Monday, October 31, 2011

Costume in Natal: 1880s

A mature lady of the mid-1880s manages to maintain her benign appearance despite her uncomfortable apparel. In this photo it’s the undergarments which draw our attention.
The line of her corset is clearly visible, pushing up the front of her bodice: at this date the corset would be long (similar in shape to the pointed bodice front) and its lower edge could be attached to a petticoat. Beneath her tightly-fitting bodice sleeves the edge of her camisole sleeves can be seen. Her bustled outfit is lavishly trimmed, tucked and pleated. Her indoor morning cap, probably of muslin with lace edging, is reminiscent of those worn by Queen Victoria in photographs taken during this era.

At this date, South African fashion lagged about two years behind European trends.

Fashion plates shown in publications such as the Young Ladies’ Journal would be anxiously perused in Natal, and local dressmakers would do their best to copy the styles chosen by their customers. Unfortunately, not every lady resembled the willowy figures shown in the magazine engravings. Plus ca change ...

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