London Fashions September 1888

"How should I now relate
The strength and riches of their state;
The powder, patches, and the pins,
The ribbon, jewels, and the rings,
The lace, the paint, and warlike things,
That make up all their magazines?"

The whole civilized world is laid under contribution for that product of modern civilization, a woman of fashion. Pope and Addison made her the topic of much fine writing. The poet who penned the above lines describes the human beings of our day quite as truly as those who were his own contemporaries.

The fine modern lady disdains no aid calculated to enhance her charms. If she is wise according to her light, she abjures those artifices which are easily detected.

She aims to please the eye, without bringing to the inner consciousness any realization of the means by which that satisfactory result is brought about.

It should always be difficult to describe what the best-dressed of the sex wear; the whole should be too perfect to particularize, the harmony too complete.

Makeup Tips

However, in the present day a woman of the world enhances her charms not only with clothes but with washes and pigments; the cream which made Ninon de l'Enclos appear young to her dying day has been handed down to her less fortunate descendants, aided by Crème Simon, and powder made of Russian or San Remo violets.

Her cheeks blush with rouge made only of Provence roses, and her rosy lips owe their color to Baume de Thé; while a cleverly-applied pencil renders her eyebrows shapely and puts "fire in each eye."

Fashionable assemblies in London prove the truth of this, and all the pigments are not left behind when the autumn flitting comes. With an inferior artist, the presence of these supposed aids to beauty is detected; not so with one who is proficient in the art.

Eyes sparkle, wrinkles disappear, the skin becomes clear and soft—at all events for a time; and it is to be regretted that each year cosmetics are more unblushingly used, with the result that those who have time and money at command, only pay the penalty of injured cuticle, and sometimes of weak health; while those who are less favored over-do it and look vulgar and disreputable.

For rouge and washes, as reflected in a friendly looking glass, have a very different aspect when seen beneath an uncompromising gaslight, or in the vivid glare of sunlight.

The ghastly appearance presented by certain women of fashion who have persisted too long in the objectionable practice should be lesson enough, but it is not. Those who would look young should look happy.

Carking care, worry, and anxiety are beauty's chief enemies, to which ill-health may be added. Watch a face in repose —say, during a sermon—and the same countenance in animated conversation; there is often the difference of a decade.

Women have a great deal to learn about the action of the skin, and the ill-effects produced by filling up the pores with greasy and extraneous matter.

To sleep with the face covered with paint and rouge is as destructive to health as it is to beauty, and when theatricals or any other causes make the use of cosmetics a necessity, care should be taken to wash the face before retiring to rest with lukewarm water and a handful of bran in it.

Decorating a Home

The pleasantest part of many country homes is the girls' snuggery, where they carry out their individual tastes. The tambourine on the walls and the easel (see our first illustration) have been imported from the Art Stores at No. 1, Berners Street, where Emerson and Co. display a rich store of trifles calculated to make even a cheerless attic gay with prettiness.

Our quartette had originally discovered some of these treasures at the stall which the firm had held throughout the season at the Anglo-Danish Exhibition.

Many were the consultations over terra-cotta round and concave plaques, to be purchased in red, white, or black, of several sizes, for a few pence; and these were forthwith painted with flowers, fruit, and figures, and hung on the wall.

One of the sisters, the least-skilled painter of the party, succeeded perhaps the best, with flights of swallows or single birds, lightly touched in on the new tinted terracotta plaques, and on the chromo-tinto ware, which, though a little more expensive, is certainly more artistic.

The room, to start with, had very little to commend it in the way of furniture, boasting only of the old-fashioned bureau and one old well-shaped table. The chairs all came from the Art Stores and had been duly enameled.

The seats are made of rush, save one —perhaps the most comfortable of all—which has no back, the seat and sides being of wood, formed after the design of the Clovis chair of ancient date.

A few shillings purchased several kinds of square firmly made stools—some for plants to rest on, some for books, and others to serve as seats.

In one corner is a wealth of bulrushes and grasses set in a three-sided tube of wood, on tripod feet, and prettily painted; it takes up but little room and admits of any kind of decoration.

China knickknacks are set out on some carved and turned brackets of uncommon shape; and as a pendant to the tambourine on the other side is a guitar, the strings gilt, the wooden frame enameled, and the parchment adorned with flowers.

Newspaper-racks of carved wood in several sizes hang against the wall and have the trick of becoming too soon over-full; so do the new three-cornered tables.

Stylish Autumn Costumes

Stylish Autumn Costumes

Women who make their surroundings thus dainty are not likely to fail on the score of personal adornment, and the four in our engraving have selected their most suitable costumes at Mr. Peter Robinson's, Oxford Street.

The youngest of the party, standing in the rear, wears a costume made in the new Boulanger voile, with a deep border of fine white frisé, the skirt looped in the Empire style to match the Empire bodice with its full front and chemisette; a long bow falling at the side.

The skirt is neither over-full nor much distended—indeed, it has but one steel; which is the case with most of the dresses that follow the modes of the early part of this century.

She will not journey alone; she will be accompanied by her sister seated to her right, who wears a traveling dress of mairon cloth, a good serviceable color which, well chosen, will stand the sea-air; it is draped with checked cloth.

The cut of the bodice is a comfortable one; the basque has pockets in front, secured by buttons, and the dark-toned cloth serves for the vest; the sleeves fasten on the outside of the arm with buttons.

They have just decided the train by which they start, and the elder sister is consigning to the wastepaper basket the rough memoranda made of the cross-lines. She wears a reseda serge over a cream serge skirt trimmed with gold, the white vest, and cuffs elaborately braided in gold.

There is no visible fastening to this bodice; it is buttoned beneath the revers on the left side, and the collar is cut very high at the throat. Her favorite sister, seated near her, is the fairest of the party, with a fresh, clear complexion and light gold hair.

She has chosen the tone which suits her best, a fancy striped serge with dull red piping. The skirt is cut in uncommon fashion, and so draped at the sides and back that the stripes run on the cross.

Just on the right, starting from the waist, there is a deep slashing, through which the dull red tone is seen, apparently kept in its place by large wooden buttons with steel ornamentation in relief.

The back of the bodice only has a basque; in front, it ends beneath a pointed belt arranged in folds to the bust; it is laced with cord across the red front—the buttons and cord over the same red foundation being repeated on the shoulder, two revers of the plain tone overlapping the short vest, and the color appears again at the wrist.

The youngest sister is the belle of the group, and there is a dash of coquetry in the ribbon which encircles the neck, fastened with a bow on the left side. However, a ribbon is still much used instead of lace or lisse at the throat, and the ends are mostly formed into a bow, both for the neck and cuffs.

The old stiff stocks formed of folds of muslin and fastened at the back are frequently placed over the dress-collar; this is only one of the many fashions borrowed from men. It is rumored that the catosran will be really an established mode in the coming year, and it is merely a modified bag-wig.

Elegant Seaside Costumes

Seaside Costumes

The two girls on the pier in our second illustration have certainly succeeded in selecting dresses which are original and uncommon (designed by Messrs. Redmayne, New Bond Street). The standing figure wears a red and white striped foulard intermixed with a plain foulard.

The latter is used for the straight back, bordered with red braid, and the distinct point on the right; on the left the striped foulard only is visible. This is smocked beneath the waist, matching a similar treatment beneath the collar.

Below this the front of the bodice is sufficiently loose to cross above the waist, where it ends in a pointed band; there is a jacket front over the right side only, so that, seen to the right or left, the gown presents totally different aspects.

The sleeves are quite uncommon—a revival from the Middle Ages. They are very full on the shoulders and form one long puff to the elbow, where they meet a tight striped sleeve carried to the wrist. The cap is made to correspond with the dress after a design worn some time since by little boys.

The brim is firm and covered with the striped material; to it is attached a pointed cap of the plain foulard, in shape like Masaniello's, and the point is fastened down on the left side. It suits the fringe of hair in front and the small well-shaped head of the wearer.

The smocking in this costume might be replaced by gauging, but the former is easier to carry out since the introduction of the brass smocking-wheel with blunt points.

The material to be treated is laid on either a dark or light piece of tracing-linen, the straight line kept by a foot-rule, and the distances marked by the wheel.

The seated figure wears a grey beige with interwoven border showing horizontal stripes; the tunic is draped over a pleated skirt and has one corner turned up, while the back is so arranged that the selvage shows.

There is no doubt that it is the use of the selvages, which some French houses originated last year, which has set the fashion of bordered fabrics. The border here is utilized on the collar, and down the fronts on either side of the full vest, and on the cuffs.

The hat is straw, with an osprey aigrette appearing at the side. For boating, tennis, and outdoor exercises generally, there is no doubt that a woolen skirt without foundation is to be strongly recommended.

Visiting Dress Suitable for Morning Wear

Visiting Dress

The costume in our third engraving (designed by Messrs. Redmayne) is suitable for full-dress morning wear or could be made to serve for an unceremonious dinner.

The full, plain, undraped under-skirt is, in truth, only a side panel, and may be either in lace or muslin, embroidered in colors to match the overskirt; or in white, outlined with gold.

The rest may be foulard or surah but should not be of any rich or heavy material, for the soft fall of the drapery is one of its charms.

The short double festoon at the waist is new in idea and meets the double basque which edges the bodice. This is made double-breasted to the wide revers, which open to show a lace necktie—a most becoming style to a good, well-rounded figure.

Taylor Made Gowns

Tailor Made Costumes

Those who are weather-wise have bid us build our hopes on September and many plans are being made by those who have not already started for trips to Bonnie Scotland or the snow-clad mountains of Switzerland.

For both these occasions, tailor-made gowns are best.

The three young women wearing dresses designed by Messrs. Benjamin, of Ulster House, are standing in an old-fashioned garden in Scotland, ready prepared for a long tramp "over the hills and far away."

They are not likely to spoil any of their garments, even if it does rain; for the dresses are composed of pure natural wool cheviots.

The first figure wears a soft-crowned hat of the same stuff as the dress, with a band of the darker shade around it. It is wireless and so supple that it could be wrapped up and put in the pocket, and yet is both a fashionable and becoming shape.

The bodice of the gown is of the ordinary habit form, with a waistcoat, which matches the side panel, made in a striped material of the same coloring as the dress; and there are revers to correspond on both sides.

A great effect is often now produced by the different treatment of stripes in the same gown, as in the center figure, where the waistcoat is arranged so that the lines are horizontal, while in the revers they are perpendicular.

The front of this gown is slightly draped so that it falls in easy folds just below the waist. At the back, the fullness is arranged in large organ-pleats. The cap to match is of the cricketing shape which boys affect. The cloak, of which the back view is presented, has one or two new features.

The detachable cape is made with seams, which follow the outlines of those in the bodice, and the sides are cut high on the shoulder. Double box-pleats give the fullness in the skirt down the center.

A daintier repetition of the Biarritz hat was one lined with straw-colored crepe; the crown composed of white silk muslin, garlanded with tufts of white roses, knotted with white watered ribbon.

A rather quaint hat called the "Frondeuse" had a certain piquant audacity, with its trimmings of yellow plumes running through every shade of pale gold to orange. Among all these beautiful headgears, none seemed to me so picturesque as a Gainsborough hat.

The broad brim, the graceful lift on one side, the clusters of maize plumes, drooping low in the neck, might have well adorned the head of one of those stately and serenely smiling English ladies your great painter loved to represent.

At the Exhibition, your English firms compete closely with those of Paris in the dressmaking department, the largest exhibitors being Messrs. Nicholson and Co., of St. Paul's Churchyard.

Dinner Dress from the Maison Laferrière

Dinner Dress from the Maison Laferrière

The most successful of their novelties are some charming little mantelettes especially suited for the hot weather we have been experiencing, for a while affording an effective addition to the costume, they add little or nothing to the weight of the dress.

One pattern is made of lace, covered almost entirely with small beads of gold or steel, while instead of sleeves it has deep falling epaulettes of beads that partially cover the arms of the wearer.

Another consists of a deep cape of Chantilly lace, with bows on the shoulders, from which long ends cross the bust and tie at the waist.

Other specialties of this firm are their washing blouses and costumes, and, what they greatly excel in, cloth gowns and jackets. Some of the former are particularly handsome, one especially deserving of mention being the "Cleopatra."

It is made with a deep box-pleat on either side of the skirt, which opens over a front of a lighter shade of cloth, the skirt being embroidered with beads for a distance of several inches from the edge, while the front is also handsomely embroidered.

Some of the jackets, too, are exceedingly tasteful, having lapels covered with a novel applique embroidery, in which the pattern is outlined in silk with a peculiar stitch which gives the same effect as though done with cord, while the lapels by an ingenious contrivance can be turned entirely back, or so arranged as to be only partly visible, at the pleasure of the wearer.

Johnstone, Violette, “September Fashions,” in The Woman’s World, Cassell & Company, Limited, London, Paris, New York & Melbourne, Volume I, No. 11, September 1888, p. 521-524, 530.


Marion Cloth is a fabric sensitized with ferrocyanide. In 1894. I suggested the use of this to obtain varied tints by means of coloring matters fixed by salts of iron, and at the same time 1 recommended the use of tannin in order to get deeper shades. (The Textile American, 1917)

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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