4/15/2009

Fashion of the week - Day dresses of 1840

This picture comes from the Austrian magazine Wiener Zeitschrift, printed in Vienna. This is from the issue for July 1840, and shows two women in day dresses - but the white one could possibly be described as a walking-dress too. It can be somewhat of a fine line between the two types of dresses since many women at the time hardly would have offered to have a specific dress for walking - though a day dress in good shape would have to be preferred if no such distinction was to be made in the woman's wardrobe; the walking-dress was what would be worn when visiting people in the day-time.

As we see here, the big sleeves of the 1830's had by now disappeared into something much more practical - and in the daytime long sleeves were always worn. But the shape of the skirt is much the same as previous years, as are the sloping shoulders, which is quite a contrast to the broad and straight shoulders preferred on men.

The checkered fabric on the woman to the left is also typical for both the 1830's and 40's - the clothing industry had made patterned fabrics a much cheaper commodity than it had ever been before, and it became widely popular now that anyone, or at least close to anyone, actually could afford it.

Another typical trait of the fashion in this example worth pointing out, is the ruffle at the end of the skirt, a very popular thing at the time - on skirts which otherwise were very plain in cut. These ruffles seem to have a corresponding thing going on at the top of the dresses too, over the bust - being straight out ruffles in one case and more of a folded fabric in the other - making it one of the more eye-catching part of the dresses. I doubt the aim was to make people stare at the busts of women, it is much more likely it was about making the upper part of the torso wider, which made the lower, corseted, part seem even smaller. A narrow-looking waist was about the most important thing on the silhouette of women at the time.

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