Monday, September 12, 2016

Fashions for September 1882

Monday, September 12, 2016
September 1882 Fashions
Loretta reports:

C. Willett Cunnington, writing in 1937, had this to say about 1880s fashions, in English Women’s Clothing in the Nineteenth Century.

The fashions of the ‘80’s were more remote than those of any other decade from modern standards of taste. But if, on that account, we are pleased to call them ugly we only beg the question—not very important—which is the better taste. Their interest to us lies in their significance for they display an unusual amount of symbolism. Economic depression forcing many women to seek other careers than marriage, coupled with increasing outdoor activities, produced fashions in which the ordinary devices of sex-attraction were absent. The tailor-made costume, for example, seemed to the older school repellently masculine. It was the first move towards a style signifying (unconsciously) that the wearer was engaged in some other pursuit than the capture of man. Even the evening dress, majestically ornate, avoided the cruder methods of allurement; the high neck for dinner wear, the minimum display of physical charms until eh close of the decade, and the preference for heavy materials, all were in keeping with the spirit of the period. The principle was strict, that beauty should make no passionate appeal. The epoch was, above all others, anti-anatomical.”

September 1882 descr
September 1882 descr
The author quotes a “contemporary’s” remark: “Women whose minds are occupied with other things tend toward simplicity in costume while those who are empty-handed and empty-headed oftenest appear in fantastic and gaudy garments.”

Each era brings its own perspective on dress, of its own as well as earlier times. And I for one am not at all sure that “fantastic and gaudy garments” necessarily indicate stupidity or shallowness. For some people, extravagance in dress can be an expression of joie de vivre or an artistic statement, among other things.

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