Vintage Fashions of London - British Women’s Fashion - November 1900
By Mrs. Eliza Aira
Inasmuch as in America you have a habit of anticipating our weather, I will first talk of fashionable furs for the neck. These show a combination of the plain fur boa of seasons ago, and the huge neck ruffle of our Summer fancy—in a word, you may have a ruffle made of fur, sable, chinchilla or ermine fastened with chenille or tulle streamers. Such ruffles may, of course, be lined with fur to match or in contrast—sable with ermine, for example—and may bear on the inside a small ruffle of the tulle, which has the privilege of forming the ends.
Do I like this novelty? Candidly, I am not altogether certain that I do, yet as it is in the range of modes possible, I mention it to you together with the news of huge muffs which are to be made of frilled fur either plain or terminating with a frill of tulle, chiffon being sometimes used instead of tulle ; and, again, the combination of fur and lace intrudes its charms.
At the moment, however, we are not very seriously considering furs, and maybe you would like to hear of the latest arrivals in the costume market and all the details worthy of being dubbed new ; for from my chronicle I will not dismiss the word novel, since, in spite of that old pessimist who asserted that there was nothing new under the sun, we keep up the fiction in the world of dress and hugely enjoy the heroes of each new tale.
What are the new tales in the cloth costume? The amazing popularity of the three-quarter coat is worthy of comment, and this on a slim figure—and we all try to be slim figures nowadays by various aids of restoring and supporting corsets—is extremely becoming.
Of course, for ordinary, work-a-day occasions the plain skirt and three-quarter coat, the inevitable lace cravat, or muslin or lawn trimming the neck, leaves little to be desired on the score of usefulness and can at the same time be credited with the virtue of becomingness. Picture it in black—black is ever my favorite wear for the Autumn—crowned with a black hat bearing the perennial attractive ostrich-feather plumes one side and a tuft of tulle at the other, and you will readily conceive the result as most satisfactory.
The bolero is not to be abandoned during the early days of the cold weather, and in cloth and velvet, elaborately braided and stitched, I have seen capital models. Then, too, the cloth dress made with a bodice tight fitting at the back, pouching open in the front to show a lace vest, and bordered either with stitched bands of glace or silken passementerie and tassels is much in evidence.
Plain Faced Cloths
Plain faced cloths retain our enthusiasm for all time; the covert coating again appears to be desired, and some of the cloths show in finitesimal spots, others stripes, while once more the charms of the check are by no means ignored. I have ever a regard for a green plaid costume in the Autumn.
Take, for example, the cloth of one of the conventional clans, Mackenzie or the 42nd ; if it be made bias with a little bolero of dark-blue cloth having small gold buttons, and showing a cravat of cream-colored lace, with a broad corselet belt of black glace brought round the waist and held tightly with gold buttons again, it will achieve admirable results.
Skirts for the Fashionable Woman
As for the cut of the new skirts, it would seem that the authorities permit us to pay our money and take our choice. We may either wear the plain, tight-fitting variety fastened down the sides of the front, or may choose what is known as the Bonne Femme, corded and fully gathered round the waist, or the skirt that sets plainly from waist to hip and is thence cleverly worked into tucks.
By the way, this last variety should only be attempted by the expert, or with the aid of a good pattern. Hems on the tucked skirts look well if decorated with fine, small cordins—That is, if a thin fabric is used; but if a thick cloth be chosen, stitching in straight, vandyked or curved lines would be found sufficient adornment.
There is some chance of the best styles of the Louis XVI. order being re-established, and by these I mean the beautiful brocaded silks, the long-tailed coats, elbow sleeves, lace ruffles, velvet neck - bands; all modes of the bygone days adopted by those beautiful and luckless ladies of the French Court, who pointed the way to extravagance, and followed the road to ruin with light hearts.
Silks from China
Chine silks are again to be worn, and beautiful these are, shadows of exquisite designs, giving the suggestion of glorious coloring; and who was it declared that in all the arts, suggestion was the highest ideal, and the too solid fact should be avoided? On the whole, though, I do not think that philosopher was entirely in the right, but he was an apostle who sat at the feet of Whistler in his earliest days.
Let me advise you to gather from your own or your mother's wardrobe all the pieces of old lace, good lace, lovely lace, that you can secure, for no evening bodice looks really well without the little chetnisette, shoulder strap or bertha of lace; lace has so beneficial an effect on maid, matron and mode alike, and will in its supreme generosity give unto the simplest of muslin frocks and the least distinguished of women an air of superiority.
Theatre cloaks are just now interesting garments worthy of discussion, and if you wish to be economical choose the long coat shape of black satin. Let it set closely to your figure, but not fit it; have the hem trimmed with a shaped flounce—no signs of fullness in this—and stitch it and strap it a merveille, then you let your fancy run riot in the matter of sleeves and neck trimming. A beautiful effect may be gained on such a garment by the yoke and hanging sleeves made of ecru lace; lace and chiffon together will go well round the neck ; and below sleeves of satin, if you choose these, should appear inner frills of lace and chiffon.
The lace cloaks bought in the Summer may easily be converted into the home dinner dress of the tea-gown description with a tight under-dress of the soft satin covered with accordion-plaited chiffon, ruffled on the hem. These coats look lovely if made of Irish lace with the sleeves coming to the elbow, and fastened with black velvet bows and worn with a black velvet band round the throat, which is displayed by a small square.
Supreme Goddess of Autumn Fashion
But the sleeve is to be the supreme goddess of Fashion this Autumn, and a day spent at the British Museum studying the old plates is a revelation of extraordinary possibilities. A style to be revived fits tightly on the top to an extent of about four inches, bordered with three frills ; thence it is tight to the elbow where more frills appear.
This, however, is not so attractive as the sleeve which is tight on the top and outlined with a band of jeweled trimming, into which is gathered gauze held again at the wrist with the jeweled trimmings; and other quaint pictures show sleeves entirely formed of frills on a bell-shaped lining, and then others, again, exhibit puffings and slashings at shoulder, elbow and wrist.
You know Her Royal Highness, the Princess of Wales, gave the Museum recently a comprehensive collection of this century's fashion plates; this should now prove the happiest of hunting grounds for the earnest students of dress.
Source: The Delineator, Volume LVI, Number 5, November 1900, Page 588, The Butterick Publishing Company, Limited. Paris, London, New York, Toronto.
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