Tuesday, 30 December 2014
25 April 1885 - 'Dress, in Season and in Reason'
The changes in dress-making and draping this spring are seen more in small details than in any general outlines of absolutely new creations. The full effect of the back drapery is increased, but no dress improvers nor crinolettes are worn by well-dressed people, and the full appearance seems only the clever effect of drapery much bunched-up. But where this effect is not liked it seems equally good style to allow the tunic to hang straight and bag-like in the same way that it did last year. The basques are short and cut quite round, about two inches below the waist, with no back-trimmings nor folds in many cases. The edges of the whole bodice, when cut in this way, are often edged with bead passementerie, or a kind of silk bead, which is a Parisian novelty this year. The front darts are now cut very high indeed.
Flounces are still used; most of them have four or five tucks run in at the edge, and they are kilted in various ways in wide and narrow plaits, and these are fastened down flatly, so as to prevent their giving the least bouffant or full effect. In dresses made for young people flounces are less used, and all kinds of flat trimmings are in vogue – folds, tucks, braiding, and also the new woollen yak laces, which are so plentifully used for every description of dress. These laces will form one of the very distinguishing marks of all year’s fashions. They appear to wear very well, so far as can yet be seen, when used with care, and they are not more expensive than the different kinds of imitation laces that have been so much employed during the last two or three years.
All skirts of dresses, costumes, etc., follow the same styles, having plain foundations over which the tunics and draperies are arranged in long folds, the puffy ones being reserved for the back. Young ladies’ summer dresses will very probably be made with narrow flounces to the waist, with perhaps small panier-like overskirts, or only back drapery.
Two or even more materials will continue to be used for all dresses to be worn on all occasions. In an ordinary gown the bodice and tunic are of the same material, and the cuffs, collar, and front plastron would match the skirt. If there be a jacket, it would match the upper skirt, while a waistcoat would be like the lower. Tunics are worn very long, and nearly all are arranged so as to hang on one side of the dress. A very generally used model has a shawl point in front, or rather at the side front, and very full folds at one side, while at the right the end of the drapery is caught by an ornament of passementerie and jet. Some of the new tunics hang quite straight, without any folds, and are open on one side quite to the waist, showing the under-petticoat its entire length.
The perfectly plain, or “housemaid” skirt, is still favoured by the young and very slight in figure, but it is undoubtedly hard in effect, and trying, and has been worn by persons to whom it was eminently unsuitable. The other day I met a widow lady, of not much under fifty summers, who had made herself a perfect guy by adopting a rough foule dress, with a “housemaid skirt”, a style which would have suited her daughter, aged seventeen, but which was a most ungraceful garment on the mother. After all, dress consists not half so much in its richness as in its suitability to the wearer, and also to the time and place in which it is to be worn. I hold each day more firmly to my ancient belief that the really well-dressed woman or girl will aspire to have as few dresses as possible, and to wear them out, as far as she can, before making fresh purchases. Three dresses for an ordinary woman’s use seems quite enough; in having more she only runs the risk of having a sorry-looking collection of old and useless garments, difficult to wear out.
The great material for the present season is, without contradiction, “canvaserie”, or canvas-cloth, as it is called by some people. It is what may be described as semi-transparent, and is made up over coloured silk or satin skirts, viz: a dark blue over scarlet satin, brown over yellow or red, and black over red also; the red showing through it, particularly on the bodice. There are several descriptions of canvas-cloth, variously named. Some have the appearance of being plaited, others are woven in plain and fancy stripes, and others are plain, with very coarse meshes; all, however, being of wool, give fair promise of good wear, so doubtless they well deserve their popularity. The skirts made up in these semi-thin materials are all wider than they have yet been worn, some of them measuring as much as three yards round. The canvas-cloth is always loosely draped over the foundation, and from all I can see, the favourite colour will be ecru, or rather a light shade, that will go well with the favourite red with which it is so often mixed. These thin black canvas-cloths will be a very useful and economical addition to the dress of this year, as they will make up over old silk and satin skirts, and even over sateens and cashmere foundations.
Black, the favourite colour of the Englishwoman, will be more worn than ever, but it will generally be relieved with some colour. Black silks will be more popular than they have been for some time back. They are trimmed with velvet, and much ornamented with beads, not only in the form of fringes and passementerie, but in elaborate designs carried out in very fine cut bugles on net, which is then laid over velvet and satin, and the net becoming invisible the designs have the appearance of being carried out on the richer material. Black and white too have become popular, and black lace and insertion is now frequently laid over a white foundation of white silk or satin as the trimmings of black dresses. Black and white “Pekins”, in stripes of varying breadths, will also be popular again; in fact stripes are quite the order of the season, as spotted materials were last year. Sometimes the striped materials are made to run horizontally instead of vertically, a change which is not becoming to the wearer.
I cannot say that I much admire the striped wincey skirtings, which it is so fashionable to turn into underskirts at present, made quite plainly, the over-tunic and bodices being of some unpatterned woollen material such as serge of vigogne. I have recently seen one in the street, the stripes being two inches wide, of black and yellow, and the black bodice having a waistcoat of the same, but I did not like the effect; it seemed staring – too gaudily bright. It seems likely, however, that this style will be very much used for making up sateens and zephyrs when the season is more advanced.
Many gay striped patterns are amongst the new materials, some of them in canvas-cloth; and as yet they are made up in entire dresses, without any relief from the admixture of other materials. The stripes are of coarse lines or threads thrown up to the surface. I do not know whether this plan of making up will last, nor do I know how the quantities of Roman sash-like materials will be used – probably for sashes and trimmings. Ginghams and zephyrs will be both striped and embroidered; and a new material will probably replace nun’s veiling in public favour. It is called “oriental crepe” by some houses, by others only “crepe”, but all these crinkled crepe materials are made in woollen and cotton under many names, and are one of the season’s novelties. Silk is very much mixed with all the woollen materials of the year; and even Scotch tweeds, when striped, have a glistening thread running through them, which makes them look lighter and more glossy.
So far as colours go, very pale and delicate are the hats as yet produced for the washing dresses of summer – pale blues, greens, buffs, and pinks, the patterns being small, and pretty Watteau-like flowers and bouquets. We shall see many combinations of colours, such as scarlet and blue, yellow braiding on blues and browns, and blue and white in stripes. Yellow and black also promises to be a favourite mixture. The popular shades, so far as we have yet advanced, are Noisette, almond, cafe, chamois, tan and ripe corn. These, as my readers will see, are all of the same family of yellowish wood-colours, and they promise to be more used than anything else for the early days of spring. They are economical, too, for they do not show the dirty very much, although they may be considered light. Meerschaum, chaudron, and two greys called “smoke” and “elephant” are also new colours, and to my surprised eyes a whole family of reds are visible, of the dark handsome Pompeian or Venetian order. Terra-cotta, too, and dark browns are all to be seen, and also an ugly idea, which has been invented by someone without taste, to my mind, viz., that of trimming them each and all with black yak lace. In satins and silks all the last hues I have named will be popular.
The new spring mantles do not show much change, but are only the mantles we have latterly been wearing; in the “Visite” and “Dolman” shapes all the newest ones are very short in the back, with long fronts and high shoulders. The backs are certainly less ornate, less full and bunched up, and have fewer ornaments added to them. Coloured mantles of cloths, plushes, and velvets are very much worn; in plush, I think grey is the popular hue. I cloth, red seems preferred, the cloth being thick and coarse-looking. I imagine from this that later in the season we shall have a majority of coloured mantles; but I fear that people to whom economy is an object will have to confine themselves to brown, and not stray into the more inviting pastures of red or grey, bothof which are too remarkable for the adoption of those who have only one mantle, or at most two, during the year. It is never wise to choose any article of dress that is fashionable enough to show age within the year. This is especially the case with mantles, which have to be selected with great care. The one chosen should always be of the latest style, but should never be of a kind or shape to be remarked for its special peculiarities. To do this requires a very observant eye, and the expenditure of some thought. This thought the more conscientious of my readers, if they agree with me, will not object to give, always bearing in mind that the right and honest expenditure of money is a duty, that much of our rightful share of personal influence in this world is derived from our outward appearance, and that here is one, at least, of our duties to our neighbour.
I must not leave the subject of outer garments without a mention of the small Zouave, Corsair, Spanish, Prussian and Giaour jackets, which promise to be much worn, and also to be rather a useful addition to our dress. I have put down all the list of names, for they seem to be called almost indiscriminately by all, and, indeed, in most instances they really do form a part of the national dress of the country named. They are made without sleeves, are fastened at the throat, and are either cut round at the corners at the waist, or else fall over it in square corners. Some of them have hanging sleeves, but the majority have none. They are edged with beads, and lined with a colour, and they are sometimes very richly embroidered and braided.
The stiff ungraceful bouquet of many years’ duration will be soon superseded by the Elizabethan posy, and at the March drawing-rooms ladies were seen with natural flowers in bunches, just as they were gathered. The true posy has no wires, and spreads out its leaves and flowers at its own sweet will. The stems, as of old, are tied with ribbon, a bunch of daffodils, with daffodil-coloured ribbon, and white lilacs with pale green. Being thus very simply prepared, they are easily carried in the hand, and their scent and beauty can be really enjoyed and admired. Real flowers will be used instead of artificial ones to decorate Court dresses this year, and one cannot help rejoicing at every change that brings so charming an industry as gardening into requisition, for it is one that ladies, young and old, can follow; and it is, moreover, remunerative and not too fatiguing.
Our illustrations this month represent the private view of a separate picture and the public view of a large London picture gallery. The gowns shown are suitable for the spring days before the warmer ones come in. Velveteen, serge, and Scotch tweed are the general materials, and they are made up with the straight cut tunics, simply draped and trimmed, which we have endeavoured to illustrate. The bonnets shown in the larger illustration are both of the same order, jetted fronts and lace backs, the lace being laid over a colour, the pompon of feathers matching it, the strings being of black velvet. For the paper pattern this month the pattern of the black velvet bodice worn by the figure with her back toward us will be given. Though made in velvet it will be suitable for any material or dress. The front is pointed and buttoned up plainly, but one of the many plastrons illustrated may be worn with it.