Women’s Fashion

Fashion in 1883 was dependent (as is always the case) on geographic location, economic status, ethnicity, religion and a range of other factors. Most of the available images (photographs and paintings) represent wealthy or well-to-do women who could pay for (and pay attention to) fashion.  Most female characters in The Gilded Hour are  artists, teachers, housewives, nurses and physicians;  the primary characters are advocates of the rational dress movement of the period, which rejected narrow styles, corsets and bustles as restrictive and unhealthy.

The clothes Anna  and Sophie wear  are fictional, but based on 19th century artistic and aesthetic dress, the early (and failed) Bloomer movement, and the tea gown. Split skirts as described in the novel were on the horizon, and became reality with the increasing popularity of the bicycle.

This example of a tea gown (Liberty & Co. ca 1890) provided a loose basic model for the fashions described in the novel.

Liberty & Co tea gown ca 1890
Liberty & Co tea gown ca 1890

 

From the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Costumes; principal attire (entire body)
Silk twill with supplementary weft-float patterning
Center back length: 74 1/2 in. (189.23 cm)
Purchased with funds provided by Suzanne A. Saperstein and Michael and Ellen Michelson, with additional funding from the Costume Council, the Edgerton Foundation, Gail and Gerald Oppenheimer, Maureen H. Shapiro, Grace Tsao, and Lenore and Richard Wayne (M.2007.211.901)

For comparison’s sake, examples of highly fashionable dress, requiring tight corseting.

Designer: Charles Frederick Worth 1883–85 Medium: silk


Working Women

Maid's dress Date: 1880-1900 Accession Number: 1962.198 Credit: Manchester City Galleries
Maid’s dress Date: 1880-1900 Accession Number: 1962.198 Credit: Manchester City Galleries

Dark blue cotton (faded) with small white dot. Bodice lined with white cotton. CF fastening with five bone buttons. Low standing collar and waistband. Long sleeves. Much worn, altered and mended.

The Lustgarten family owned a kosher butcher shop on Broome Street, in an area that was home to a large population of Jews immigrating from both western and eastern Europe.
The Lustgarten family owned a kosher butcher shop on Broome Street, in an area that was home to a large population of Jews immigrating from both western and eastern Europe.

 

Indianapolis cotton mill workers
Indianapolis cotton mill workers

While the next painting is of farm people in Sweden, the general style would be relevant to Americans who lived in rural areas in the 1880s.

The Dalby Gate Skåne, 1884, Hugo Salmson Swedish (1843-1894) The Way People Really Dressed
The Dalby Gate Skåne, 1884, Hugo Salmson Swedish (1843-1894) The Way People Really Dressed