Paris Fashions August 1888
Paris is empty! Our belles dames are all at the sea side, displaying on the shores by the salt waves those summer fashions they inaugurated at the termination of the season, the day of the Grand Prix.
An appearance of absolute simplicity is but another form under which extravagance hides, and subtle opportunities lurk for the display of fantastic taste.
The sheath-like seaside costumes cling to the figure; they are made with jerseys, white spotted with red, or red spotted with gold, pale blue spotted with dark blue, chestnut-brown mingling with yellow, or silver-grey, maize, or scarlet peau de soie is used, arranged with delicate pleatings of black or ecru lace falling from waist to ankle; such jerseys outline the wearer's figure like an outer skin.
The choice of stuff, the bizarre arrangement of colors, the general harmony, the imprévu of the effect as a whole or in its details, are so many chances of expression in the art of dress.
Our great dressmakers have invented this modern art. They handle its resources with the certainty of a master-hand and know how to adapt to it the somewhat unwholesome taste of the latter end of the nineteenth century.
Mme. Rodrigues, who has lately moved from the Boulevard Poissonniere to the Rue du Helder, is one of those true artists who look upon the material of which a dress is made as its most insignificant detail.
The draping, the harmonious fall of the folds, the arrangement of tints, are the questions of supreme importance to her.
A series of gowns destined for the bright outdoor life of the country and the seaside have been made by Mme. Rodrigues out of the simplest materials; each dress is a little chef-d'oeuvre of originality and taste.
We give in our illustration (above) a delightful sea side dress made of blue cotton strewn with a dainty pattern of white leaves. The round skirt mounted in gathers, is edged with two bands of embroidery.
An embroidered drapery placed round the hips is fastened behind; the draped bodice becomes part of the drapery; the wide sleeves ate gathered into deep wrist-bands of embroidery.
Another costume (illustrated above) is of blue serge, of the bright yet dark shade worn by French hussars. The skirt, made with flat folds, is edged with a band of white woven into the stuff.
The tunic is formed by a short drapery also edged with white, lifted on one side in festoons. The bodice (a round jacket) opens in front with wide revers over a waistcoat of embroidery; the collar and wrist-bands are embroidered.
Another dress of striped silver-grey and white alpaca was an example of skillful arrangement of line and of bright yet sober coloring. The skirt, made with deep flat folds, had a certain Grecian simplicity of outline; over it was draped a long tunic.
The bodice, a vest pointed in front, the revers formed by the stripes laid crosswise, opened over a waistcoat of embroidery lined with delicate pink.
A more bizarre costume (above) was of red cotton covered with red and white foliage. The skirt opened on one side, showing tiny quilling of black foulard; the tunic was gathered full over the hips; the bodice also was made with deep revers. The waistcoat was of black pleated foulard.
A dress of pink batiste was fresh and dainty as a flower. The skirt, crinkled and covered with tiny pleated flounces, seemed to imitate rose-leaves. The flounces were edged with Valenciennes and delicate tucks.
Over the skirt was placed a double tunic like a short Greek peplum —the under one of pink batiste; the upper, of lace, was a continuation of the bodice, which was made with cross-folds, à la Tosca.
The sash of flowered ribbon, the many-colored blossoms brocaded on a pink ground, was fastened on one side, and fell with flowing ends.
A severer gown, which had a good deal of cachet of its own, was an excellent example of what can be made with black and white, that most difficult combination to manipulate successfully.
The under-skirt was of ecru linen worked all over with white embroidery; over this was a polonaise of black-and-white striped pekin, slit into five narrow panels. The bodice was draped with white crape.
A delicate gown in color and texture was of ecru embroidered net and sky-blue crepe de Chine, draped to the edge of the pleated skirt. The sash was of watered sky-blue ribbon.
The prettiest and most artistic of all these coquettish dresses was one that might have been worn by some lady under the reign of Louis XV. Silver-grey shot with pink, it was made of that soft peau de soie which falls into such exquisite folds.
The draped skirt was adorned on either side with panels of velvet shot like the woodpigeon's breast. The vest made in Louis XV style, and pointed in front, was of steel-grey lace, through which gleamed the rose silk of the lining.
It opened over a waistcoat of pink bengaline adorned with Brussels lace, gathered and fastened with knots of pink ribbon, and a Brussels lace jabot fell in a cascade of dainty softness on either side of the vest. The same lace trimmed the cuffs and collar.
A mantilla cloak called the "Polignac," of pink peau de soie, covered with finely pleated ecru lace, and fastened with agraffes of steel passementerie, completed this costume. The "Polignac" mantilla is the most original and the prettiest of Mme. Rodrigues' latest creations.
Made of black or white lace, over silk of any color, it is light, coquettish, and essentially Parisian.
The Japanese Influence
Let us now give a glance at the show-rooms of the Maison Morin-Blossier. We seem to be in Japan. The lovely colors, the fantastic art of that distant land, have inspired the designs of the foulards used by these French dressmakers for the seaside costumes of Parisian ladies.
Pleated skirts, pleated flounces, everywhere pleatings are the order of the day! Be it one flounce, or three, or five flounces adorning the skirts, whatever the number they are always pleated.
The Japanese-looking gowns are made short in front, long behind, with coat-bodices opening in the front, displaying an immense jabot of some pleated transparent fabric.
Wonderful patterns of interlacing blossoms, of moons, of lotus-leaves, of dragons, and meandering serpent-like lines, cover these soft silky fabrics; the favorite colors are yellow and red, blue, and orange, black, and white.
One dress attracted me by its extreme elegance and simplicity. The cream-colored ground was strewn with lines of gold and bronze-green moons. The skirt was pleated from waist to ankle.
The bodice, also pleated, opened in front over a "Barras" jabot of creamy crape; it was gathered at the waist by a wide scarf, knotted behind, of bronze green faille.
Lace, which last winter seemed to have fallen out of favor, and which was seldom seen even upon ball dresses, is once more re-asserting its vogue. Over a silk or satin foundation the light fabric is gracefully draped, spreading its delicate tracery, and producing effects difficult to rival for grace.
A scarlet crepe de Chine gown, adorned with black Chantilly lace, appeared to me as peculiarly elegant. The crepe was pleated in front on a clinging Princess gown of peau de soie of the exact shade of crimson. Magnificent Venetian point entirely covered another Princess dress of grey merveilleux satin.
For daily wear, a variety of materials are worn. Woolen canvas is in high favor; its lightness and solidity fit it for the wear and tear of rural life. Plain or spotted it is equally fashionable.
When spotted, the gown is usually made straight, like a blouse, gathered at the waist, with a sash of watered ribbon of the same shade, or by a wide Barras scarf of a contrasting tone of color; when plain, the skirt and bodice are gathered, and the front is worked with Russian embroidery.
Foulard is made in every fashion, and in every combination of tint and line. Less showy than Japanese foulard, the steel-grey, the Venetian rod, the soft willow green, or blue patterned over with white designs, make up charming dresses, coquettish and useful.
Skirts are flounced and draped; the bodices are made with folds laid crosswise; jabots of white crape are worn; a watered scarf forms the sash.
For dinner-dresses, either crepe de Chine, spotted or plain, or surah, is used. These dresses, made in Princess style at the back, are draped in front with interlaced crossings of black and white lace. The favorite shades are lilac, grey, tender pink, white, red, green, maize, and sky-blue.
Stripes in Vogue
Stripes are, above all other combinations, the most in vogue. The fashionable world is all striped—broad stripes, narrow stripes, middle-sized stripes, stripes of two contrasting hues, and stripes composed of many tiny lines of the same shade.
Two or three bands of ribbon trim the edge of the skirts, which are usually raised on one side. Thus the rigidity of the perpendicular lines is broken, and the rippling effect introduced.
The favorite stripe is the Louis XV, middle-sized, formed of many tiny lines of the same color; then come the many-colored stripes on percale, which produce such a summery brightness of hue.
Another stylish and original effect is managed by lines of varied shades of the same color; beige and seal brown, for instance, on a lighter ground, mingle with bars woven in the stuff of a contrasting color—pink or pale blue.
Batiste does not follow the stripe mania; it is either made plain or strewn with tiny patterns. I saw a red batiste dress covered with small black shamrocks, the tunic and flounce edged with black watered ribbon, the bodice made with cross-folds laid across a chemisette of black surah. A wide sash, composed of three rows of black watered ribbon, was tied at the side.
Mantles of lace, lined with shot silk, crepe de Chine, or limousine, are the favorite carriage-cloaks. Nothing can be richer and softer in effect than those cloudy draperies, through which gleam bright colors.
For outdoor walking-costume, the simple tailor-made jacket of grey cloth, Venetian red, meadow-green, or military blue, keeps its place, and deservedly so by reason of its nattiness.
Another useful and elegant jacket is very simple in form; it is lined and made either with revers of cloth of a contrasting color, or it is embroidered at the edge. A note of eccentricity, so sought for in the fashions of today, may be attained here by the colors used.
Hats, Bonnets and Extraordinary Coiffures
From all times the love of womankind for the start ling in costume has manifested itself, especially in the adornment of her head. The history of costume reveals this feminine craze for extraordinary coiffures. Hats and bonnets now unite with colors to produce quaintness, which is characteristic of the modes of today.
There have not been seen for over a century more extraordinary, more audaciously picturesque hats and bonnets than are now affected by our Parisiennes.
The cape line and the round hats, with towering crowns, overburdened with trimmings of flowers and scarfs, are the two variations of head-gear on which our artist-milliners expend their fancy and their skill.
Here are some of the round hats, à la Tosca, introduced by the Maison Virot.
A harmony of delicate Hortensia pink and of paille de riz lace. The white straw is lined with clouds of the Hortensia net. Scarfs of the same net, twining round the crown, are caught here and there with clusters of the rosy blossoms.
Another of the same straw is lined with shot opal-tinted net. The scarfs of pink and delicate green net are garlanded round the crown with blue, pink, white, and silver convolvuli.
Another is a gleaming edifice of gilt straw, lined with green net, and wreathed with wild flowers and aigrettes of reeds.
A paillasson white straw hat is lined with white net; the white net scarf supports a great sheaf of lilies and yellow roses.
A delightful harmony of rose in tones of faded pink and brilliant carmine consisted of straw of the tint of dried rose-leaves, lined with pink net and yellow crape. The crown is covered with a ruché of carmine gauze, which also festoon the border.
Another, of the quaint "Empire" coal-scuttle shape, was of white horsehair, all trimmed with tufts of king cups, lilies of the valley, and ripe cherries. Narrow red velvet strings, placed behind, were knotted on the side.
Another coal-scuttle hat was of black straw, the crown bound round with gold galons; tufts of ox-eyed daisies made of green and gold velvet, reeds mingled with aigrettes of green watered ribbon.
An immense hat was of blue and white cut-straw, lined with blue velvet. A knotted scarf of embroidered white net, and sheaves of blue cornflowers climbed over the towering crown.
A dainty little hat, which near these seems like a miniature hat, was of gathered meadow-green crape. Two half-wreaths of violets were placed, one over and the other under the brim; an aigrette of reeds mingled with the upper garland. A scarf of black net thrown all over the hat fell behind, mingling there with ribbons.
It was to be wound round the wearer's throat. This was, perhaps, the most coquettish and original of the hats in Mme. Virot's show-rooms.
Let us now look at the cape lines, that even more than the round hats furnish opportunities for the profuse display of flowers, feathers, and scarfs. These bonnets are usually made of lace straw, or gathered net, for any sort of heavy straw would be impossible to use for the required size.
There was one in maize straw lace, trimmed with tufts of Bengal roses and tea-roses, and clouds of pink, green, and maize net.
Another was the Watteau shape in Leghorn straw, lined with cut-straw, lifted at the back by clusters of yellow roses, pink roses, and Hortensia, placed amid the coils of a scarf of maize net.
Another, a combination of radiant tints and soft textures, was of maize net and lace straw; bands of white satin round the crown, supporting clusters of white feathers and choux of maize net.
A fourth was of corn-colored lace straw, lined with net of the same shade. Meadow-green feathers, reeds, and green ears of corn, knotted with corn-colored net, were piled high upon the crown.
Another was of black gathered net, with aigrette of ears of corn and reeds; over and under the brim of the bonnet were placed half-wreaths of roses.
Another of cut-straw was lined with turquoise-blue net; the crown was covered with clouds of blue and maize net thrown over roses, ears of corn and reeds, and fastened by knots of ribbon the same shade as the net.
Yet a last example was of delicate green straw, lined with white horsehair, all embroidered with straw lace; a scarf of green net and immense red poppies lay heaped upon the crown.
Fashion of the Day
To follow the fashion of the day closely, it is necessary to be familiar with its many aspects, for never was there a time when such a multiplicity of modes were in vogue.
High bodices cut open in a point at the neck are worn, but so also are high collars; coat-shaped sleeves are still to be seen, but then full ones are equally in favor; belted, basqued, and coat-tailed bodices are all worn.
Tournures well-nigh disappear when Directoire redingotes are adopted, but under draped and puffed skirts they are almost as pronounced as they were a year ago. Hence the difficulty of chronicling exactly what is actually worn, for fashion in Paris has now such a multiplicity of aspects.
Never was there a time when the chaussure was more carefully attended to. For walking and general outdoor wear, plain buttoned kid boots are adopted; for smarter occasions, these kid boots have patent leather tops; heels are only moderately high.
Dressing for Receptions
For receptions, dinners, and balls shoes are worn—but the shoes must be in harmony with the costume. For example, with black and dark dresses the shoes are black, but if the costume be light they are made either of the same material as the dress, or of Suede kid.
Stockings follow the same rule—if a black costume is worn the stockings are black, but should a color be introduced on a black dress then they are embroidered with that same color. If the costume is light the stockings match it in color, but the embroidery is in the hue of the trimmings.
Suede gloves continue to be the general wear, but for travelling and country use, what is termed the "sac" glove is adopted. It has no opening at the wrist and is cut all in one and long. It is made of undressed kid instead of the chamois skins formerly used.
Johnstone, Violette, “August Fashions: Paris,” in The Woman’s World, Cassell & Company, Limited, London, Paris, New York & Melbourne, Volume I, No. 10, August 1888, p. 477-480.
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.