The 1880s saw the first automobile, the vast expansion of the railroad, immigration, and the Wild West. The Victorian Era wouldn’t end for another twenty years. Western style mustaches.
Dresses of this era had tight bodices, narrow sleeves, and high necklines (a show of modesty characteristic of the Victorian Era). Focus remained on the back of the dress and the bustle came back in an extreme way mid-decade before falling back out of fashion quickly. The corset was still an S-shape, but was emphasized with a lower chest. Choker necklaces and collars became fashionable accessories. It should come as no surprise that the Rational Dress Society was formed in 1881 in opposition to extreme forms of women’s clothing.
Slim lounge suits were popular among men. The jackets would be worn open or partially undone to reveal their vests and neck or bow ties. A more relaxed suit appeared mid-decade and the working class adopted jackets and vests as well.
Man with big mustache
The 1890s saw a number of inventions and movements, from the Temperance Movement to the creation of motion pictures to the commercial production of automobiles. However, what more defined the decade is an economic depression. This decade would later be called the “Gay Nineties,” a misnomer as the decade saw an increase in crime and a rise in poverty. There were also many strikes and labor disputes that took place throughout the decade. The better term is the “Gilded Age,” referring to its shiny exterior hiding a bad situation.
The fashion of the early 1890s looked much like the fashion of the previous decade. However, over the course of the next ten years, the leg-o-mutton style sleeve (narrow around the lower arm, puffy around the upper arm) increased in popularity and volume. Fashions emphasized a wide shoulder and combined this with an A-line skirt (A-line meaning the skirt took the shape of a capital A). More masculine styles were also adopted, including shirt collars and ties.
Men’s styles started to become more comfortable and less restricted. Starched collars gave way to turned-down collars. Three-piece suits became more popular while frock coats fell out of favor. Creases started to appear at the front of pants. Beards began falling out of fashion among men’s facial hair stylings. Heavy mustaches or clean shaven styles were preferred.
Next week, we’ll examine fashions from 1900-1950. If you want to see one hundred years of fashion from our local region, come visit the museum for our Fabric of Bradley County exhibit from March 2019-June 2019.
Beard styles for men