In the grand scheme of things, I have not been a vintage shopkeeper all that long. Not even a year and a half. I’m still learning all the time, and as time has gone on, I feel as though what I have to offer is stronger than what it once was.
This is not to say that the older something is, the automatically better it is. I don’t feel that way. But I do feel very excited, and a little breathless, about this 1880s dress that came into my life this weekend.
Made from sturdy layers of cotton and sateen and hand-finished down to the very last pleat, this ensemble was most likely worn by a young middle class woman during warmer spring and summer months, and was intended for the daytime.
So, how do we know it is from the 1880s? The skirt portion tells us a lot. The apron-like front as well as extensive decorative pleating was very popular during that decade. It is intended to be worn with a bustle (which fell in and out of fashion in the latter half of the nineteenth century), and not a hoop or huge crinoline, as only the extra draping in the back screams to be filled out. The relative narrowness in the hips and all the volume at the back is also indicative of the 1880s, when bustles were growing smaller and having their last hurrah.
I crafted a makeshift bustle just to give some semblance of what the silhouette should be. The skirt could definitely be filled out more than what is shown. Here are some photos of real bustles from the 1880s.So much gathering at the back of this skirt. It’s heavy!
There’s more of this Victorian lady in the shop.