Late Victorian fashion of women 1890s

Women fashion in the 1890s is characterized by long elegant lines, tall collars, and the rise of sportswear. It was an era of great dress reforms led by the invention of the drop-frame safety bicycle, which allowed women the opportunity to ride bicycles more comfortably, and therefore, created the need for appropriate clothing.

Victorian dress reform
Victorian dress reform comprising various reformers who proposed, designed, and wore clothing considered more practical and comfortable than the fashions of the time. The movement emerged in the Progressive Era along with calls for temperance, women’s education, suffrage and moral purity. Dress reform called for emancipation from the “dictates of fashion”, expressed a desire to “cover the limbs as well as the torso adequately,” and promoted “rational dress”. The movement had its greatest success in the reform of women’s undergarments, which could be modified without exposing the wearer to social ridicule. Dress reformers were also influential in persuading women to adopt simplified garments for athletic activities such as bicycling or swimming. Some proponents of the movement established dress reform parlors, or storefronts, where women could buy sewing patterns for the newfangled garments, or buy them directly.

Belle époque
Europe has years of excess (1890-1914); this becomes la belle époque(the beautiful era). It is the time of the beau monde. They are carefree years and there is a sunny optimism, wealth and decadence. Rich people earn a great deal in a short period of time through the industrial revolution and retire to the countryside for sumptuous feasts and exclusive dinners. A society lady is expected to dress up several times a day, from sober richness or a walking dress to an impressive evening attire. In this time many fashion houses in Paris are founded. The British court is bursting with luxury thanks to the Indian colony.

In 1890, the woman’s waist was tightened with a short corset and an hourglass model was created. The skirt is bell-shaped and the balloon-shaped sleeves are used high. In 1895 a loose skirt with high-cut blouse or jacket with head sleeves appears. From 1900 women wear a long ‘health corset’, which provided an S-line. The ribs are no longer crushed, but the skeleton is distorted. Some women wear health-care clothing: shapeless ‘bag-style’ dresses without a corset.

Women’s fashions
Fashionable women’s clothing styles shed some of the extravagances of previous decades, but corseting continued unmitigated, or even slightly increased in severity. Early 1890s dresses consisted of a tight bodice with the skirt gathered at the waist and falling more naturally over the hips and undergarments than in previous years.

The mid-1890s introduced leg o’mutton sleeves, which grew in size each year until they disappeared in about 1906. During the same period of the mid-1890s, skirts took on an A-line silhouette that was almost bell-like. The late 1890s returned to the tighter sleeves often with small puffs or ruffles capping the shoulder but fitted to the wrist. Skirts took on a trumpet shape, fitting more closely over the hip and flaring just above the knee. Corsets in the 1890s helped define the hourglass figure as immortalized by artist Charles Dana Gibson. In the very late 1890s, the corset elongated, giving the women a slight S-bend silhouette that would be popular well into the Edwardian era.

The hat is the capeline adorned with feathers or ribbons.
The coat is worn very long, crossed with a double row of buttons on a jacket- fitted jacket with puffed sleeves at the top and tightened by long gloves at the bottom.
The satin often decorated with velvet and sequins are on the way.
The bodice is gathered on the bust or with a plastron and the sleeves are puffy.
The braceletand velvet necklace or assorted ribbons are the essential accessories; necklaces of this kind are called choker.
In front of the boom of the bicycle, other elements of the suit appear: the short pants and gathered at the knees, it is worn with leggings or stockings and a bodice with a scoop neck and puffed sleeves. It is possible to add a short skirt on the pants or even a skirt. The whole with a jacket-jacket floating wide-lapel worn with or without a fluffy tie which already foreshadows the tailor.

Flared Skirts, Jacket Bodices.






By 1890, the crinoline and bustle was fully abandoned, and skirts flared away naturally from the wearer’s tiny waist. It evolved into a bell shape, and were made to fit tighter around the hip area. Necklines were high, while sleeves of bodices initially peaked at the shoulders, but increased in size during 1894. Although the large sleeves required cushions to secure them in place, it narrowed down towards the end of the decade. Women thus adopted the style of the tailored jacket, which improved their posture and confidence, while reflecting the standards of early female liberation.

Sportswear and tailored fashions
Changing attitudes about acceptable activities for women also made sportswear popular for women, with such notable examples as the bicycling dress and the tennis dress.

Unfussy, tailored clothes, adapted from the earlier theme of men’s tailoring and simplicity of form, were worn for outdoor activities and traveling. The shirtwaist, a costume with a bodice or waist tailored like a man’s shirt with a high collar, was adopted for informal daywear and became the uniform of working women. Walking suits featured ankle-length skirts with matching jackets. The notion of “rational dress” for women’s health was a widely discussed topic in 1891, which led to the development of sports dress. This included ample skirts with a belted blouse for hockey. In addition, cycling became very popular and led to the development of “cycling costumes”, which were shorter skirts or “bloomers” which were Turkish trouser style outfits. By the 1890s, women bicyclists increasingly wore bloomers in public and in the company of men as well as other women. Bloomers seem to have been more commonly worn in Paris than in England or the United States and became quite popular and fashionable. In the United States, bloomers were more intended for exercise than fashion. The rise of American women’s college sports in the 1890s created a need for more unencumbered movement than exercise skirts would allow. By the end of the decade, most colleges that admitted women had women’s basketball teams, all outfitted in bloomers. Across the nation’s campuses, baggy bloomers were paired with blouses to create the first women’s gym uniforms.

The rainy daisy was a style of walking or sports skirt introduced during this decade, allegedly named after Daisy Miller, but also named for its practicality in wet weather, as the shorter hemlines did not soak up puddles of water. They were particularly useful for cycling, walking or sporting pursuits as the shorter hems were less likely to catch in the bicycle mechanisms or underfoot, and enabled freer movement.

Swimwear was also developed, usually made of navy blue wool with a long tunic over full knickers.

Afternoon dresses typical of the time period had high necks, wasp waists, puffed sleeves and bell-shaped skirts. Evening gowns had a squared decolletage, a wasp-waist cut and skirts with long trains.

Influence of aesthetic dress
The 1890s in both Europe and North America saw growing acceptance of artistic or aesthetic dress as mainstream fashion influenced by the philosophies of John Ruskin and William Morris. This was especially seen in the adoption of the uncorseted tea gown for at-home wear. In the United States during this period, Dress, the Jenness Miller Magazine (1887–1898), reported that tea gowns were being worn outside the home for the first time in fashionable summer resorts.

Hairstyles and headgear
Hairstyles at the start of the decade were simply a carry-over from the 1880s styles that included curled or frizzled bangs over the forehead as well as hair swept to the top of the head, but after 1892, hairstyles became increasingly influenced by the Gibson Girl. By the mid-1890s, hair had become looser and wavier and bangs gradually faded from high fashion. By the end of the decade, hair was often worn in a large mass with a bun at the top of the head, a style that would be predominant during the first decade of the 20th century.

High tab front shoes with a large buckle had made a comeback in the 1870s and were again revived in the 1890s. This popular style of shoe had a few names such as “Cromwell,” “Colonial,” and “Molière”. At this time materials such as suede, leather, lace and metal were used to fashion the shoe and decorate it. Suede was new to the market in 1890 and was available in a few pale shades.

Athletic wear
The shift toward functional fashion also affected women’s athletic wear. Women in Paris began wearing bloomers when bicycling as early as 1893, while in England lower bicycle frames accommodated the dresses that women continued to wear for bicycling. Long floor length dresses gradually gave way to shorter hemlines and a more casual style of athletic clothing. Similarly, bathing suits also became shorter and less covered — yet another example of the beginnings of a shift in dress toward greater freedom and functionality.

Style gallery 1890–96

1 – 1890-92

2 – 1890-95

3 – 1892

4 – 1892–93

5 – 1893

6 – 1894

7 – 1895

8 – 1896

9 – 1896

1.Praskovia Tchaokovskaia wears a high-necked afternoon dress with puffed elbow-length sleeves and a fabric belt or sash, Russia, 1890–92.
2.Bathing suit, 1890-1895, nautical fashion : navy color and sailor collar and sleeves
3.Afternoon dresses of 1892 have low waists and high necklines. Sleeves have a high, gathered sleeve-head and are fitted to the lower arm. Skirts are fuller in back than front.
4.Evening gowns of 1892–3 feature short or elbow-length full, puffed sleeves and floral trimmings.
5.City or traveling suit has full upper sleeves and back fullness in the skirt.
6.Walking suits of 1894 show shorter skirts and matching jackets with leg o’ mutton sleeves.
7.Punch Cartoon of 1895 shows a fashionable bicycle suit.
8.Natalie Barney in 1896
9.Charvet advertising in 1896

Style gallery 1897–99

1 – 1897

2 – 1897

3 – 1897

4 – 1898

5 – 1898

6 – 1898

7 – 1898

8 – 1898

9 – 1898-1900

10 – 1899

11 – 1899

12 – 1899

1.Madame Faydou wears her hair in a knot on top of her head. Her black dress and her daughter’s grey dress (probably mourning attire) have fashionable leg o’ mutton sleeves, 1897.
2.Catherine Vlasto wears a white dress with puffed elbow-length sleeves and ribbon bows. Her hair is parted in the center and poufed casually at her temples, 1897.
3.1897 fashion plate shows an idealized form of the fashionable figure. The jacket has an asymmetrical closure and new, smaller sleeve puffs.
4.Bathing costumes of 1898 have nautical details such as sailor collars.
5.Dress of 1898 shows a short, wide puff at the shoulder over a long, tight sleeve.
6.Charvet corsage of 1898 shows a corsage by Charvet. It is a blouse of pink cambric finely plaited, and with a white cascade frill, also of cambric, down the center.
7.Shirt-waist from Charvet in 1898 shows a shirt-waist from Charvet. It has a group of tucks down either side of the front and back from the shoulders, and in addition has two deep horizontal tucks across the front. A broad box-pleat at the centre is edged with a tiny black frill, which is also carried around the basque. The sleeves are tucked in diagonal groups.
8.Hats from manufacturers spring collection
9.Ball gown (1898-1900) designed by one of the finest French couturiers during the Belle Époque, Jacques Doucet, with characteristics of the aesthetic dress movement : “simplistic in design, yet extravagant by the choice of materials used. The sheer overlayer is enhanced by the solid lamé underlayers and a sense of luxury is added by the hidden lace flounce at the hem.”
10.1899 fashion plate shows the narrow, gored skirt and more natural shoulder of the start of the 20th century (as well as the results of “S-bend” corseting).
11.Tea Gown of 1899 shows “Watteau back” and frothy trim.
12.Two women in Watteau-backed tea gowns with high sashed waists, 1899.

Russian Fashion 1890s






1.Philanthropist Olga Sergeyevna Aleksandrova-Heinz, 1890
2.Marie-Clotilde-Elisabeth Louise de Riquet, comtesse de Mercy-Argenteau, 1890
3.Neapolitan Woman, 1894
4.Portrait of Countess Natalia Petrovna Golovina,1896
5.portrait of Tevashova, 1898

Source from Wikipedia