Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Fashion Forecast: 1836, Part 1: The Great Deflation of 1836

What was the well-dressed young woman wearing in 1836?

Evidently dark colors were in vogue, as we can see from this very plain but elegant deep blue Evening Dress. The skirt is devoid of trim, though the bodice has gathered pleats over the bust; the lace oversleeves really sing over all this dark velvet (I think). A gold-trimmed gauze shawl completes the ensemble. In contrast is a Morning Dress of bright red, tan, and green plaid, with large bows at the waist and decorating the full skirt. A pelerine bodice of the same plaid set on the bias, lace collar, and ballooning sleeves finish the look. (January, The Court Magazine):

From February’s Court Magazine is another dramatically plain, dark Evening Dress, this time in black. Again the skirt is unornamented; the bodice also has pleating, this time crossing diagonally over the bust. The broad, flat sleeves are plain as well; only a hint of white lace shows at the bust. The dress is accompanied by a tall, high-crowned bonnet with deep pink, drooping plumes, green and pink ribbon decorations on lace, and long, broad lace lappets. Ruby drop earrings and a long chain of ruby carbuncles are set off by the plainness of the dress:

Now, here’s where the question in the title of this post comes in. I alas don’t have the prints for March though I have viewed them on-line; the sleeves remain broad and pouffy (and incidentally another black Evening Dress, though decorated with multi-colored flowers and ribbon about the hem and bodice, makes an appearance.) But there’s an interesting bit of text that appears in the accompanying General Observations on Fashions and Dress:

We have seen, since the publication of our last number, some evening dress robes made with short sleeves quite tight to the arm, and terminated by blond manchettes. After the very large sleeves to which we have been so long accustomed, these tight ones appear at first not only singular, but extremely ungraceful; nevertheless it must be owned that their effect upon a finely formed woman is highly advantageous to the shape. Another kind of sleeve, which we consider very pretty, and which holds a middle place between tight and large ones, is formed of a single bouffant of moderate size, arranged in longitudinal puffs by bands of satin or velvet.

So why tight sleeves all of a sudden?  What suddenly broke a fashion of years’ standing?

Well, there’s a hint in that same column:

Short robes, such as were worn in France thirty-five years ago under the name of Polonaise, and subsequently adopted in England, where they were called curricle dresses, are again revived. We have recently seen some of white crape over white satin, the latter with the corsage square, and rather higher than they are generally made on the bosom. The crape dress descended a little below the knee, and the drapery of the front of the corsage formed a demi-coeur. The sleeves, short and nearly tight to the arm, were finished at the bottoms by bands of ruby velvet.

So was that it? A revival of a thirty-five-year-old fashion in France led to the collapse of the long-running uber-sleeve?  Let’s see how the rest of the spring’s fashion shape up...

A pair of Evening Dresses from April’s Court Magazine display both the new tight sleeve and the bouffant sleeve mentioned above. The black dress, ornamented with multi-colored flowers and vines around the hem, sports the bouffant sleeve (which is very Tudor-looking!) with matching flounces at the sleeve and around the neckline. The blue print dress has tight sleeves with flounces of blonde lace. Note the headdresses—again, a throw-back to an earlier age, this time Renaissance:

May’s Evening and Carriage Dresses from the Court Magazine show a slight return to fuller sleeves—but only a slight one. The Evening Dress reminds me of mid-seventeenth century dresses with its very low flounced neckline and small puffed sleeves caught in and finished with flounces of blonde lace. The skirt is decorated with large bows and more puffs of blonde lace.  The Carriage Dress has sleeves tight from cuff to elbow, then moderate puffs on the upper arms, a double pelerine collar, one of blonde lace, and a tall green bonnet,which completely gives me the creeps:

June’s Ball Dress is perfect for the girl just making her debut. According to the description it is Of white satin, with folded cross body, robing and sleeves of blonde. The robing confined by wreaths of white and pink roses to correspond with the head-dress, the roses of which are arranged as a bandeau and chaplet mixed with pearls:

And also from June’s Court Magazine, a Morning Dress Of Tissue Pekin, the cape and skirt edged with a plain fold of gros de naples, sleeves made tight to the elbow, with a double fall on the shoulder; cap of light Honiton lace.  The Evening Dress is Of blue satin, the corsage made tight, with a cape of blonde tight to the figure—sleeves of white tulle, with blonde ruffles. The hair arranged low, with a wreath of blue convolvuluses:

What do you think of the Great Sleeve Deflation of 1836? Do you miss, just a little, those crazy sleeves of 1834 and 1835?


Daisy said...

I like the look of the shrunken sleeves but they aren't as much fun to look at. They are a bit more aesthetically pleasing to my eyes which are used to modern sleeves. The floral print on the blue gown with shrunken sleeves was my favorite print out of this batch of gowns.

Marissa Doyle said...

I agree--I can't imagine wearing the huge sleeves, but they are fun to look at!