Members of the Shipman family at the turn of the century. The Shipman’s had a lumbering enterprise in Almonte. (National Archives of Canada photo)
by Allison Paul
One hundred years ago was known as the bustle period in women’s fashions. The first bustles of this period about (1870-1890) was large pads, stuffed with wool and worn behind, just below the waist, under the skirt. The idea behind the bustle was to push the skirt out. In the 1870’s through to the 1880’s dresses consisted basically of tightly corsetted bodices with skirts flattened in the front and puffed out behind. However, there were four years from 1878 to 1882 when dresses were tight all the way down with a train at the back. Elegant dresses were heavily trimmed with ribbon, paste spangles, tinsel, lace, bows and flowers.
Dresses of this period became extremely colourful. Often they were made of three or four different materials. Sleeves were plain or puffed out above the elbow into what was called the leg-of-mutton sleeve. During the day the blouse and skirt were worn and in the evening dresses were low-necked with ballooned elbow sleeves or else sleeveless. Laced or buttoned boots were popular and black stockings were usually worn. Women also wore long white frilled .drawers which were quite inconvenient. An outside patch pocket in skirts became a new fashion during this period. The Princess dress had a fitting bodice which continued down like a tunic, making an over-skirt. All fashionable skirts were double or draped or trimmed to imitate an over-skirt. However, at the end of the 19th century skirts were plain or flared. There was one comfortable dress which was allowed indoors, the Teagown.
Caps were imperative with this. Some skirts in the 1880’s were designed for exercise and these were fully pleated behind and had no over-skirt. Three-quarter length coats were worn outdoors. Later on in this period knickerbockers became the new fashion for ladies for exercise and sport. A short coat and a small felt hat was worn with them. During this period hair was piled up on the head and hung down the back of the neck, Hats became more fashionable than bonnets and from 1893 to 1897 decorative combs or ornaments of osprey or heron feathers were worn in the evening. Homburg hats were the fashion for men during this period. These hats were soft with a dent in the crown. The waistcoat was also a part of men’s fashions. This was sleeveless except for the type worn by some workers and later railway porters. At first the waistcoat had a collar and lapels but these were discarded in the 1870’s and it was then known as a straight waistcoat.
Like the coats, it could be single-breasted or double-breasted; but until the 1890’s evening-dress waistcoats were single breasted; then the double-breasted form became correct. In the 1890’s especially for evening dress waistcoats were being replaced by the cummerbund. In the 1860’s shirt collars were lowered and either turn-down or stand-up and neck ties were small and tied in a bow and later a knot. During this period men wore the cut-away coat in the evening and for the daytime the frock coat was worn. Another possibility was the morning coat. It was cut away in a curve over the hips and buttoned high over the chest. Double-breasted “reefer” jackets were worn especially for yachting. For shooting men wore a Norfolk jacket which had vertical pleats and loose knee-breeches.
In the 1890’s a short hair cut was proper and anyone whose hair was a trifle long was called a poet or a musician. During this period little boys were dressed like little girls until they were four years-old and then they were dressed in trousers. Trousers were usually buttoned on to a short coat and this was called a skeleton suit. Knickerbockers and sailor suits were popular for public school and for formal wear tight short black Eton jackets with a large white starched collar were the rule. Young girls followed the fashions of their mothers except that their dresses were shorter and for the first half of the century the wearing of white frilled drawers showing below the skirt was fashionable. Boys and girls always had to wear some kind of head gear out of doors and in the summer it was usually a stiff straw hat.
The Lotta Bustle: Running Around In My Underwear
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
- 10 Feb 1889, Sun,
- Page 23
where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and theSherbrooke Record and and Screamin’ Mamas (USACome and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place. Tales of Almonte and Arnprior Then and Now.