Late Victorian Era Fashion Chit Chat - January 1883 Peterson's Magazine
At this season of the year, there is but little that is new to chronicle with regard to the fashions. By the first of December, the newest models have appeared, and in that month we gave a full description of the prevailing styles. For the benefit, however, of our new subscribers, we will mention some of the most important things to a woman who wishes to be well dressed. Only it must not be forgotten, that there never was a time when individual taste had such liberty, and every woman could dress so much as she chose.
All dresses for walking are made short enough to escape the ground, and when pretty feet and well-fitting boots are to be seen, the costumes may be worn shorter than they would otherwise be. But these quite short dresses only look well on young people. Middle-aged or elderly ones should wear their skirts as long as they conveniently can, so as to just escape the ground. A dress that is used exclusively in the house is prettier with a short train, and certainly more becoming to elderly people.
Sleeves are made rather close-fitting. The shoulder-seam is short, so that the sleeve is set high up on the shoulder. French dressmakers make the sleeves to fit so well that the exceedingly tight look which an inferior dressmaker gives the sleeve is not seen. In fact, these skin-tight sleeves are exceedingly unbecoming, the arms standing out from the shoulders and the waist like those of dolls stuffed with sawdust. A sleeve that fits smoothly (and that depends on the cut) and is reasonably tight, is much more becoming.
Bodices are, as a rule, close (not tight) fitting, and are made sometimes with points back and front, sometimes with coat-basques at the back, and sometimes with a rather deep basque all around. All depends on the individual taste.
For rather full dress, bodices are usually made open in the neck, and filled in with tulle or lace. Some have standing collars, and some have not. Revers or lappels are also optional.
Skirts are sometimes worn much trimmed, and sometimes quite plain. The latter is usually the case in tailor-made or cloth suits. For the street, the plainer skirt is much more stylish.
There is a good deal of drapery at the back of skirts, to give a full effect, and this is liked by most well-dressed people, better than the tournure or bustle, that is necessary for the present fashion, if the drapery is not full.
The Princess dress, the polonaise, and the separate skirt with basque, are all equally popular.
Velveteen now comes of such a beautiful quality, that it has to a great degree taken the place of velvet, especially for skirts, and is often used for trimmings.
Plush also is still in favor, but braiding is rather newer, though, as a rule, we think it most suitable for street-dresses.
Plaids of all sorts are very generally worn. Some costumes have the skirts of plaid, and the close-fitting jacket, with castellated or battlement-basques of a plain color, corresponding in tone with the plaid, while others have the plaited skirt of plain material, and the perfectly-fitting polonaises of plaid. The "tabbed" jackets are either braided up the sleeves, down the front, half-way down the back, and around the "tabs," or they are plain, with the sleeves put in full and high, and gimp ornaments in front, occasionally fastened together with loops of reversible satin ribbon. These jackets are worn for evening, made in black velvet, trimmed with black lace, or entirely of black lace, mounted on either satin or thin silk. They are sually cut square back and front, and have the lace sleeves just over the elbow. If in black velvet, they have the "tabbed" or front-pointed basque, according to taste, the back being longer and fuller; but if in lace, they are arranged with short paniers, drawn to the back, and finished off with loops of lace. White, gray, red, or black tulle skirts are worn with them.
Beaded trimmings and passementeries of all kinds divide public favor with the new braiding designs, and in some cases embroideries of braid and beads mixed, are used with the most happy effect.
A novel way of using braid has appeared in one or two mantles and dresses. The braid is sewed on the material around and around to form a flat circle, and these circles, placed near together without touching, trim the whole garment. The effect is very striking.
Lace still continues very fashionable, especially the black and colored Spanish lace.
Many of the new mantles are quite as long as those of last winter, whilst some are made a little shorter, and are consequently more dressy-looking. They are usually in the dolman style, with cape-like sleeves, and very high in the throat. The more dressy onces are loaded with trimming, even when the material is of the richest description. Fur is much used; but this is put on more sparingly than lace, fringe, gimp, etc.
Other winter wraps are quite plain, and rather close-fitting, like a long polonaise; either style is equally fashionable. For the richest mantles, a gay-colored satin or silk is almost universally used as a lining.
Jackets of cloth are usually close-fitting. Some long, some rather short, generally braided, and made warm enough for cold weather by wool wadding. All the winter wraps are made with sufficient spring to fit well over the full drapery or tournure at the back.
Bonnets and hats are generally either small or of only a medium size, though some large ones are seen. Much depends on the face. As a rule, large bonnets are not becoming. The hats are many of them only toques or turbans, very small, and have but little trimming. Shades of red are popular for dress bonnets, strawberry-red especially; but usually the bonnet is worn to correspond with the costume.
Fancy muffs are popular. They cost much less than good fur ones, and can be made at home by an ingenious woman. As they are carried quite small, a small piece of the material of the dress, with some good ribbon and nice lining, is all that is necessary. For using with a variety of dresses, a black velvet one, trimmed with some black lace, or some black satin ribbon quilled, will be found useful. A pretty muff, which we have seen, was made of red satin, covered with frills of black lace; but this should only be carried with a dress that is suitable for it.