended on how informal and bathrobe-y you saw it as. The more bathrobe-y, the less you liked it.
And the result of all these different perceptions?
The Total: 9.4 out of 10
I guess we’re still in the ‘love everything’ mood!
This week: a ca. 1890 walking dress in corded wool
A walking dress was a trainless dress that one could walk in without any part of the dress touching the ground. Walking dresses became fashionable in the 1880s as a reaction to the 1870s fashion for dresses with long, trailing skirts. In an era dominated by horse-drawn vehicles (among other less salubrious refuse that might end up on the streets), the resulting debris picked up by the layers of skirt could be rather foul. Shorter hems were significantly more practical.
The short hems of the walking dress also came with the cachet of approval by the ultimate couturier house of the era: Maison Worth is sometimes credited with inventing the untrained walking dress. While ‘invented’ may be a bit of an exaggeration, approval by the House certainly helped popularise the walking dress.
This particular example gives a nod to the idea of a train with a full gathered skirt section at the back of the dress. A slight pad at the back is all that remains of the recently fashionable bustle. The fullness of the back pleating, which is held in place under the skirt with ties, would have accommodated a full bustle should they become fashionable again.
The embroidery design, with its motifs forming garlands that weave around the bodice and wrap round the hem, is of a type fashionable from the late 1870s through to the end of the 1880s. We’ve seen similar examples on this Mon. Vignon dinner dress, and this Alice Larrot reception gown, and, to a lesser extent, this cherry bedecked day dress.
Because this dress is included in Patterns of Fashion 2, we know more details about its construction. It fastens at the center front with 19 hooks and eyes, and then the left front wraps over, hiding the hooks, and fastens again under the arm and at the left shoulder with buttons.
The bodice is heavily boned, to provide a smooth line. There’s a large pocket hidden in the fullness of the skirt folds on the left back side only. The sleeves are not gathered, but are fitted in to the armscye with pleated tucks, providing the distinctive pointed, sculptural shape we see.