Paris Fashions June 1888
The fashions of the early days of the present century, eccentric in form, audaciously brilliant in color, are strongly influencing those of today.
Last winter, green and yellow in their crudest and most dazzling tones of apple-green and mandarin-yellow, wrought in velvet and satin, were worn for ball-dresses.
The yellow was rendered more dazzling by the introduction of scales of gold, or of martial trimmings of gold braiding; the vernal tints were poetized by floral trimmings, or delicate embroideries of blossoms.
As the spring advances, the ascendency of the two favorite colors grows more marked. We see cabbage-green jackets, and frog-green cashmere costumes; while hats are adorned with gold in panaches or in clusters radiating like suns.
Gold shines everywhere: it glitters down the seams of gowns; it glistens round their bodices; it twinkles over the forehead; it encircles the waist, the throat, the wrists.
It is the dominating note in every design, here wrought in embroidery, there fashioned in a flower, or in a star, then appearing again in the braided trimming.
The leading dressmakers strike the keynote of fashion; our élégantes take it up and play upon it varied modulations. The response this season is a clash of brilliant and bizarre harmonies.
Sometimes there is a tendency to extravagant effects, for it is very difficult to manipulate with tact this whirl of startling colors and fantastic forms.
Green and yellow—in their most uncompromising shades—are still the notes of color struck with a bold hand by the leaders of fashion, and the fair Parisian women are answering in chords of hues that recall the feathered vesture of parrots or the freshness of meadows.
Shortly—civilized womankind of every nationality will catch up the strain, and echo it shrilly or pleasantly, according to the player's sense of harmony.
Tosca green, Imperial green, Marie Louise green, tender moss green, delicate spring leaf green, bright with suggestions of golden pink, through cool reed green, and more prosaic cabbage and spinach green, run the scales of vernal tints; the yellow takes it up with sun beam yellow, ducal yellow, canary yellow, mandarin yellow, jonquil yellow, marigold yellow, kingcup yellow, gleaming copper yellow, dull jaundice yellow.
Through every shade and to every complexion the gamut of the two regnant colors runs and plays its harmonies. There will always be, however, a few truly elegant women who will refuse to submit to any edict laid down by Fashion, not in accordance with their own individual tastes.
The colors they prefer, and which become them most, they will always wear; the style of their figures and faces will be their final guide in all matters relating to dress.
They may seek some new inspiration in the prevailing craze, but as they do not impose their taste upon others, they neither accept that from which they differ.
The costumes made by that master in the art of design in dress, Worth, for Mile. Marsy in the role that she is now playing at the Porte Saint Martin, are examples of a taste superior to fashion.
These exquisite creations are in tender tones of grey, pink, and violet, suggesting the delicate sweetness of pastel coloring.
The first is a Recamier dress of violet Indian cashmere, draped in front with classic simplicity; the skirt is flat at the back, the sleeves are wide, a sash of black watered ribbon is tied behind.
A gown of tender rose-color, in thick faille, draped in Greek fashion, displays on one side a skirt of cream net; it falls in a train behind; the bodice is gathered in folds at the waist.
Another violet dress of faille. The skirt is flat, striped with interludes of black lace introduced at every breadth. The round cape is trimmed in the same style.
A silvery cashmere draped on the side and trimmed with heavy silk fringe. The sleeves, collar, and wide white watered silk sash, knotted behind, are all embroidered in silver.
Worth brings the same perfect taste to the design of the ball-dresses which emanate from his show-rooms. One of his late designs, in its chromatic scales of color, its discords and harmonies, excited and satisfied the eye, as he alone understands.
It was of maize satin, strewn with delicate rose-buds. The skirt fell in straight folds. It was trimmed with thick flat ruché of tender blue net and opened over a petticoat of the same net.
This petticoat was trimmed with ruché of yellow-toned chicoré-green, fastened here and there with blue ribbon, which was repeated in knots on the bodice.
Our illustrations are of dresses, also designed by Worth, to be worn at the races.
One dress reaches the highest note of the diapason of fashion. It is composed of pink faille, veiled with embroidered net, gathered in a deep flounce. A coat of heliotrope bengaline covers the back of the skirt, cut off in front at the waist; it opens over a waistcoat of turquoise-blue brocade, flowered over with many-tinted blossoms.
A jabot of Mechlin lace, a sash of black watered silk, revers of brocade on the sleeves, adorned like those of the coat, with big metal buttons, complete a costume of eccentric richness.
Less accentuated in style, and more restfully harmonious in its tints, the second dress is of cream bengaline, striped with bands of pale Suede cloth.
The plain petticoat is edged with a band of Suede cloth. The polonaise, plain at the back, is striped in front with equal bands of Suede cloth and bengaline.
The graceful and easy folds are a model of beautiful, if somewhat complicated, draping. A Tosca green scarf of Oriental silk, embroidered in gold, supplies a touch of brilliancy to the costume.
This dress can be made up in crepe de Chine, either blue, tender pink, or maize, striped with bands of cream lace.
A fashionable woman's déshabillé is as picturesque and dainty as is her gala attire. Mile. Cély, the lingerie, has on view in her showrooms, in the Rue de la Paix, some tasteful specimens of this less formal apparel.
One is in the style of Louis XV. The redingote jacket, of striped ivory satin and watered silk, opens over a chemisette of ivory net, fringed and embroidered in pearls.
A jabot of lace edges the two sides of the jacket, the wide sleeves and falls in soft, undulating outline over the embroidered skirt. The necktie and wristbands are of watered ribbon, shot with the tints of mother-of-pearl.
A pretty dressing-gown is made in the fashion of a Muscovite blouse. It is of transparent rose-white woolen material, worn over a slip of pink taffetas.
The flat skirt falls in gathers over the hips; the front resembles a chemise russe, and is crossed with three deep horizontal tucks, through which pink ribbon is inserted, fastened on one side with tiny butterfly bows.
The long, wide sleeves are trimmed at the shoulder with stripes of pink ribbon. The flowing sash, the necktie, and wristbands are of pink watered ribbon.
Another "stay-at-home" dress, the splendor of which allows it to be worn at an intimate dinner party, may be described as a symphony in white, the notes being the varied stuffs of which it is composed brightened with gleams of gold.
The front and back of the skirt are of white brocade, displaying a petticoat of unbleached Surah silk, veiled, and draped with folds of white silk muslin embroidered in ivory-white silk.
The bodice—a square-cut jacket hemmed and embroidered in gold—shows a chemisette of the unbleached silk draped with embroidered silk muslin; the half-sleeves are cut square and slashed with gauze.
A wide white watered silk sash is knotted at the side; the high collar is fastened in front with a bow of white watered ribbon.
My last description of a gown must be that of a pretty ball-dress for a very young girl. It is blue as a May morning sky. The pale azure crape skirt falls in straight, small gathers from waist to ankle; the tunic is disposed with scarcely any drapery over it, like a veil lifted on one side.
The bodice, with folds à la vierge, is fastened with knots of blue watered silk ribbon, matching the wide sash.
Wedding Gowns and Accessories
One word concerning wedding dresses may not come amiss in the season when youth's fancy is lightly turned to thoughts of love. The fashion for these bridal costumes is to surround them with suggestions of softness and grace rather than of splendor.
The pliable peau de soie silk is much used; supple faille striped with satin is also in favor, covered with clouds of lace or mingled with ivory-white crepe de Chine, the whitest, perhaps, of all white textures.
A gleam of silver braiding may be introduced, but the tendency is to make the bridal dress lily-white, with no alien glitter introduced into the colorless radiance of the stuffs that form its virginal melody.
Flowers are liberally used for its adornment; the orange-blossom, by right of its significance in the language of flowers, keeps its sovereign place above that of every blossom in gracing the wedding-day.
Clusters of orange-flowers, mixed sometimes with myrtle or other favorite white bloom, nestle in the clouds of lace or gauze, or catch up the folds of whatever other delicate texture is used in the trimming.
The corsage of the bridal dress is made full, the folds caught at the waist by a girdle; the skirt falls in long folds disposed behind in a round or oval train.
Bridesmaids appear this season habited in rose and white; sometimes tender leaf-green is substituted for pink, but couleur de rose is the tone most in vogue for the apparel of the bride's attendant maidens.
Nothing can be prettier than the sight of the central white figure, surrounded by the delicate brightness of pink in all its shades.
The bridesmaids' gowns are short; they are often made of dotted pink gauze, striped with horizontal bands of pink ribbon; the gathered corsage and the full sleeves are of crepe de Chine, or India silk, also disposed in draperies over the skirt.
Bouquets of roses and carnations carry out the arrangement in pink, which is broken only by the introduction of a tan-colored note in the gloves and shoes.
Gant de Suede appears to be a favorite color for the bride's going-away dress. The simple costume is brightened with a touch of gold braid at the throat, wrists, and hem of the skirt.
Summer Dress Fashions
If we turn from the consideration of spring attire to that for summer and the bains de mer: red, which is decidedly out of favor at social gatherings and in the Bois yet shows signs of holding its own by the salt sea wave.
Its gaiety of tone, as poppy-red, and its resisting quality to the destructive influence of the briny breeze and glare of sunlight, make it an invaluable color for wear on the sea-shore.
Cheap fabrics for sylvan summer wear will be found in the new muslins and percales. Sprigged muslins are coming in, such as our grandmothers wore in their young days; percales also, flowered all over with dainty patterns of blossoms, and adorned with wide bands woven into the stuffs, on which are massed together the sprigs scattered over the gown.
Ribbon of the color or shot with the dominant hues in the variegated design is to be used for the sash, the folded collar, and the wristbands of the full leg-of-mutton sleeves. Sometimes the design is a slender pattern in a single color.
A pretty and simple dress of ecru percale, covered with a graceful outlined pattern of indigo-blue, is to be made, with sash, collar, and wristband of blue faille ribbon. We are glad to note that the Marie Antoinette fichu, in black and white lace, is coming into vogue again for afternoon and evening wear.
Stays are made to suit the fashion of the day. The waists are shorter and the make-up simple. A flat lace border edges the shot taffetas, of which the dressier stays are composed; these are lined with tender green, old pink, copper or sunbeam-yellow silk.
The morning stays, made by Mme. Laty, are of chamois leather without whalebone, and fitting the figure like a glove. They have no hem nor lace border but are finished with a festooned edge pinked out in the leather.
The hair is dressed for evening wear much as it has been of late. The piled-up frizzed hair is, however, giving way to a somewhat lower arrangement of locks falling in a coquettish point over the forehead.
Our great authority in head-dresses, Noirat, now replaces the cache-peigne of flowers and foliage by wreaths or half-wreaths, or by Josephine diadems composed of bands of gold, or by delicate garlands with aigrettes of jewels or airy erections of butterflies' wings and ribbon. These are very becoming, and suitable alike to blonde curled hair or dark wavy locks.
Bonnets are legion, in capricious form, and of bizarre color. The Maison Virot, as usual, displays an unflagging fancy in meeting the demands of an eccentric and fluctuating taste.
Here is a capote —a mere trifle of black lace touched with gold. The border of lace is edged on either side with a string of gold beads. The crown is a cloud of black net scarcely veiling the hair. In front, in the form of an aigrette, are two black-plumaged birds with tails disposed in the form of a lyre.
Another bonnet is a knotted turban of gold net. The crown is composed of clusters of ripe maize-colored ribbon.
A spring-like bonnet is of lilac crape, decked with an aigrette, a cache-peigne, and long sprays of lilac in blossom.
A daintily quaint head-gear, in shape like an upset basket, is composed of tiny pinked-out gathers of maize-colored net, the pointed border striped with bars of black velvet embroidered in gold. Placed in front, a tuft of yellow and black buttercups.
A tasteful capote of ivory crape, delicately mounted in circular gathers, is draped with a shell-like arrangement of black lace, and a knot of maize net; clusters of chrysanthemums of yellow, ruddy brown, and black are placed inside and outside.
The Directoire bonnet, the wide flat border of which surrounds the head like an aureole, is in high favor. Here is one of black English straw, the border lined with embroidered ivory net.
Knots of mingled tender green and ivory ribbon placed at the back-support clusters of green and ivory feathers, inclining forward.
Another ample bonnet, very pleasing in its suggestions of spring, is composed of meadow-green net, veiled with net of the same tint, falling at the back in a long scarf to be twisted round the throat. Inside and outside is placed a half-wreath of daffodils fastened by knots of green ribbon.
The same bonnet can be made in blue net garlanded with a half-wreath of blue corn-flowers, and a poppy-red net garlanded in the same style with poppies.
It is difficult to paint in words the pretty quaintness of those Directoire bonnets, made sylvan with blossoms and flowing ribbon. Here is one of cut coarse straw, lined with gathered pale blue crape; the strings pale blue; a cluster of Bengal roses on the crown.
Another of the same coarse straw is lined with chestnut velvet, and is all garlanded with tufts of marguerites, yellow and ruddy brown, lilies of the valley, and foliage.
These floral trimmings are sometimes replaced by trimmings of knots of ribbon fastened with gold pins.
Toques are still worn, but their vogue is declining. One of chestnut-brown cut straw, trimmed with a velvet turban to match, is brightened with tufts of primroses and other golden woodland blossoms.
The picturesque grace of Sarah Bernhardt in the Empire costumes she wore in La Tosca, has given the impetus to the rage that has set in for the Directoire head-gears.
The last exaggeration of fashion may be seen in an immense round hat made of lace, woven in straw—green and maize; each row of lace is separated from the next by a roll of reed-green bengaline, lined with moss-green velvet.
Around the almost inaccessibly high crown, composed of bengaline, is twisted a long scarf of black net, upon which rises an aigrette composed of two black-plumaged birds, nestling in clusters of mingled green and ripe ears of corn.
The prettiest of all these fantastic creations is the graceful Hortense de Beauharnais hat, in cut straw lined with smooth English straw, trimmed above and under the brim with clusters of roses and honeysuckle and streaming ribbons.
The Norfolk hat is of chip straw lined with white "paille de riz," trimmed with black feathers and ribbons. Lastly, we have the Dora hat, of black "paille de riz," trimmed outside with knots of black satin ribbon, and inside, under the flap, is a chou, resting on the hair.
One word about parasols. They are made to match the bonnet Here is one of maize-colored net, the sides outlined by bands of watered ribbon of the same tint Tufts and wreaths, either of violets or roses, adorn it, fastened by knots of ribbon. The handle is a vulture's claw grasping a mandarin orange.
More original still is a parasol of fine straw, fringed with straw and lined with delicately gathered crimson net—matching the wreaths of poppies placed outside. This parasol suggests a miniature thatched roof, or haystack, brightened with trails of poppies.
Johnstone, Violette, “June Fashions: Paris,” in The Woman’s World, Cassell & Company, Limited, London, Paris, New York & Melbourne, Volume I, No. 8, June 1888, p. 377-380.
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 "Toilette" -- a form of costume or outfit has an entirely different common meaning in the 21st century. Typical terms applied to "toilette" 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.