Observations on London Fashions March 1885

Preparations for Spring costumes are now occupying the attention of all concerned in them, whether from the maker's or the wearer's point of view.

The mild weather experienced early in February lent an artificial impetus to the sale of thinner garments, and furs were relegated for a brief period to the wardrobe; but March winds are proverbially cold and treacherous, and cozy clothes will be in constant demand for some time before the balmy airs of April call for another change of attire.

In our plates this month we have striven to indicate as far as possible the styles likely to lead the public taste for early Spring, as well as those which are now actually worn, and we think our artists have been successful in carrying out these ideas.

Plate 1 is devoted to out-door costumes of a recherché character, chiefly suitable for visiting and carriage wear.

The mantle on the center figure is of an entirely new cut and design and will doubtless find many admirers during the coming season. It forms an elegant carriage wrap or promenade mantle, and, in suitable material and trimming, would make an excellent opera cloak; in fact, a theatre wrap of precisely similar cut has been supplied by one of the leading Parisian modistes to a lady of very exalted rank.

It was made of cream-colored stamped plush, lined with pink ottoman, and finished at all the edges with bands of pink marabout. The buttons fastening this elegant sortie de bal were of ivory, studded with pink coral.

Plate 2 contains a selection of what is newest in children's dress, and this vital subject is further amplified on Plate 8, where a more extensive choice of style and design may be seen, illustrating costumes for all ages, from the " tiny mites" of four to the comely and budding young maiden of twelve years.

Plate 3 shows several styles of promenade costume, suited for quiet as well as ceremonial occasions, and Plate 4 has a similar display of dresses for home wear.

Any of these are adapted for making up in the lusterless black materials, which of late years have been more or less extensively worn by ladies during Lent; but 461 on Plate 3 for a walking dress, and 466 for a home costume are perhaps the best suited for this purpose.

Plate 6 shows two recherché costumes suited for a reception, visiting, matinees, etc.; and Plate 7 indicates the latest Parisian ideas in early Spring mantles.

As will be seen by our plates, velvet or velveteen enters mainly into the composition of costumes, and several elegant and ingenious modes are shown of using this always favorite material, which lends itself so graciously to the draping of folds and looks so satisfactory when used as a plain bodice, gilet, tablier, or underskirt.

Large-patterned brochés and brocades, in silk, satin, and velvet, are still much used, especially for plain under-skirts, of which examples are given on Plate 3 (463) and Plate 6 (468).

Broché woolens, in an infinity of designs and textures, form the principal component of seven out of ten of the newest walking dresses. These are usually arranged with some more opulent fabric of plain surface, as plush, velvet, velveteen, or ottoman.

For evening dresses the most luxurious materials are brought into requisition, and the most elaborate styles of trimming, among which the beaded passementeries are perhaps first in favor.

Beading of all kinds is very much in vogue for day and evening wear, and an elegant pattern of bead embroidery often ornaments the entire front of a dress.

This fashion of trimming is, of course, wrought by hand, and forms an important item in workwomen's employment. It is also a fashionable task for amateurs, for the moment, some ladies bringing great artistic skill to bear in designing the pattern, and much praiseworthy patience in working it out to the desired and brilliant end.

Another elegant and novel style of ornamenting the fronts of dresses is that of using raised velvet flowers. These are first painted on velvet, either white or very pale cream, in the natural colors, and are then sewn (in the center only) to the tablier of dress, where they stand out in bold relief with excellent effect.

The preparation of these velvet flowers is also a work which amateurs may excel in, thus combining pleasure with profit.

There is very little which is new in the making of dresses to record this month, and a careful study of our plates will put our readers au courant regarding the latest ideas of form.

Skirts are gradually growing wider, two and three-quarter yards being the overall width now, but the fullness is still principally arranged at the back, leaving the front quite plain, except in the case of actually full skirts, such as the housemaid, the fulness of which is even all around.

The mild weather a month ago caused the adoption of a stunning form of Mantelet, with short back and long ends in front, which has an exquisite appearance. An illustration was given in our February number.

These elegant little garments may be made in any material, plush, velvet, broché (either silk or woolen), or any of the numberless fancy materials, remnants of which are to be found so frequently at the drapers. They are usually lined with quilted silk or satin and finished at all the edges by a band of fur or marabout.

Description of the Plates of Costumes

Plate 1: Promenade Costume, Visiting Mantle, and Visiting Costume

Plate 1: Promenade Costume, Visiting Mantle, and Visiting Costume

Fig. 1. — (458). — Promenade Costume of brown cashmere, with velvet and passementerie trimmings. The body is made pointed in front, with long revere and an elegant gilet made of embroidered passementerie.

The overskirt is opened in front to show an alight bouillonné drapery. The back is very bouffant over a plain velvet skirt. Will require to make 9 yards of cashmere; 4 yards of velvet; 6 yards of passementerie; 12 buttons.

Fig. 2 — (C 151). — Visiting Mantle made of brocaded satin, and trimmed with Indian passementerie. The back is also fitting at the waist, and loose in the front. It is buttoned sideways in quite a unique style. Will take 6 yards of brocade; 10 yards of passementerie.

Fig. 3. — (459). — Visiting Costume of velours mille raies, trimmed with woolen lace. The front is made jacket shape, ornamented with lace. The back is cut en princesse, forming deep box pleats, trimmed with lace.

The front of the skirt forms one large bouillonné and thick pleats. Four narrow plissés edges the skirt. Will take 10 yards of velours mille raies; 61 yards of lace; 18 buttons.

Plate 2: Fashions for Children and Young Ladies

Plate 2: Fashions for Children and Young Ladies

Fig. 1. — (J 148). — Costume for a Little Girl, age 7, of blue poplin trimmed with woolen lace. The body is a mode to the waist and ornamented with two capes, edged with lace.

The skirt forms pleats edged with lace and are sown on the body. Belt of white cashmere ribbon. Will require 7 yards of material: 6 yards of lace; 8 buttons.

Child's Body and Cape (J 148). We have chosen this month to present to our readers for our first pattern, the body and cape of the elegant little dress shewn on the first figure of our second plate.

The pattern, which is for a child of seven years, is given complete and consists of six pieces—front and back of the body, two capes (one more in-depth than the other), collar and sleeve.

These parts are all put together in the usual manner and need no description. The skirt of the dress, as shown in the illustration, is a straight piece of the required length, box-pleated, and sown in the body.

We give the pattern of Body and Capes full-sized in this No.

Fig. 2. — (J 149). — Costume for a Little Girl, age 8 to 10, of buff ottoman trimmed with embroidery to match. The dress is made en princesse, with a filet, cuffs, and volumes of embroidered silk. A drapery of rich plum-colored satin form revers, tablier, and bouffants at the back. Will require to make 6 yards of ottoman; 2 ½ yards of satin.

Fig. 3. — (460). — Young Ladies Costume of violet plash and mauve crepe. The polonaise is made of mauve crepe, with an upper drapery of plush, plush collar, revers, and cuffs. The skirt of plush cut en battlement and filled in by a flounce of mauve crepe. Will take 9 yards of crepe; 7 yards of plush.

Fig. 4. — (J 150). — Sailor’s Suit for a Little Boy, four years, made of navy blue serge and red cashmere. Will take 3 yards of serge; 1 yard of red cashmere; red and white jersey.

Plate 3: Promenade Costumes and Visiting Costume

Plate 3: Promenade and Visiting Costumes

Fig. 1. — (461). — Promenade Costumes of grey cashmere and ruby velvet. The body is made with coattail at the back; the front is ornamented with a plissé, gilet, and velvet revers; very narrow at the waist, and widening down at Bide, where it is attached to an open drapery bouillonné at sides and full at the back. The front and back are laid in deep folds on a plain skirt. Will take 12 yards of cashmere; 11 yards of velvet.

Fig. 2. — (462). — Promenade Costume of black silk trimmed with lace. The body forms point in front and jacket at the back. The drapery is laid en pannier, scalloped, and decorated with lace.

The front of the skirt is embroidered with silk and beads and edged with lace. The back is made with double box pleats and a full drapery. Will require 14 yards of Silk; 7 yards of wide lace; 6 yards of narrow.

Fig. 3. — (463). — Visiting Costume of light blue cashmere trimmed with a du Roi velvet. The body is made pointed back and front, with a puffed gilet coming out of the body, which is fastened sideways. The skirt has a rich spiral drapery at right side; the left side is slightly draped and forms a double box pleat.

The skirt is of ail du Roi velvet, richly embroidered with silk. Will require 9 yards of cashmere; 2 1/2 yards of embroidered velvet; 1/2 yard of plain velvet; 24 yards of ribbon velvet; 12 buttons.

Plate 4: Promenade Costumes and Home Dress

Plate 4: Promenade Costumes and Home Dress

This Plate is headed by Three Muffs. The first is made of velvet trimmed with lace; a flower, a bird, or a buckle can be sewn on it to make it elegant. The second is made of plush and bright colored ribbon. The third is of a seal, trimmed with cord and birds.

Fig. 1. — (464). — Promenade Costume of blue serge trimmed with dark blue velvet. The body is pointed back and front. The new fashion straight band embellishes the front.

Two pannier draperies form the upper skirt. They are sewn on the body. The skirt is composed of a sash drapery, two open panels fastened together by bands of velvet, and edged by a plissé. The back is very bouffant. Will require 12 yards of serge; 2 yards of velvet.

Sleeve with Puff (164).

Our second pattern is that of the elegant puffed sleeve shown on the first figure of our fourth plate. It consists of two pieces, each of which is marked with a round hole to distinguish it from the portions of a child's body above described.

Rows of pricking indicate the underside of the sleeve; rows of pricking at the top and bottom of puff show where it is to be gathered to the size of the sleeve. This pattern of the sleeve is very suitable for making up in woolen, or any of the thin materials which will shortly be required.

Fig. 2. — (465). — Home Dress, made of red cashmere, trimmed with same colored velvet. The jacket is tight-fitting, with a red gilet and revers. Large buttons serve as an ornament.

The skirt is draped crossway in front, forms pleats at sides and back, with a bouffant drapery, along with an underskirt of velvet. Will require 12 yards of material; 2 1/2 velvet; 12 large buttons; 12 small ones.

Fig. 3. — (466). — Promenade Costume of maroon colored cashmere and silk, trimmed with blue velvet. The jacket body is trimmed with a small bouffant gilet, and bands of blue velvet.

The upper skirt consists of a well-draped tablier, which also forms the draperies at the back. The skirt is made plain and is cut open on each side to show the silk underskirt, which is edged with a plissé. Will take 10 yards of cashmere; 4 yards of silk; 1 yard of velvet; 13 buttons.

Plate 6: Promenade and Visiting Costumes

Plate 6: Promenade and Visiting Costumes

Fig. 1. — (467). — Promenade Costume of brown cashmere and red-spotted cashmere. The body is pointed back and front and trimmed with cuffs and collar of velvet.

The overskirt is well-draped front, sides, and back on a plissé underskirt. Will take 7 yards of Plain cashmere; 7 yards of spotted cashmere; 1 yard of velvet; 18 buttons.

Fig. 2. — (468). — Visiting Costume of black poplin and broché velvet. The body is very compact on the hips and has a painted gilet edged on one side with buttons.

The overskirt is well draped in front and falls straight at the back on a broché velvet skirt, mode plain, and edged with a narrow plissé. Will take 8 yards of poplin; 2 1/2 yards of brocade; 18 buttons.

Plate 7: Outerwear Costumes

Plate 7: Outerwear Costumes

Fig. 1. — (C 152). — Visiting Mantle made of Ottoman and trimmed with passementerie, velvet and chenille fringe. Will require 5 1/2 yards of ottoman; 8 yards of Fringe; 4 yards of passementerie.

Fig. 2. — (C 142). — Tailor-made Jacket of brown cloth trimmed with braid and buttons, can be made single or double-breasted. Will take 2 1/2 yards of fabric; 24 yards of braid; 36 buttons.

Fig. 3. — (C 141). — Winter Cloak made of cloth trimmed with passementerie braid and fur. Will require 3 yards of fabric; 6 1/2 yards of fur; 1 motif; 21 yards of Braid.

Plate 8: Children’s Fashions

Plate 8: Children’s Fashions

Fig. 1. — (J 138). —  Cloak for a Little Girl, age 8, trimmed with velvet. It is made double-breasted in front, tight fitting at the back to the waist, whence start two full pleats. Bound cape, with rever. Will take 2 yards of cloth; 1/4 yard of velvet; 12 buttons.

Fig. 2. — (J 142). — Pelissé for a little Girl, age from 8 to 10. It is double-breasted in front and has a carrick cape. The skirt is full pleated at the back. Will require 2 1/2 yards of cloth.

Fig. 3. — (J 151). — Costume for Little Girl, age 12, of blue serge trimmed with white braid. It is made princesse, with full-pleated front, which gives the fullness below the waist necessary for draping the Polonaise at the side and back. Plain skirt trimmed with braid and a small plissé. Will take 8 yards of material; 30 yards braid; 12 buttons.

Fig. 4. — (J 152). — Baby Costume, age 4. Made of grey cashmere, broché with blue. The Costume is made en blouse with a yoke and gathered below the waist. The edge is embroidered with blue silk. Will require 3 yards of material.

Fig. 5. — (J 153). — Blouse Dress for a Child of 4. Made without a yoke, but gathered up to the neck, and trimmed with a large collar ornamented with embroidery. The skirt is gathered below the waist and edged with embroidery. Will take 3 yards of material; 31 yards of embroidery.

Fig. 6. — (J 151) — Douillette for a Child of 10 years old. Made with long pelerine, plain in front and pleated at the back; trimmed with velvet. Will take 4 yards of material; 1/2 yard of velvet.

"Observations on London Fashions," and "Description of the Plates of Costumes," in London and Paris Ladies Magazine of Fashion, Literature and Fine Arts, London: Kent & Co. Vol. 58, No 651, March 1885, p. 1-5.

Editor's Note: Some terminology used in the description of women's clothing during the 1800s and early 1900s has been changed to reflect more modern terms. For example, a women's "Costume" -- a form of costume or outfit has an entirely different common meaning in the 21st century. Typical terms applied to "costume" include outfit, ensemble, or costume, depending on context.

Note: We have edited this text to correct grammatical errors and improve word choice to clarify the article for today’s readers. Changes made are typically minor, and we often left passive text “as is.” Those who need to quote the article directly should verify any changes by reviewing the original material.


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