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19th Century Fashion

Even though the length of the dress did not change during the 19th century, women's fashion of this century was changeable in styles and details, waistline, and fashionable colors.

European fashion was inspired by Paris. French fashion at the beginning of the 19th century continued fashion at the end of the 18th century: society abandoned wigs, corsets, crinolines, lame, and rich sewing. Everything that was associated with aristocracy was ignored, politics dictated fashion. Women wore dresses with short puffy sleeves, a deep neckline, and a high waistline, in the Empire style - a cut that repeated the Greco-Roman styles.

Dresses were sewn from airy fabrics of delicate pastel colors: white, milky, beige, light pink, light blue, sky blue, lilac, and other colors.

Empress Josephine became the trendsetter in France. She radically changed the views on fashion and beauty of her time. Every little meeting, the smallest ball was a reason for her to order a new dress. She ordered 600 new outfits a year, adored ribbons, hats and jewelry. The fabrics of her dresses were often decorated with an ornament in the form of bees, the symbol of Napoleon.

The shawls became fashionable by the Empress. She sewed dresses from them, used them as capes, and paid much attention to draperies. Shawls were varied, bright, or one-color, but always very expensive. The fashion for this accessory has spread to all European countries.

Empress Josephine also return to fashion naked dresses, made of translucent fabrics. Corsets were temporarily stopped wearing, so women put these dresses on the naked body, pre-wetting the fabric with water to emphasize the figure. This fashion caused ridicule among cartoonists. Women wore these dresses even in winter, so at the Montmartre cemetery, during this fashion, the number of tombstones for young women of fashion who died of pneumonia increased. Empress Josephine was not only the trendsetter of this fashion but also the victim.

In England, this time was called the era of the Regency. The fashion was similar. Very often, long gloves were worn with Empire-style dresses, and a string of pearls or small beads were worn around the neck. Dresses were complemented by caps, bonnets, turbans, sun umbrellas.

Felicity Jones and Carey Mulligan in Northanger Abbey (2007).

Gwyneth Paltrow in Emma (1996).

Romola Garai in Emma (2009).

Anya Taylor-Joy in Emma. (2020).

Fashionable outfits in Pride and Prejudice (2005).

Fashionable outfits in Sense and Sensibility (1995).

Dresses in the Empire style, which this year I saw at the exhibition Intricate Patterns of The Past Days from the collection of Alexander Vasiliev Foundation:

In the 1820s, the waistline returned to the level determined by nature. This led to the return of the corset, which women wore for almost 100 years. The skirt became puffier, several skirts were worn at the same time, until the crinoline appeared in the 1850s. With the advent of synthetic dyes, dresses in bright and dark colors began to be worn. Dresses of light shades were usually worn for special occasions.

1837, the early Victorian era began, freedom of morals was replaced by high morality and family values. Victorian morality was also reflected in fashion: clothes again become strict, models constrains movement, colors became less bright, skirts were more voluminous and heavier. Gigot sleeves, wide at the shoulder and narrow at the elbow to the wrist, were back in fashion. They were also called leg-of-mutton sleeves. A caricature of these sleeves:

Dresses with gigot sleeves, which I saw at the exhibition Intricate Patterns of The Past Days:

Queen Victoria made an important breakthrough in bridal fashion: she began the tradition of the white dress for the bride. Before this, brides of royal families wore dresses of gold or silver. Brides from ordinary families wore wedding dresses of any color, because it was practical, the dress could be worn again.

The Clotilde hairstyle, with pigtails around the ears, becomes popular because of Victoria, who chose it for her coronation.

Queen Victoria popularized the plaid fabric worn by her and her family when they visited Scotland. I was lucky to see one of her dresses at the Wild and Majestic: Romantic Visions of Scotland exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. It was a corduroy MacDonnell clan of Glengarry tartan gown with wide lantern sleeves, a skirt, and a bodice with lace around a plunging neckline. The dress is decorated with silk ribbons.

Read more about her wedding and other dresses in the post About Queen Victoria's Dresses.

In the 1850s, the industrial revolution influenced fashion. Sewing machines appeared, textile factories were opened. Prince Albert, a supporter of technological progress, initiated the Great Exhibition, which took place in 1851 at the Crystal Palace, which was built in Hyde Park. There were presented inventions and novelties from England and all over the world.

One of the garments of the Great Exhibition in London in 1851: a white leather women's glove with the main streets and landmarks of London. This peculiar map of London was created by George Shove for a lady who could use it as a guide for walking around London and not get lost in a big unfamiliar city.

In the middle of the 19th century, more women began to receive education, especially in the United States. Eccentric women appeared in public in men's trousers. The first women's trousers were created by the American Amelia Jenks Bloomer, an activist for women's suffrage and a sober lifestyle. At that time, these trousers did not come into fashion. They began to be worn only in the 1890s, as clothes for cycling.

In Paris in the 1850s, Eugenie, Empress of France, became the trendsetter. The official attire of Empress Eugenie and her maid of honor was in charge of Charles Frederick Worth. He was the first fashion designer to earn the status of an artist rather than a simple artisan. Worth's strikingly luxurious dresses have become a symbol of the abundance of the era. Worth's dresses, which took dozens of meters of expensive fabrics, pursued a more practical goal: to support, according to the emperor's instructions, the declining French textile industry, especially the silk factories of Lyon.

Worth is considered the "father" of haute couture. He designed seasonal collections and presented them to clients. Before that, all tailors sewed things only to order. Only a select few could use Worth's services. Clients from Russia and America provided financial well-being at the fashion House. Thanks to the growing influence of the press in America, he was the first internationally famous designer. The trip to Europe - especially Paris - was an annual event for the rich people of America. There they could replenish their stocks of art and antiques and visit the Worth salon. For wealthy American women determined to marry a titled Briton, a wardrobe by Worth was a must. As soon as they saw the new models by Worth in the current issue of a fashion magazine, women rushed to purchase material and order dresses of the same model.

Several of Worth's creations for Maria Feodorovna I was lucky to see last spring in Moscow at the exhibition Court uniform and dress of the mid-19th - early 20th centuries.

Worth also created a lot of dresses for Elisabeth of Bavaria, Empress of Austria.

The empress wearing an evening dress by Ch.F. Worth in F.X. Winterhalter painting (1865). Romy Schneider as Empress of Austria in Sissi (1955-1957).

Thanks to the Worth, a "crinoline boom" ensued by 1860: crinoline was worn not only by ladies from the nobility but also by all wealthy women. The crinoline consisted of fabric-trimmed hoops of varying diameters that caused the skirt to perform its characteristic swaying, undulating movements. The circumference of the skirt, sometimes reaching almost two meters, made an attempt to get closer to her mistress into a difficult task. The crinoline is gradually replaced by the crinolette, which did not last too long, and then by the tournure.

Crinoline at this time was fashionable not only in Europe but also in the USA.

Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan, and Eliza Scanlen wearing corset dresses in Little Women (2019).

Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939) wearing a dress by Walter Plunkett.

After the unexpected death of Prince Albert in 1861, Queen Victoria did not take off her mourning dresses for the rest of her life. This long mourning became a cult of mourning in the country, which was expressed in increased attention to the theme of death and the fashion for mourning paraphernalia. The funeral custom became available in all price categories and existed for all classes. Those who could not afford to change their clothes often dyed their regular clothes black.

Accessories made from dead birds, insects, animal teeth - hats, earrings, necklaces, mirrors - also became fashionable. These earrings from heads of Red Legged Honeycreeper birds (~1875) I saw at Fashioned from Nature exhibition.

The fashion in the Russian Empire was dictated by Parisian fashion but the climate and living conditions changed it. The necessary items of clothing were fur coats, shawls, hats. Fashion stores in Moscow and St. Petersburg were mainly owned by Europeans. Foreign women were valued for "knowing fashion trends from the source." Almost until the very end of the 19th century, sewing was predominantly individual, as the manufacture of shoes and hats.

Fashionable outfits in Anna Karenina (2012).

The trendsetters in the Russian Empire during the 19th century were the Empresses: Elizaveta Alekseevna, Maria Alexandrovna, Maria Feodorovna, Alexandra Feodorovna.

From the local fashion accessories of the 19th century, I would like to highlight the popularity of Pavlovo Posad shawls, after the start of their mass production. In 1896, at an industrial exhibition in Nizhny Novgorod, the right to depict the state emblem on the signs and labels of scarves and shawls was obtained. The design of Pavlovo Posad shawls developed from standard samples typical for fabrics of the Moscow region and oriental patterns. In the 1870s, there was a trend to expand the range of shawls with naturalistic floral motifs. Garden flowers were preferred, especially roses and dahlias.

In the XX and XXI century, the motives or elements of Pavlovo Posad shawls were used at fashion shows by Russian and European fashion designers.

In the last decade of the 19th century, a new era was born - the Belle Epoque, more about which you can read by clicking on the link.

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