Victorian High Fashion or Hot Mess?

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#1
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I always enjoy viewing beautiful Victorian dresses on display in museums. Since it has been a rainy and chilly day in my neck of the woods, I decided to spend my afternoon taking a virtual tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. On my "visit" I discovered that not every Victorian dress was magical, tasteful, or even made out of cloth. While still beautiful in their own right, some were simply strange – even downright amusing.

Below are my top five discoveries of unusual, strange, and yes downright amusing gowns from the 19th century. You decide. Were these fine fashion statements or just a hot mess?

#1: Yes this is quite lovely at first glance, but upon lingering I found myself craving caramel popcorn. And trust me, the back is busy - extremely busy.

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(The “Bouncy Bobble Dress,” circa 1879)
#2: This dress reminds me of Shepherd's Pie. It has all the leftover bits and pieces from someone's latest crafting project. How many can you count? To be fair, trims were a fashion trend in the mid 1870s and 1880s.

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(“Hot Mess” Dress, circa 1878)
#3: This big, blue, poofy bustle might be difficult to manage on a windy day. However, I think the color is divine.

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(Afternoon Dress by the House of Worth, circa 1872)
#4: This is an actual advertising/costume dress. The base for this dress is plain white cotton, but glued to the outside are paper clippings. There have been numerous newspapers titled “The Echo” through the years. If you visit the Met site you can view this dress using their zoom feature.

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(“The Echo” Dress, circa 1893)
#5: This dress fascinates me. Per the Met, "The unusual color and intriguing use of solid and striped wool fabric in this day dress has a folkloric aesthetic, which may have been inspired by an Amelia Hollenback’s travels through the Southwest. The inventive asymmetrical draping shows a high level of sophistication and design sensibility that was atypical for a day dress.”

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(The Amelia Beard Hollenback Dress, circa 1885)

These dresses prove that eccentricity and quirkiness are not modern inventions. If you want to add some unusual fabric, materials or trinkets to your dress, you should go for it. Our Victorian friends sure did!


Edit: Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art - https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection
 
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#3
You bring up an interesting point @Mrs. V. Our Victorian friends came in all shapes and sizes just we do today. I spotted some pics today of curvaceous, even voluptuous ladies. They looked beautiful in their 19th century fashions. Maybe we should start a thread and feature some of them. :smile:
 

Mrs. V

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#4
You bring up an interesting point @Mrs. V. Our Victorian friends came in all shapes and sizes just we do today. I spotted some pics today of curvaceous, even voluptuous ladies. They looked beautiful in their 19th century fashions. Maybe we should start a thread and feature some of them. :smile:
Oh for sure! I must admit, when I am wearing my Civil War dress, is when I feel the prettiest..
 
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#6
Okay @NH Civil War Gal, @Northern Light, @Steph-GB and @AshleyMel, if you had to pick one of the five dresses in the OP to wear which one would it be? I'd choose #3 because of the color. I'd also seek out an air vent and try to recreate that famous Marilyn Monroe moment. :giggle: That poofy bustle is just asking for it! @Zella and @grace, what are you thinking?
 

luinrina

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#7
I love the blue in #3 too, but the cut is just... :cautious: I like the cut of #1 but not the bubbles. I actually really like #5. I would probably try to get that drape removed so that the actually skirt comes through. The colors are lovely in that dress. :smile:

I'd choose #3 because of the color. I'd also seek out an air vent and try to recreate that famous Marilyn Monroe moment. :giggle:
:rofl:
 
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#9
Okay @NH Civil War Gal, @Northern Light, @Steph-GB and @AshleyMel, if you had to pick one of the five dresses in the OP to wear which one would it be? I'd choose #3 because of the color. I'd also seek out an air vent and try to recreate that famous Marilyn Monroe moment. :giggle: That poofy bustle is just asking for it! @Zella and @grace, what are you thinking?
Mine would be the second one! I actually do like it .. esp from the back! Like a patch work sass! Plus it’s kinda green! And I love anything patchwork looking!
 

Northern Light

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#12
Well, let's see....The "hot mess" dress looks like Mama said, "Your Daddy just lost all his money and if you want a new dress, you'll just have to use some of the left over material that is in the attic!"
The blue one is lovely, the colour is luscious and the cut of the skirt so interesting. You can see the reason that women wanted Worth gowns. That skirt could hold its own on today's fashion runways.

The less said about the fourth dress, the better. I hope she was paid well to wear it.

The last dress is interesting. You can see some late-nineteenth century woman traveller wearing this on a visit to New Mexico. It has a very Arts and Crafts vibe going on. Mrs. Frank Lloyd Wright perhaps?

Which brings me to the first dress. I would have loved this dress, except for the colour, which would look hideous on me. I like the attention to detail and the quirky use of the trim. Now, if it was in pink, it would be perfect!
 

Zella

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#13
I'd pick 3. Not a huge fan of that bustle, but I love the color. :wub:

1 isn't bad, but the more I stare at it, the weirder it looks. 2 is too busy, but I like some of the colors. I like 5 but dislike the color.

Dress 4 is like the 19th century equivalent of Lady Gaga's meat dress to me. Interesting in concept but horrific in execution. To paraphrase John McKay, what do you think of the dress's execution? I'm in favor of it. :giggle:
 

AshleyMel

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#16
My cats would love #1.
I would probably trip and fall again in #3 but yes, the color is lovely!
Number 5 appeals to the quilter in me (I love the layering and different fabric patterns put together) but it looks like one would have to know math to sew it so I would most likely just cuss at it.
I still have all the yardage I bought two years ago to make a wrapper dress for myself and several patterns for fancy dresses such as these staring at me from the shelf in my sewing room. *sigh*
 

AshleyMel

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#17
The hot mess dress looks like you’ve spent the afternoon locked in a craft room with kindergarteners!
:bounce:
It also reminds me of the "crazy quilts" that would sometimes take months or even years to finish!
We have a lady in our sewing club who is working on one! Goodness, it truly lives up to it's name!
 



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