I love all the fashion eras and I’m addicted to historical evening dresses, but the ones that caught my attention the most were the 1850s and 60s evening dresses. Besides the silhouette I love fabrics, colours, trimmings and elegance and good taste that pervades the evening dresses of the crinoline era. Crinoline era is an era of fashion reign of empresses Elisabeth of Austria and Eugenie of France. Can you imagine Empress Eugenie or Elisabeth wearing these kind of evening dresses?
I love the crinoline era and the elegance, opulence and luxury that comes along in fashion. Who among you can resist these beautiful evening and ball dresses? I know I can’t.
In this post I’ll explore the evening fashions from 1855. to 1865. – The crinoline era, to be precise. From 1850s skirt were becoming wider and wider and were supported by vast amount of petticoats until finally crinoline was invented in late 1850s. Though the silhouette in this era is basically the same, there are some differences between late 1850s and early 1860s styles.
Late 1850s skirts have lots of flounces and the sleeves are much more elaborate and wider in shape, often decorated with flounces, lace or opulent trimming. On the other hand, early 1860s styles are toned down and simpler; sleeves are less elaborate and skirts have one or two flounces if any.
The neckline was open, revealing the shoulders. Sleeves were short and usually puffed but came in variety of shapes; petal, puff, flutter, bell, cap, basic short, gathered, petal and puffed combination, cap and puffed combination. Neckline was usually decorated with lace, flower bouquets, jewels or single flowers; roses were quite popular. Little bouquets were often asymmetrically placed on the skirt. Main decoration of the late 1850s skirts were lots of flounces and the sleeves often have visible renaissance or Gothic influence.
Most used fabrics were silk, taffeta, moire, organdie, muslin, tulle and lightweight brocade. Colour palette depended on the age; debutantes wore light coloured dresses (often white) while older ladies wore rich and darker colours. Plain coloured silks became extremely popular in late 1850s Pastel colours and dotted fabrics were popular while floral prints were saved for day and afternoon dresses.
Trimmings were also very important in this period. They were usually pleated; silk, lace or satin. Decoration on the skirts included floral motifs, little rosettes, flower bouquets, lace, bows, roses or different flowers such as lilies, carnations, violets… For young ladies and debutantes nice choice was a plain white silk dress decorated only with white lace and bouquets of flowers or single flowers.
Variations of the evening dresses were endless but I’m going to single out a few particularly popular combinations; white silk dress with sky blue, pink, turquoise or lavender trimming, pink and blue evening dresses for summer, darker colours for autumn and winter; burgundy red, dark green, purple, brown and yellow. Popular combination for winter was white satin evening gown with burgundy red, black or dark green trimming. Red roses appeared to be extremely popular decoration for December’s evening dresses.
These evening dresses are beautiful and full of subtle elegance. I enjoy observing all the details, noticing the pattern in colours and trimmings for particular month.
Crinoline era is an amazing period in fashion history and I really hope that I managed to bring the grandeur, elegance and spirit of these evening dresses to you. In France this period is called Second empire. Second empire is an era of beautiful dresses, indolence, leisure and pleasure, elegant balls and joyful dances, interesting architecture, art galleries and exhibitions…
Hope you love this fashion era too! Some of the fashion icons those days were, besides Empress Eugenie and Empress Elisabeth, Alexandra of Denmark, Maria Feodorovna…