December Fashions


December Fashions


Johnstone, Mrs.


December 1888


essay (fashion)


pp. 86–94


If imitation be the sincerest flattery, we in the nine¬teenth century pay our homage to the past by repro¬ductions of centuries ago. The fan which is figured below is a veritable antique from Flanders, more than one hundred years old. The ivory mounts are inlaid with silver and gold ; the figures are delicately painted, possibly by Yanloo. Boucher, Lancret, Gravelot, and Goupy lent the lustre of their art to the fans of their day, and it was Vien, the first painter of the household of Louis XV., who designed that celebrated fan presented to Marie Antoinette by the city of Dieppe, on the birth of the ill-fated Dauphin, which Balzac qualified as “ the handsomest and most cele¬brated in the world.” Such fans recall a thousand gay gatherings of fashion, in which as years rolled by they have played their part. They are associated with beauty, art, and love. Leonore d’Este declared her passion by kissing her fan and throwing it to Tasso. Titian immortalised one of curious shape made in open-work parchment, deco-rated with priceless Venetian lace. In Louis XIV.'s time, the Eventaillistes had their rights secured by a charter of incorporation, and Mme. de Pompadour possessed a fan with a lace mount which cost £6,000, and took nine years to make each section, besides the embroidery being decorated with a medallion bearing a masterpiece of miniature painting. The most fashionable fans now are revivals of antique models.

Beneath the fan in the sketch is a sachet which would serve for a night-gown, a glove, or a handkerchief case. It is of the book form, about half a yard square, opening out into four sections, each one lined with cardboard and covered with satin, the outside a billowy mass of gathered lace, a rose nestling in the centre. It is scented, and the most durable of all perfumes for the purpose is the peau d’Espagne which Mr. Givry supplies.

There is nothing so comfortable and warm this cold weather as fur. The long fur boas reaching to the feet are still much worn; but there are several novelties under the head of tippets and boas. Some have been made in beaded silk and velvet, and quite a new kind in Iceland wool, to be had in grey, beige, pink, blue, and white ; they are soft and pretty, and, being inexpensive, they are likely to be much worn. They have only been recently brought out. Still fur is to be preferred where warmth and durability are desired. Our illustration shows a new form introduced by Messrs. Hayward, of Oxford Street. The fur tippet is laid on a background of velvet of the same tone as the pelt, and is most be¬coming to the wearer, as it is rounded in such a fashion that it shows off the lines of the wearer’s figure to per¬fection. It is caught together at the throat, widens at the bust, and again diminishes at the waist, ending in a muff which forms part and parcel of it. This muff is curiously shaped. The outside is round, with a circular bordering of fur, having a puff of velvet in the centre ; the back is also circular, but is composed entirely of velvet. The boa and muff combined are made in the new moufflon fur—in blue fox, grey fox, and in sable.

Long fur-lined cloaks arc useful; they rarely go out of fashion. This season the Russian cloak has been intro-duced here. It opens down the front with no fastening, and the outside is of cloth or some thick brocaded woollen fabric. The fur lining is con¬tinued as a large roll collar, and borders the edge of the front. It is a masculine style of garment, but finds favour with women, especially when lined with Labrador fox fur. It is almost perfect for travel-ling and as a wrap, but is too heavy and cumbersome for walking and every-day wear. For this, short loose double- fronted sealskin jackets are worn, and many varieties of the original dolman. A good example is seen in our illustration. It looks equally well in sealskin trimmed with beaver, or made of any of the fashionable brocaded cloths, in the new peau de soie, or in matelasse, trimmed with fur and handsome passementerie. There are several new points about it. The basque at the back is cut straight, and meets the elongated panel at the side. The turn-down collar, aqd the comfortable sleeve which covers the arm, allowing freedom of movement, not pinioning the limb to the side as in a vice, are features not attempted before in this style of jacket.

Fur hats and bonnets to match such cloaks are both more general this winter than they have been, because the shapes have been allowed to follow the prevailing modes more closely than was formerly considered possible with skins. In the present instance the shape is small and close, the fur is lined with stiffening and folded into a sugar-loaf crown, and an appearance of height is attained by a cluster of ribbon-bows introduced over the face; the ribbon is edged with interwoven gold thread, and the strings come from the back. Ribbons used in millinery are wide and important-looking, watered, and often shot as well as watered. They have substance, durability, and a good appearance — all desirable qualities — and their colourings are of exceptional beauty.

The sketch of fancy dresses offers some suggestions for costumes to be worn at the many fancy balls which are now announced. Such entertainments have been much on the increase of late years, especially about Christmas-time. There is a great paucity of entirely new ideas for costumes, though all periods and many varied sources appear to be consulted by those who cater for the public with regard to such dresses. The demand would seem to be not so much for perfectly new characters as for novel adaptations of old favourites. Hitherto a Puritan maiden has appeared arrayed in demure grey and black, but the Puritan in our picture wears brown of a soft make of woollen, and the slight variation in the make of the dress admits of some diminuation of its usual severity, hereby perhaps sacrificing the exact letter of the law to the becoming. Amid a galaxy of splendid robes, such simple ones frequently carry off the palin. When the Prince and Princess of Wales gave their famous ball years ago at Marlborough House, the success of the evening was declared to be the Puritan quadrille. The ladies who took part in it wore gowns of silver-grey satin, bordered with rows of black velvet; the high bodices and sleeves were cut in Quaker fashion, but almost hidden by muslin tippets, matching the muslin aprons and caps. Large velvet silver-mounted bags, with the wearer’s monogram, hung at the side, such as few other Puritans have ever worn. The Postillion costume, suitable for a child or a young girl, is carried out in either green and red satin, pink and white, or any other combination most likely to be becoming. The cap suits most young faces. The boots have to be carefully considered. White gloves are quite permissible; they are often seen at fancy balls with characters to whom hand- coverings of any kind were unknown.
The old English dress is one that was worn by some fair dame at the very end of the last, and at the be¬ginning of this century. The soft pink tabinet of which it is made is old and faded^ but its tone is much the same as that now known as “ vieux rose.” Surah of a good thick make would be a suitable material in which to reproduce the dress. It is not so scanty as skirts became afterwards. It touches the ground, and is gathered at the waist. The only trimming is a double row of wadded rouleaux, covered with the tabinet, carried down either side of the front breadth, in a series of toothlike zigzags resembling the ornamentation of an old Norman arch. The bodice is low and folded, the sleeves short; the wide band at the waist is bidden by a sash, which is tied at the back. The hair at that period was dressed a la Grecque with bands of silver braid, a tuft of curls at the back of the head. The shoes would be black, with pointed toes, and sandals. It is quite a simple dress, but a graceful figure would show her charms therein to the best advantage.
There is a rich field for reproduction in the raiment worn less than a century ago, but it must be chosen with care; for some years woman’s dress had reached the acme of ugliness, but this was succeeded by simplicity, fine fabrics, and much beauty in colouring. We talk of the Georgian period of dress as though throughout the four reigns—one of them over fifty years’ duration—dress was always the same, whereas the changes were frequent, subtle, and decided, and they offer examples of almost every style.
The three pretty women (p. 89) preparing for a ball wear evening dresses which embody some of the newest ideas with regard to gowns suitable for such occasions. Tulle is the material which is generally considered the special one for dancing-gowns, and the usual plain kind is still much used. But there are several new varieties. The barred tulle is made in all colours as well as white, and has broad or narrow stripes interwoven in the fabric itself. Another kind is covered with metal stars or discs, re¬calling the pantomime spangles of Columbine. Beaded tulles are worn with single beads scattered all over them, and also tassels of beads. If expense is not an object, there are some excellent embroidered tulles, the pattern carried out in tinsel threads of the natural tone of the several flowers, slightly subdued as if with age, the foliage worked in a gold thread that does not tarnish. Young girls are wearing the fronts of the skirt made of a kind of tulle which is worked all over with a Gothic scroll in silver, interspersed here and there with single pearls; or of tulle with narrow watered ribbon intro¬duced in stripes and bordered with beads. There is nothing more fashionable than white, but a number of wonderful colours are worn—Chartreuse, for example, which is a light, delicate, but at the same time vivid green. The bodices are all made low, either of peau de soie or of poult de soie or watered silk, and, for black drosses, of velvet.

The figure on the right, seated while the maid gives the finishing touch to her hair, wears a white tulle gown, made with thvee flounces, each one edged with a ruche having single rose-leaves threaded and intermingled in threes and fives with the tulle, forming a fluffy bordering. Lilies of the valley would look equally well, and are better suited, perhaps, to a young debutante. A wide sash of soft silk is tied round the waist and forms long ends at the back. The bodice is outlined at the neck and down the pointed stomacher with the rose- petals strung closely together. The flowers can be worn as a head-dress by those who care to have one. These floral trimmings for bodices are used a great deal, and are made of many kinds of flowers, or simply of leaves, and are generally intermixed with ribbons. This is quite a ribbon season.

Ribbon is most liberally used on skirts and bodices, and the gown worn by the centre figure is made of very little else. At a first glance the skirt appears to be kilt-pleated, but is in fact composed of single rows of ribbon of a delicate heliotrope tone sewn on a tulle foundation, which is quite invisible. Moire ribbon is preferred before any other. A succession of loops of ribbon is carried down one side, while the other is draped with some brocade and heliotrope gauze. The bodice is trimmed with horizontal rows of ribbon ap¬parently tapering in at the waist and widening towards the neck; a cluster of bows at the point. Many dozens of yards would be needed for this ball-dress. The third figure wears blue striped silk gauze, draped with large rosettes or with birds, which in Paris find special favour just now, no conference of womenkind having there vetoed the fashion of wearing them. It remains to be proved whether the decree will be enforced in England. At the present moment hardly a hat is to be seen that has not a couple of wings and a bird’s head at the back or in front, with an osprey or aigrette towering above.
The skirts of dancing-dresses touch the ground always, and for married women they are made longer—occasionally as a decided train. They widen perceptibly, and are very bouffant at the back. Some of the silk crepes in light tones are draped over lace or tulle in classic fashion, the tunic, which recalls a peplum, being continued on to the shoulder, whence it falls in long points, encased in beaded tassel ends No other trimming on the bodice is needed, for to reach the shoulder the crape crosses both front and back, and drapes in easy folds, which are merely secured above the sleeve, and fall down on to the skirt when the dress is taken off. Some of the skirts have a panel formed entirely of roses, with the tulle peeping in between, or occasionally feathers are clustered almost as closely together as the flowers. The embroideries on silk, wool, and tulle, intended to border the hems of evening gowns, are of most artistic designs, copied from Greek and Mediaeval models. Some of the more ma¬tronly dresses have bands of such embroidery carried round edge and train, or they have front pieces of bro¬cade to match that used for the bodice. This gives importance and stability, but it deprives the tulle of that gossamer lightness which is one of its great charms.
Although we arc in the midst of winter, low dresses are worn on almost every occasion for evening, whether it be for dinner, or the theatre or any other entertainment. Square and heart-shaped bodices, opening in front, are going out of date, and the choice lies between a smart tea- gown and full dress. Brilliant red is the colour which has been of late employed for fashionable tea-gowns.
Never has more attention been paid to the build of the alluring costumes known as “ tea-gowns.” Grey plush, trimmed with chinchilla and steel passementerie, is a favourite combination among smart American women. Combinations of colour are now seen, which were formerly considered impossible, and with the result of being extremely pleasing to the eye.

Greek, Directoire, and Imperial fashions are likely to be in high favour this winter. There is evidently at present a great tendency towards straight gowns with elongated panels, together with long Sappho robes cling¬ing closely to the figure, and enveloping it in their soft and graceful folds. For quiet morning and walking costumes, in cloth, the formal tailor cut still obtains, but Parisian elegante*, objecting to this rather too plain style, smarten it now and then with a broad contrasting band, which usually encircles the hem of the skirt and corresponds with the jaunty waistcoat. Thus, a red band will warm up a black or green material, whilst a figured galon in a subdued tone of yellow would glow on otter-coloured cloth. Pinkedout cloths, too, are still in vogue, and the leading dressmakers impart to these prettily cut-out stuffs a special cachet and originality by skilfully blending, in the building ” up of the costumes, various shades and tints, which managed by inartistic hands would often offer startling combinations—to wit: a scarlet waistcoat enlivening a vest of green cloth, rather showily adorned with broad gold froggings, or a front of admiral blue velvet added to a jacket of willow-green tweed. In better and certainly safer taste is a skirt of grey cloth, surrounded with pinked-out flounces, and partly con- .cealed at the back by a long drapery; in front a short apron is ingeniously serrated to recall a large rose-leaf. The basque of the Directoire bodice is also vandyked, and allows a glimpse of the bright lining in red-brick harmonising with the long cuffs and revers of red cloth.

Elastic or jersey cloths arc more than ever in requisition, especially since they are dyed in all the fashionable dark and light colours, and are used for the fancy bodices now most popular. These are either lavishly braided, beaded, or plainly trimmed with a row of gilt buttons, or with galons embroidered with dainty camaieu silk and glittering tinsel threads. Such trim and glove-fitting bodices are worn out of doors with a Louis XVI. vest also ornamented with embroidery.

For evening wear the choice of material is simply unlimited and magnificent; it includes every kind of material from splendid lampas to cloud-like tulle, and with this immense variety at their disposal, clever dress-makers create marvellous and elaborate toilettes, which not only defy the pen of the chronicler, but even the brush of the painter. Truly most of the gowns are a perfect maze of folds, waves, scarves, draperies, so cun¬ningly contrived that it is impossible to detect how they are put together; and to such an extent is this compli¬cation carried, that the dressmaker herself can seldom reproduce two dresses exactly alike.

Lovely flowing tea-gowns are made with brocaded satin sparingly striped with wide watered silk ribbon, and opening on a princess front of Pompadour gauze. Still more sumptuous ones are in velvet wrought with gold, and deftly draped in front, from the throat to the feet, with either China crape or Indian gauze, the whole intermingled with cascades of old lace.

The well-known Mme. Morin-Blossier has just for-warded to the young Duchess of M--------------- a handsome
dinner-gown in pearl-grey satin, brocaded with large lilies of the valley, self-toned, but yet so skilfully woven as to imitate nature to perfection ; it displays elbow- sleeves and front in silk gauze, tastefully barred with lace insertions, and dotted with butterfly bows in shrimp- pink glac£ silk, like the broad sash negligently knotted at the side. Another successful toilette from the same firm consists of a Louis XVI. casaque, with a princess front, and mounted with gathers at the back of the bodice, appropriately made in delicate cream peau de soie pow-dered with blooming Rose de Sevres chrysanthemums ; a fluffy marabout trimming daintily peeps from under the edge of the skirt, whilst a Swiss belt in pink velvet, fastened in front with antique Dresden buttons, confines to tie waist the artistic folds of a Greek tunic in Indian gauze, exquisitely embroidered. A velvet bracelet ter-minates, at the elbow, the sleeves in the transparent fabric. A striking example of the truly graceful style is found on the stage of the Th6fttre Francjais in a piece of Auguste Vacquerie, entitled Sonvent Homme vnrie. In this comedy the charming actress, Mile. Pierson, dons a cuirass bodice in resplendent cloth of gold, with a rather scanty skirt in ringdove-coloured damask, over which a scarf of brick-red satin is loosely knotted. A Turkish cap and a satchel, in velvet wrought with gold, give the last Eastern touch to this unique costume.
It may not be too late yet to say a few words about the superb trousseau of Mile. Alice Rothschild, now Mrs. Sassoon ; descriptions of wonderfully rich outfits, gowns, and presents are always pleasing to chronicle. Foremost, of course, is the bridal robe, a masterpiece of Worth’s, composed of white satin, with a long train and flounces of old point d’Angleterre, looped up here and there with sprays of orange-blossoms ; garlands of the virginal bloom described paniers at the sides. A visiting-dress in golden-brown poult de soie had a Watteau cosaque falling quite straight over a short habit-bodice in velvet ciseld, powdered with coffee-berries. On the sides huge pockets sparkled with a rich silk gimp, beaded with mordore jet.
Brighter - looking apparently was the reception toilette, in embossed copper faille, set off with a draped front in cream silk gauze beautifully wrought with solid and open work, which was well displayed by a lining of turquoise-blue satin merveilleux. At the side floated the ends of a wide sash in blue satin, corresponding with the bows studded all over the bodice. The Redingote Barras must not be omitted, belonging as it does to one of the leading types of the season. This stylish coat in pale lilac peau de soie, checked with tiny wreaths in heliotrope satin, had its fronts turned back to show off the skirt in lilac sicilienne, surrounded from the waist to the hem with a close succession of scalloped flounces, whilst bows of heliotrope velvet slightly raised the skirt on the sides. Antique buttons, set with brilliants, flashed on the velvet corselet as well as on the sleeves, trimmed with velvet ribbon and an elegant gauze drapery. The fichu, in embroidered gauze, was coquet-tishly arranged round the shoulders in small flat and