Below is an excerpt from The Chautauquan ©1895 which gives the opinions of those from the end of the century evaluating the fashions of that century.
FROM 1860 to 1875 was a terrible epoch in hairdressing. Heavy Cadogan1 braids, stuffed to unnatural size with yarn or jute or false hair; high clumsy rolls on the top of the head; a single long curl, called an Alexandra, and usually false; all made a hideous chignon, on which at various dates reposed ribbons, flowers, feathers, and metal ornaments. The hair was confined during some years in nets of silk or chenille, often in high colors, or even of gold braid. They were ornamented with beads of gold, silver steel, pearl, or jet. Nets of narrow black velvet ribbon were also worn. A specially grotesque and ugly net, worn about 1867, had woven into it little curls and loops of fiber to imitate curls of hair, and could be purchased in any color to match the natural locks.
In 1866 peplums were worn, not Roman garments, but a little corslet with ungainly undraped skirts square across front and back, and hanging very long in points at sides. Its popularity is said to have dealt a fatal blow at crinoline, with which it was certainly anomalous.
After the fall of the Second Empire and the empress,2 dress slowly assumed a new form in 1870. Crinoline was gradually shrinking, but full kilted frills were placed all over the dress, on skirt, sleeve, and bodice. The short waists were very unBONNETS OF 1863. weather and seasons show in dress. The history of contemporary times might be traced in the names and fashions of garments and stuffs. Often also the pettiest events gave distinguishing names. These, of course, were given in France or England, whence all our fashions originated. Ourika bonnets, gowns, and caps were named from the romance "Ourika," of Duchess de Ducas, printed in 1824. Crape and turbans were named Ipsiboe from the book of that name. Trocadero ribbons indicate the campaign in Spain. Scotch plaids were popular through the opera, La Dame Blanche; bodices were worn d la Se'vignd. In 1827 France first possessed a living giraffe. Crowds of sight-seers rushed to the Jardin des Plantes, and soon we read of bonnets a la giraffe, gowns a la giraffe. The victory of Marshal Bugeaud,3 in 1844, over the armies of the emperor of Morocco, brought to notice Algerian finery, and the burnous in many materials was worn; in light colors as a ball wrap its popularity lasted in America over a decade — indeed, almost to our own becoming with all these frills and plaits and the outdoor jackets were ungraceful, very long in front and very short in back. Dresses of two colors and materials, the underskirt of one and the polonaise of another, were much worn, and were certainly economical.
I must note the unbounded popularity in 1872 of the Dolly Varden polonaise. It was made of pretty flowered materials, usually of cotton, such as calico and chintz. The skirt was open in front and looped high on the side, almost in Watteau shape, usually with bows and loops of black velvet. Sometimes the garment had a plait from the shoulders, oftener the back was fitted. It was a coquettish, picturesque fashion, too cheaply obtainable, however, to remain exclusive, and hence doomed to extinction, as Swift said, "to descend from those of quality down to the vulgar, and then be dropped and banished."
The polonaise still clung to us, and for a time was sleeveless, or had black velvet sleeves. The puffed out tournure gave an angle to the carriage of the wearer which for a long time was caricatured under the name of the "Grecian bend."
The princesse dress of 1875 wascertainly graceful in its conception, but in execution it was far from comfortable ; for its flowing
folds were bound around the knees by a tight drapery which made the figure seem as if in a bag, or, as a contemporary said, "two shy knees tied in a single trouser." In this narrow bag the wearer could scarcely sit down, was forced to walk with constraint, and even on direst emergency could not run. From under the confining drapery a mean little tail or train untidily swept the streets and floors.
I think many will remember with pleasure the "Leopold Robert" bonnet of 1872, so artistic in shape, so simple, so becoming. It was a wreath of flowers, usually of crimson silk roses, placed on a band of velvet, with ribbons and strips of lace falling over the chignon. It had no strings, but a veil, often of Spanish lace, with long
COUNTRY COSTUME OF 1860.
ends which were crossed in the back, brought forward and tied under the chin. Sometimes a square of lace was placed over the bonnet, one corner in front and the other three brought over the chignon with a jet pin.
A curious trait of fashion is the prevalence of certain colors at certain times. One year it is Magenta, another green, next year Nile green. In 1876 cardinal red was seen everywhere to the most glaring excess. Last year we had crimson, this year bluet; four years ago heliotrope, then eminence purple. Before that we had sage green. Old rose clung long to its supremacy, so did ecru. Often the color is unbecoming to many complexions, as when orange velvet trimmed every bonnet; often it is crude, as a superb new brocade seen last week, of purplish magenta with orange-colored crescents six inches long—so vivid in color that an esthete would have been blinded by the shock.
The quality of goods varies in fashion; one year smooth glossy fabrics like alpaca, the next the hairy camel's hair, then coarse homespun. A particularly objectionable mode four years ago introduced a smooth ground with large hairy spots two inches in diameter scattered over it, which bore a hideous resemblance to hairy moles. One year we wear vast plaids, the next year they are plebeian. Brocaded velvet, an old time favorite, is absolutely unsalable to-day. Satin this year is sold—a trying fabric it is. Tarletan, beloved in the ball-gowns of our youth, is seen in no ballroom to-day. Watered silk wears in and out of fashion. Plush, a beautiful textile for many uses, is obsolete or hopelessly bucolic. We change our strings of beads as does an Indian squaw; and our furs. Seal alone, too costly and now too scarce to be common, holds its own; though fine seal-brown plushes, through a spurious relationship and resemblance, almost ruined the seal trade and re-established our pelagic glories.
A curious detail of fashion is the reign of various furs. We have seen this year the revival of chinchilla, a soft frail fur absolutely unsalable two years ago. The fur of the Astrakhan lamb is another example; it was of such high fashion in 1861 as materially to benefit the Russian town of Astrakhan. It was used with day. These garments were often trimmed with Thibet tassels and fringe. When made of plush or plaid velvet and trimmed with fur they were truly elegant and graceful.
The spencer was in high fashion for fifty years for the first half of the century. The name is sometimes still used by old fashioned folk. It was originally a man's garment, an overcoat so short that the skirts of the body coat could be seen hanging below it. It was named for Earl Spencer. Hence the epigram on that nobleman and on Lord Sandwich:
"Two noble lords, whom if I quote
Some folks might call me sinner,
The one invented half a coat,
The other half a dinner.
'The plan was good, as some will say,
And fitted to console one,
Because in this poor starving day
Few can afford a whole one."
The spencer was adapted to women's wear a year or two later, and on feminine forms became a little over-jacket. A certain green sleeveless spencer was for a long time in high vogue among fashionable dames. It was an important article of dress—as was the pelisse—when winter gowns were of book-muslin or cambric.
A popular article ^•V of wear first donned in 1864, in Paris, was a Garibaldi waist. In America they were universally worn and were usually made of scarlet cloth, cashmere or flannel. They were gathered very full at the neck, and into a shoulder band, and around the waist. The sleeves were full and gathered into a wristband. They were an ideal waist for young girls' and children's wear, loose and warm, but rather shapeless for elegant dames; and in order to make them fit with any trimness around the waist, they had to be worn with a very tight belt. Our present shirt waists, and certain dotted Swiss muslin waists worn twenty years ago, were the summer successors, in modified shape, of the Garibaldi.