Guidelines for 1890's Style Evening Attire
A quick guide to vintage clothing appropriate to an 1890's evening
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The following descriptions are given for those who wish to indulge in the period
flavor of an 1890's evening event. Please don't feel obliged to wear a Victorian outfit. For the
ladies a modern gown, as long and as full as possible, and dress suit for the gentlemen
is perfectly fine.
Gown From Paris ca. 1892-93
1890's Evening Gowns
Ladies' evening dress of the 1890's usually consists of a fitted bodice with scooped or square cut neckline,
most recognizably with extravagantly large puffed sleeves, the size of which expands and contracts throughout the decade. The skirt is
full length cut in gores for an A-line shape. Gowns were made up in a wide range of fabrics from heavy brocade and velvet to lightweight silk
chiffon. A skirt with a train, although elegant, is not very practical for dancing. The gown can be ornamented with elaborate lace,
contrasting trim, colored ribbon bows or fancy beadwork.
Gowns From Paris ca. 1892-93
Hair should be worn up, in a bun often fairly high on the head or pulled softly to the back of the
head. Hair is usually wavy and the volume of the hairstyle increases throughout the decade. In the early 90's it is fairly
close to the head and by the late decade it is approaching the Gibson Girl puff. and was usually dressed with small
ornaments, ribbon bows and feathers; there was usually a strong vertical emphasis in the headdress.
A variety of 1890's hairstyles, showing the hair softly gathered into a bun both high and low at the back of the head.
Earrings should be dangles, and short bead necklaces
are appropriate. A large fan also makes a good summertime accessory.
Full length white gloves would complete the outfit splendidly.
Shoes should be in a color to compliment the gown; those with a fairly low heel of 1-2 inches
(such as Capezio character shoes), are comfortable for late Victorian dancing.
Gentlemen's evening dress of the 1890's is fairly similar to modern formal wear:
black tail coat (the "recently" invented tuxedo jacket is also an acceptable, though
less formal, alternative); white formal shirts with stand up or wing tip collar; vest
(ideally with lapels and scooped-front -- cummerbunds are not period); bow tie which
can be either white or black. White gloves are de rigeur for ballroom wear. Flexible
soled shoes such as Capezio black jazz oxfords are suitable for dancing.
Folkwear Vest pattern number #222 view B (also contains a bow tie pattern), or
Simplicity pattern #5436, views C or D, done in black or white are suitable for this
Past Patterns ball gown #206, with the addition of full puffed sleeves and skirt
patterns numbers #208 and #1097 are appropriate for 1890's evening gowns. Patterns of
Fashion by Janet Arnold also has accurate ball gown patterns. Fitted day gown bodices
such as Past Patterns #207 and #903 can be easily altered by cutting it with a lower
neckline and shorter puffed sleeves. Laughing Moon Enterprises has good 1890's
evening bodice and skirt patterns as well.
P.O. Box 9, Nahant, Massachusetts 01908
phone: (781) 49-WALTZ (781-499-2589)
© 2011, Vintage Victorian, All rights reserved
Go to 1890s Library Pages:
Ladies Evening Dress:
the Early Jazz Age:1920-1924
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Come to the Nahant Victorian Day Ball
July 16, 2011
with music by Spare Parts
last updated 14 may 2011/csb