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Transcript of 1880's
By Amanda Thai
The fashion of the 1880s was, as you would expect, a lot more formal than the clothes we wear today. Clothing represented your social status and it was easy to see someone's wealth by looking at their clothes. Since this decade is characterized by the return of the bustle, it is sometimes referred to as The Bustle Era, as well as being part of the Victorian Era. Everything became more formfitting, from ladies' skirts to men's trousers to shoes of all genders.
Tops & Bottoms
The icon of this decade was the bustle, a shelf-like dress improver that jutted out the back of the dress, giving the desired silhouette of a horse's hind legs. They were often made of steel caging but a more subtle bustle could be made by gathering the skirts at the back of the dress.
A chemise was worn under the corset to protect the skin from any irritation from the lacing. It was simply a tube-like piece of fabric with shoulder straps and sometimes short sleeves. A camisole and knee length drawers were worn over that and the corset, along with a petticoat or several.
The corset was used to give an hourglass figure as the fashion of the decade demanded small waists and well defined hips. The corset was usually made of silk, cotton, linen or leather with bones of flexible steel or whalebone. The bones pushed the torso into shape and supported the bust.
In this decade, women's underwear became more fitted and decorative, with frills, lace and ribbons. Before then, all underwear had been plain white and boring. Corsets were elaborately embroidered and elegant even though they weren't seen. This trend of fancy underwear carried on throughout the years and is still evident in today's fashion.
The outerwear had to be loose to make room for the bustle or have slits so it could flow over it.
The outerwear included long fitted jackets, double breasted cloaks and fur wraps and shawls, most of which had high collars.
Women wore dresses that were ornate, decorated and elaborate. Popular colours of this decade include bottle green, deep wine, navy blue and black. The fabrics used were usually velvet, satin or wool.
The dresses had to fit with the fashionable silhouette of the period which, at that time, was slim waists, defined hips and a big behind. The skirt, instead of being full at the front like in the 1870s, was flat and fitted to the legs to show off the figure.
The polonaise from the late 1700s returned. This is where the top skirt is gathered, looped or draped up to show the underskirt, the colour of which could contrast or match the top skirt.
Shoulders were covered for everyday wear and collars were high and fitted.
For evenings, long, three-quarter or short sleeves accompanied dresses even more elaborate and decorated than those for day wear. They could be adorned with flowers, lace, ribbons, bows, and a variety of other frills.
In bridal wear, the wedding dresses mimicked the dresses of current fashion, except the colour was white. White wedding dresses were made popular by Queen Victoria. The dresses themselves had more ruffles, a long train and veil. The dresses of the Victorian Era were actually brought back into fashion in the 1960's.
The more popular sports were tennis and croquet. The dresses for these sports were very conservative, covering the arms and legs. Bustles were not worn but fabric was gathered at the back of the dress to create the illusion of one.
A popular hairstyle in the 1880s was the "pompadour" where the hair was lifted in the centre, leaving some curls fallen at the sides. A variation of this was the "French pompadour" with the hair held at the top of the head with curls falling over the forehead.
Fringes or bangs, in general, were popular and women sometimes used clip-on fringes and fake hair to achieve this look.
Pale skin was an icon. To achieve this women drank vinegar and avoided fresh air. Even faint blue lines were drawn on the skin to give it a transparent look, Tanned skin was a mark of the poor, of those who had to work in the sun.
In the Victorian era, women liked to be thought of a delicate and feminine. Makeup wasn't commercially available then so women had to make do with things found in the kitchen, like berries and beetroot.
Choosing your footwear back then couldn't have been too hard; there really was only shoes or boots. Because the flat front of the skirt allowed some of the shoe to be seen, there was usually some kind of decoration on the toe. As it neared the 1890s, the shoe's toe got pointier and the heel got higher.
Bathing and swimming dresses were only just coming back into fashion and even those sported some fullness in the back.
Overall, athletic wear of the 1880's was extremely impractical.
There were plenty of accessories to decorate the already heavily decorated women.
Elbow length gloves were worn with any short sleeved evening dress. Large fans were carried at parties.
Parasols were used to protect the skin from the sun and preserve the paleness.
Like the bustle drew attention to the back of the dress, the hats and bonnets focused attention at back of the head. The hats usually featured a small brim and big ribbons tied under the chin.
Novelty jewellery was popular: things like big fancy pins, cameo brooches, necklaces, earrings, and handkerchief pins.
Welcome to the...
-Queen Victoria's colour choice for her wedding dress started the trend of white wedding dresses
-In Australia, the gold rush of the 1850's
-People moving to urban areas
-The Industrial Revolution
-The Rational Dress Society, formed in 1881. They protested against any kind of fashion that inhibited movement or deformed the natural figure.
-The Artistic dress movement of the 1860s where women spoke out against the rigidity of Paris dress.
-Constantly evolving and improving technology (sewing machine invented and steam molding used in corsets).
Like women, men also had several layers to their outfit, just not as many. They started with a collared white shirt followed by a waistcoat or vest. This was considered the centerpiece of the outfit and came in a variety of different colours and materials.
But the frock coat was probably the most popular piece of outerwear as it was versatile and could be worn for both day wear and evening wear. It was long and finished just above the knee.
Short jackets with small lapels were usually worn for day wear. They were fitted close to the neck and didn't show much of the tie. The cutaway jacket, where the bottom of the jacket was cut away enough to show the watch chain, became quite popular too.
The loose sack suit of the 1870's became more fitted with a middle seam above the pockets.
Men's hair was normally worn short and parted to the side. It wasn't as slicked back as it was in previous decades.
A close-fitting shirt and long drawers or 'long johns' was all men's underwear consisted of. They were worn not only to keep the body warm but to protect the outer clothing from sweat and grease.
The formal wear wasn't that much different from the day wear. Maybe they would have a fancier vest or a nicer coat and wear a top hat and pair of gloves.
Men's pants became tighter and were often black, sometimes with bold vertical stripes. Like the ladies' dresses have a flatter front, the men's pants were also flat along the front of the legs instead of having a crease. The pants were often part of three piece suit and would match the colour of the coat.
Men had a variety of hats to choose from for everyday wear. There was the straw boater, the stiff crowned hat, the bowler hat and, of course, the top hat which was still extremely popular for evening wear.
For weddings, men usually wore a frock coat with a flower, waistcoat and pants, in any colour except black.
The pocket watch, or fob, was displayed hanging from the front vest pocket and the newly invented cutaway jacket helped to showcase it.
Belts were not used at this time and pants were instead held up with suspenders or braces.
The complicated ties of thirty, forty years ago had been replaced by ties that were easy to use and would last a whole work day. The four in hand tie and the newly fashionable Ascot tie were the most popular styles.
Gloves were used for dressy occasions as some etiquette books stated that it was unseemly for a man's skin to touch a woman's.
Men's shoes and boots, as it neared the 1890s, had a narrower toe and a higher heel.
Cycling and tennis were popular sports and, though men's clothing allowed a lot more movement than women, men were still restricted by tight armholes and fitted fabrics.
A young girl's day wear consisted of a dress with a round collar and sash. A pinafore, a protective apron of sorts, would be worn while working and playing to protect the dress. Even young girls wore bustles in this time, just made of padding and not of steel. They usually wore plain or patterned stockings and a bonnet or hat.
Many, many layers were worn in winter to keep warm including accessories such as gloves, muff hand warmers, hat and boots.
Boys up until the age of five or sometimes older, wore frocks and dresses. After that, what they wore was at the discernment of their mother. If mothers did not think their child was ready for the proper suit with trousers, they could wear suits with kilts or tunic suits. A new style that mothers loved was the Fauntleroy velvet suits with lace collars. Pants were about knee length and were worn with long stockings to cover the bare skin.