All posts tagged: 1880s

Carriage dress, 1885 The Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen’s University

Rate the Dress: this dress ain’t made for walking

It’s interesting how much certain silhouettes and colour schemes evoke certain associations. Last week’s dress was one a style that always makes me think of Winterhalter paintings, and also the antebellum South. Many of you had the same reaction. The latter association always makes looking at this style of dress fraught: we can’t help but be reminded of the amount of human suffering that supported a lifestyle that allowed such garments. For me as a fashion historian it’s important to remember that, while it’s not always as obvious, almost all extravagant fashions (including those today) are built on exploitation. Most of the garments I’ve featured in Rate the Dress depended on seamstresses, and the occasional tailor, working long hours for poor or no pay. Behind every couturier who became rich and famous there were an army of ‘little hands’, making at best a decent wage that provided a modest living, but certainly not one that could afford the garments they laboured over. Rate the Dress is a chance to imagine a dress when worn, but …

Wedding dress, Silk faille, silk satin, cotton lace (machine), silk and cotton lining, ca. 1880, Musée McCord

Rate the Dress: Here Comes the Bride (ca. 1880)

If last week’s patterned fabric wasn’t to your taste, never fear, there is no print to worry about this week! Or, for that matter, colour, because this week’s Rate the Dress looks at an all-white wedding dress. Last Week: a Française in chiné silk Not everyone was a fan of the fabric, and the comperé front didn’t win any awards, but the overall response to the française was very positive. 18th century prettiness and pattern matching are always popular! The Total: 8.7 out of 10 A definite improvement on the last few weeks.   This week: a ca. 1880 wedding dress We don’t know the name of the bride who wore this week’s wedding dress, but we can assume she was a woman of some means (or, at least came from a wealthy family). The dress is impeccably made, beautifully fitted, very fashionable, and totally impractical. White wedding dresses had gone from fashionable, but by no means required, to practically mandatory for wealthy brides following Queen Victoria’s choice of a white wedding dress almost 50 years …