1890s Elegance

by Linda Ames

Victoriana Magazine

In the ever changing world of fashion, styles that appear on the scene as new and different usually can be found in a previous period. The ballooning sleeves and wide skirts of the mid-1890s (which make the waist appear smaller by contrast) were last seen in the romantic period styles of the 1830s. While the late nineteenth century version of the shape lacks the delicate innocence of the earlier version, the 1890s shape became a testament to the status and wealth of the wearer.


With their new found wealth, American women in the late 1800s became major customers in the high fashion market. Many made the Grand Tour of Europe, buying their wardrobes in Paris. Others supplemented their wardrobes with imported designs from upscale American shops that catered to the carriage trade. This elegant tea gown, available through Vintage Textile, came from the New York store, "Fox." 

BELOW: The international character of the era's fashion was well established as is shown with the Fox label; it reads "Paris/New York."



Victorian dress
Victorian dress from The Delineator, 1896.
Victorian dress
Victorian dress from The Delineator, 1896.
[Back view]

This aristocratic two-piece gown (c1895) is fashioned from luxurious silk faille that combines ribbon-weave satin stripes with watered silk flowers. This expensive textile is embellished with pink velvet trim and flounces of beige lace and ivory silk chiffon. Both pieces are lined with ivory taffeta.


The boned bodice closes in front with hooks. It still has little sachet packets on the inside front (see last two photos). The skirt hem is stiffened to hold the shape. The skirt closes in back with hooks and also hooks to the bodice.


The design and construction create an effect of magisterial beauty: the narrow waist; the ballooning sleeves with their double-layered flounces that build up the shoulders; the pseudo-structural pink velvet trim on the bodice. All these contribute to the formality and significance of this magnificent gown.


This exceptional gown, a special find for the serious collector, sold for $3400 from Vintage Textile. The gorgeous fabric and dramatic shape would make this gown the focal point of any collection.

Vintage Textile features exquisite vintage and antique clothing dating from 1750 to 1980.  Since 1998 exclusively on the internet, Vintage Textile has offered a wide selection of the best high-style clothing in all the major categories: Early, Victorian, Edwardian, 1920s, 1930s-1950s, 20th century Designer, Shawls/Textiles. They are proud to count major collectors and museums worldwide among their valued customers.