Amazing articles on just about every subject...


Fashion During The Industrial Revolution

( Originally Published 1926 )



Since the industrial revolution in England in the eighteenth century, machinery was fast taking the place of the old forms of hand-work. The society of the day was feeling this influence through the spread of knowledge by means of cheaper books, and the improved methods of transportation, which not only enabled the manufacturer to find a more extended market for his products, but brought the people of different countries together by travel.

In 1830 the first locomotive was used between Liverpool and Manchester; by 1837 a railroad was in operation between Paris and St. Germain, and in that same year sleeping-cars were introduced in this country between Baltimore and Philadelphia. England increased the means of communication between countries immensely, by starting the penny post, the forerunner of the present postal system. The invention of the telegraph in 1848 and the laying of the first ocean cable in 1864 revolutionized the commercial as well as the social world by giving a means of communication and information that was almost instantaneous.

Money was becoming the god, and large fortunes were made and lost almost in the same day; speculations of all kinds were rife; the Stock Exchange and the Bourse were patronized by both men and women. Gold had been discovered in California in '49, and many persons were going out there to seek their fortunes. By 1848 the rush and turmoil of modern life had begun.'

With the increase in production due to the greater demand and larger field for operation, the employers had be-gun exploiting the workers in the factories, and now two classes, the rich and poor, or capital and labor, were most hostile to each other. Labor found that by organization it could, to a certain extent, control production, and strikes were the result; this led finally to the passing of laws to protect the workers, especially the women and children. Absolute monarchy was passing away and royalty no longer had the final word in fashion, as in everything else.

Marie Antoinette had been the last to set the styles; the Empress Josephine had only followed or adopted styles set by the dressmakers of her day. Actresses and celebrated dressmakers were beginning to have an influence on costume; Herbaut, Victorine, Palmyre, and Mme. Minette were among the names of the latter that have been preserved in the annals of fashion. Magazines of fashion were published in France and England which give an exact record of the materials used and the changes in the styles.

The ten years from 1830-1840 are spoken of as the Romantic Period by most of the writers on costume., Society became tired of the whirl of modern machinery and machine-made products, and went back to the Middle Ages for its inspiration in modes and manners. The literature of that time gives us the key to the situation. Sir Walter Scott was publishing his novels, which dealt exclusively with "the life of the knight-errant, troubadours, and chatelaines—given in a setting of secret cloisters and turreted castles." ' These were translated into all languages and had a wide circulation.

The stage also added its influence, as these stories became the librettos of operas composed by Auber, Rossini, and many others. It was a time of affectation among women, as society liked them to be "charming, graceful, and delicate." It was the fashion to sigh, weep, and faint continually; a society woman ate sparingly, only a few "sweet-meats." Young girls were distressed if they looked healthy, and revery, suffering, sacrifice, and self-devotion were the themes of the day.

Materials.—While the voluminous skirt and large sleeves were in vogue, materials were light in weight and color; organdy, unbleached batiste, barege, and embroidered muslin were the favorites, but with the influence of the romantic and the return to mediaeval fashions, materials became heavier, such as velvet, moire, damask, and brocades and variegated silks. Colors also changed and were dark and sombre, in keeping with the affected melancholy.

Women's Dress.—The hour-glass silhouette became more and more exaggerated during the '30s. The bodice was cut extremely low and off of the shoulders; it was fitted with many seams and closed with an invisible arrangement of hooks and eyes, in the centre front or back; it terminated in a point in front and at the waistline in the back. The sleeves continued to increase in size at the top ; some finished at the elbow and some still had the leg-o'-mutton shape. They were held out at the shoulder with bags of down or by ingenious arrangements of wires. The bertha cape was still used to increase the breadth of the shoulders ; it seems to have been made of the same material as the gown, ornamented on the edge with lace or embroidery, or else all of lace.

On some of the evening dresses a tucker appeared above the collar, or soft lace was brought from the shoulders straight across the front of the bodice. When the neck was cut low, the line was parallel to the waistline in every case; this was one of the distinguishing features; high-necked gowns were beginning to be worn out-of-doors. The skirts were made of straight breadths gathered at the waistline, and were generally without decoration; occasionally, how-ever, a few bows of ribbon were arranged on the skirt to correspond to those on the waist.

On account of the huge sleeves, wraps had done away with the spencer and the pelisse. Some shawls were still used, but the "bernouse," borrowed from Algiers, the "mantilla" from Spain, and the crepe shawl, from China, were fast taking their place. Fur and feather boas were still in evidence.

For several years women had been riding horseback, and the fashion-books give quite a little attention to riding-habits. At the present day of riding-trousers the habits of the nineteenth century would be looked upon as not only freakish but very dangerous. This costume in 1830-1840 was a long, full skirt of cloth, a cambric jacket with immense sleeves and a frill around the neck which was held by a silk cravat, either matching the skirt or made of checked material. Under the skirt were worn riding-trousers of drill, and boots; a cane or crop, reindeeer-skin gloves, a silk hat, or a cap, completed the costume.

Head-gear and Accessories.—The style of hair-dressing had not altered materially, the hair-dresser still being employed to dress the hair for evening. He piled it on the top of the head in rolls and twists, and left bunches of curls hanging romantically down on each side of the face. He decorated it with feathers or wreaths of artificial flowers and leaves, and the "ferroniere," a jewel hanging in the centre of the forehead by a slender chain, was revived from the Renaissance. Head-dresses increased in size as the sleeves broadened, and reached their height in 1830-1831. "Judging from the pictures of that day, this fashion was an advantageous one for the ladies. Since not being limited to material or color, they could give free play to their taste, and vanity in elaborating this setting for their faces."

The broad-brimmed, overloaded hat of the last decade was replaced by the bonnet; it was usually of Milan straw, with a wide-spreading brim and small, rather high crown; it was placed far back on the head, and much of the decoration was in the form of ruches of blonde lace and flowers at the inside of the brim, where they framed in the face. The outside of the bonnet was trimmed with standing feathers and bows of ribbon, and broad strings tied it under the chin. The turban, which had been brought over from England, was another favorite type of head-covering; this style had originated from the turbans worn by the Indian nabobs. We see many of these worn by the ladies in the portraits of Sir Joshua Reynolds. In 1837 the Indian, the Circassian, and the Greek were popular.

The shoes of black prunella and Turkish slippers of satin, with narrow toes and no heels, did not shoe much change in style. The dress was even with the floor once more, and only the toe of the shoe peeped out beneath its folds.

Gloves with short wrists were worn with the long sleeves on the street, but long gloves were still seen with evening toilets. Jewels were very much in evidence, and while the cost of the costumes was much lower than formerly, the value of the jewels worn had increased, and many women appeared wearing jewels worth a fortune. Necklaces, thin gold chains, bracelets, rings, long earrings, brooches, and waist buckles set with diamonds and other precious stones were the favorites. A fad was the carrying of a silver or gold bouquet-holder, and fans were also in vogue.

Dark-colored parasols were carried when walking or riding; these had been made necessary by the widening of the Paris streets by Napoleon I. The trees that had been planted only a few years were not yet large enough to shade the passer-by. In summer the whole of Paris lived out-of-doors, and the Tuileries Gardens and the Champs Elysees were crowded, especially in the evenings. All classes of society mingled or elbowed each other, and many of the important questions of the day were discussed as the people formed themselves into groups.

1840, Women's Dress.—Costume of the nineteenth century seems to divide itself rather naturally into decades, fashions changing noticeably during those periods. In 1815 we find the silhouette straight and rectangular, following the contour of the figure; by 1830 it is puffed, round, capricious, and coquettish, and by 1845 it has again changed and become flowing, graceful, and languishing.'

The principal change was in the sleeve; having reached its climax in the early '30s, it began to grow gradually smaller. The whalebone or wire extenders and the bags of feathers were left out, and the fulness of the sleeve drooped from the shoulders. Gradually this was replaced by the smaller English sleeve, which was made up of a series of small puffs from the shoulder to the elbow. It finished with a ruffle, or, in the case of the dress with the high neck, reached to the wrist in a deep puff, which was held to the wrist with a frill. By 1844 it fitted the arm closely from shoulder to wrist.

There is little or no change in the waist, except that high necks were much more in evidence, and the bertha collars were fitted closer to the neck and formed revers in front which came together in a point at the normal waistline. Evening dress still had the pointed bodice and the low, broad neck-line.

Skirts were longer and fuller, and were being trimmed with ruffles or draped over an underskirt of another color,a la Pompadour, Lavallier, or Montespan. The number of flounces increased to three or four rather wide ones, and as heavier materials were used, these added much weight to the gown, and it was found necessary to hold them out in some way, the favorite being several starched petticoats. When made of the light-weight materials, such as gauze, organdy, barege, etc., these dresses were very attractive and rather graceful, as they did not distort the figure as the enormous sleeves had done.

The waist was still compresswd by means of corsets, and dresses made during that time show a curious system of padding used to enlarge the bust. As well as the fulness at the bottom of the skirt was gathered in at the waist, the hips were also accentuated, but not disfigured.

As we study the portraits painted by Winterhalter of the women of the '40s, we are struck by the grace and poise of the figures, and the sweetness and intelligence of the faces.

Head-dresses and Accessories.—The high, elaborate head-dress had disappeared with the huge sleeves, and women were wearing the hair parted in the centre of the forehead and brought down closely at each side of the face, a bunch of curls hanging over the ears, and the back of the hair rolled and held in place by a comb; a single rose or a rosette of small flowers was often added at the sides for evening dress. Some portraits show the hair braided and coiled over the ears, and a cap with lace lappets or a ruffle hanging over it. The desired effect seems to have been to hide the ears and broaden the head. Caps of every size and shape were adapted to all styles of dress.'

Bonnets had not changed in shape, except that the crown, instead of being high, had become part of the brim. The trimming was placed low at the side and was not so exaggerated, and a ruffle at the back, called a curtain, hid the nape of the neck. The decoration inside the brim was at the side, in front of the ears. Long veils were often worn with these bonnets.

England was having a rather strong influence on fashion in France, and her styles were always more conservative. A certain type of society woman had developed as a protest against the romantic one of the former decade. She was the forerunner of the athletic girl of this day. She rode, fenced, handled a gun, swam, and even rowed a boat. She was called "la lionne"; "like her wild prototype, she roared and bounded and plunged into the fray of Paris life." She it was who introduced the English fashions, even to the furniture and the sports, but this did not last long, for the French were not naturally as fond of sports as the English, and after "the stormy days of 1848 " we find this type of woman passing and two distinct types taking her place.

The one exaggerated all styles, the other cultivated an "air of dignified reserve" marked by extreme simplicity; her "feathers drooped" and her diamonds were hidden in her hair. Black velvets of the richest texture, trimmings of the best workmanship, expensive simplicity to the last degree was the fad of this woman.

1850, The Crinoline.—The number of ruffles had increased until they covered the entire skirt; this made them extremely heavy, and a means of holding them out was sought. At first many starched petticoats were used; "in 1856 the underclothing of a lady of fashion consisted of long drawers trimmed with lace, a flannel petticoat, an under-petticoat three and one-half yards wide, a petticoat wadded to the knees and stiffened in the upper part with whalebones inserted a handbreadth from one another, a white starched petticoat with three stiffly starched flounces, two muslin petticoats, and finally the dress."' Contrast this weight with that of a costume during the Empire; it probably weighed more pounds than that had weighed in ounces. A deep facing of crinoline or horsehair "crin" was the first innovation; this gave the name to the style, but as this was almost as heavy as the starched skirts, the hoop-skirt, a series of wire hoops held together with broad tapes, was invented. Was it any wonder that the women of that day welcomed them with open arms, and that the inventor made 750,000 francs in a month?

Flounces were the distinguishing feature of dress during the '50s; they were used wide and narrow, some gowns having as many as twenty-five if they were made of thin materials, such as organdy or tarlatan. The Empress Eugenie appeared at a ball with a white satin gown trimmed with 103 tulle ruffles. Not only plain flounces were used, but they were scalloped, fringed, plaited, and decorated in many different ways. Some materials were printed with borders arranged in such a way that they could be cut and made into different width flounces.

The bodice was still tight-fitting and very snug at the waist, which was compressed by the corset. Instead of finishing with a round waist-line, it extended from four to five inches below, and was decorated to match the skirt. The neck, if high, was finished with an embroidered collar, or a vestee of lace or embroidered lawn filled in the front; this was V-shape or formed a square neck. For evening the low neck with the bertha was still used.

The sleeves had broadened at the elbow, and were filled in with lace or embroidered undersleeves ; they were called "pagoda," and added to the pyramidal effect of the silhouette. They were often trimmed with ruffles to correspond with the skirt, and some were ruffled or puffed from shoulder to wrist. The expense of these gowns, even if made of cheap material, such as gauze or tarlatan, was great ; they could be worn but once, and it often took 1,100 yards to make a gown.

The amount of work that was necessary to complete one of these toilets was almost unbelievable, when we consider that it was all done by hand. Not only did the flounces have to be gathered and put on, but each one had to be decorated in some way also. A dress that made a sensation at Fontainebleau in 1858 was of maize-colored Chinese gauze, with fifteen flounces, each edged with three rows of black velvet ribbon.'

When the sewing-machine was introduced into Europe from America, it was probably greeted with enthusiasm, as a means of saving time, and it was responsible for the change in the form of decoration at a later period.

The crinoline held its sway, growing larger and larger, until it finally measured in its exaggerated state ten yards in circumference; three ladies could hardly get into a small room, and men were quite lost behind them, and were obliged to retire to the background. The hoop-skirts were rather difficult to manage, and a certain training was necessary in order to handle them correctly; women were obliged to walk with a gliding step.

One of the absurd things in connection with the crinoline was that they were worn on the stage by actresses, even when they were appearing in Greek tragedies or mediaeval dramas. In the end the actresses were partially responsible for their being discarded, although authorities say that the Empress Eugenie also frowned on them, and was the means of their being given up, by the introduction of a basque cut short back and front and having long tabs on the side. This was the death of the crinoline, although many dress-designers have tried to revive it. In the study of costume it has been found to return in a different form about the middle of each century since its first introduction in 2,530, so there is still time. The modern life, however, does not seem to lend itself to its revival.

In summer, crepe shawls beautifully embroidered and having a heavy fringe were used as wraps, also squares of white net worked to imitate valenciennes lace, and black silk shawls, with wide borders like those on the cashmere shawls. For cold weather mantles of soft cloth, astrakhan, and baby lamb were the style, those of cloth being heavily braided or embroidered.

Silks and satins were much used for out-of-door costumes, and beautiful materials were supplied by the manufacturers in response to this demand—shot taffetas, damask reps, clouded, spotted, marbled, and checked, merveilleux, at sixty francs a yard. Brocaded silks, with gold and silver flowers, moire antique, and brocatelles were some of the favorites. These were all manufactured in Lyons, and the Empress Eugenie felt that she must patronize the manufacturers by wearing these heavy materials, although her preference was for the lighter stuffs)

Head-dresses.—The style of hair-dressing had changed very much ; instead of the parted and flatly polished hair, it was dressed a la Marie Stuart, or a la Valois. It was raised from the face over a cushion and drawn up Chinese fashion at the back; it was decorated with flowers in wreaths and blonde lace in bunches. This style was particularly becoming to the Empress Eugenie. In the '60s the waterfalls, or chignons, a huge mass of false hair, which was held in a net at the back of the head, took the place of the former style.

Hair was bleached, curled with hot irons, and generally misused. Every lady must have blonde hair, and a quantity of it.

On top of this mass of hair would balance a ridiculous hat, flat and very small and always tilted to one side over ones eye, as a rule trimmed with a feather , ribbonslong and streaming down the back. The hat also most likely to sport a veil which reached only to the nose. The leghorn hats, with wide, flapping brims, adorned with wreaths of wild flowers, roses, lilacs, and tulips, or with ostrich or marabout feathers, were charming, especially as they were worn when the hair was arranged simply around the face. In winter, bonnets of silk, covered with crepe-lisse, or of silk and blonde, and trimmed with velvet flowers, were still fashionable; they had changed very little in shape, except that the front of the brim was shorter and showed the hair on the forehead, and curved under the chin, where it was tied with a bow of ribbon.

Shoes and Accessories.—Shoes were now made of black kid; they were side-laced and had high heels. Patent leather was also being introduced, and gray shoes were worn in warm weather. Fancy stockings, gray with red clocks, are spoken of, and many other rather daring combinations of color.

Jewelry was again much in evidence; ropes of pearls were twisted around the neck and fell to the waist; bracelets and rings were made of enamel set with gold, and hatpins were being made in the same way ; these had been introduced from England in 1853. Eugenie had very beautiful jewels, coronets of diamonds, and a bertha made of emeralds, rubies, sapphires, turquoises, amethysts, topazes, and jacinths held together by the crown diamonds. A black velvet rib-bon fastened about the throat with a brooch was another characteristic of the '50s.

Men's Dress.—Men's dress was becoming so rapidly standardized that few changes are noted; in some details they followed the lead of the women. During the '30s, when women were compressing the waist by means of stays, men wore a sort of corset belt, and the waistline of their coats curved in like that of the women. The skirts of these coats were full and sometimes extended to the front and sometimes only to the hip. When women were wearing dresses with trains, the skirts of the men's coats dragged on the ground. The sleeves were rather full at the top and gathered into the armhole.

The principal changes came in the style of the waistcoats or vests. Velvet was a very favorite material, although figured cashmere was a close second. These were fastened with jewelled buttons, often diamonds. Color was introduced into the costume through these vests ; in r844 one of crimson velvet embroidered in gold was considered a rival of a white satin embroidered in color.

It was not until late in the '4os that dark garments be-came the fashion ; before that period the coat, trousers, and vest might all be different, and a green coat, light-green vest, and violet trousers were quite en regle. In the '50s a strange style of overcoat developed, probably to correspond to the pyramidal silhouette of the women. It hung loose and full from the shoulder, reached about to the knees, and was closed with four buttons; the sleeves, similar to the pagoda, were close at the top, and large and open at the hand. Striped trousers, a high silk hat, and a flowing neck-tie completed the costume. For evening the costume was black.

At the seashore or in the country men were wearing light-weight suits made of alpaca, nankeen, or foulard in white; with these were worn straw hats with a turn-up brim, and long streamers of ribbon hanging down the back.'

The hair was rather long in the back, and either a beard or a mustache, or both, were seen. The men copied their costumes from England and patronized the English tailors, but Paris was still setting the styles for the women.



Home | More Articles | Email: info@oldandsold.com