All posts tagged: 1880s

Dress, Circa 1880, Cotton embroidered with wool; mother of pearl buttons, John Bright Collection

Rate the Dress: Victorian Cherries

I wanted to present something nice and cozy for those of you in cold climates for this week’s Rate the Dress. Turns out the dress I chose is cotton, not wool, so it’s not quite as warm as I’d planned, though it certainly covers everything. Instead, it’s rather seasonal for us here in New Zealand, and you’ll see why shortly!

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 …