It’s so easy to look at a vintage photograph and image that our ancestors dressed in drab colors. If you’re as curious as I am about fabrics and colors then watch my new video on hand-colored images.
These two women wear cotton dresses from the circa-1890 period. Their sleeves and hairstyles pinpoint the period. Frizzed bangs were popular in the 1880s.
Notice the full upper sleeve on the dress of the woman on the right. This style of leg-of-mutton sleeve (a full sleeve that is gathered to be sewn into the armhole) was quite popular in the last years of the 1880s and the early 1890s. The shape and size of this type of sleeve varied throughout the decade.
Here’s a colorful look at an 1892 fashion plate from the French fashion magazine, Journal Des Demoiselles. I don’t have a description of the dresses, but you can see what they looked like in full color. In this time frame, little girls dressed like their mothers.
I have one last fashion plate to show you. This one is from the February 1890 Godey’s Lady’s Book, an American women’s magazine. Each issue of the magazine featured a series of fashion plates and a description of them. I have a description of both the fabric and the fur used in these outfits.
On the left: Cloak of green and black cloth, trimmed with a band of black monkey fur. Her hat is known as a toque and it’s made of velvet trimmed with “jet ornament.” Jet was a black stone quite popular in the late 19th century.
On the right: “Carriage cloak of dark maroon plush and crushed strawberry embroidered satin.” An unspecified fur trims the coat but the description goes on to say that the front is made from satin and is tight-fitting. On her head is a velvet hat trimmed with feathers.
I’d love to see a photograph of a woman wearing one of these outfits. It would be interesting to compare the plate and the photo.
As you can see from these plates, our ancestors wore bright bold colors or subtle shades depending on what was fashionable.
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