Saturday, April 11, 2015

Second Empire Style Part Two

Enough on the stays as awesome as they are.  Let's start with the most basic of undies, the chemise.  Yes, there is a specific Empire style chemise!

The Homemaker: An Illustrated Monthly Mag, Volumes 9-10
From 1892.  Although I'm sure a normal chemise would be fine, it's interesting that there were even Empire styled chemises during the Second Empire time period.

I probably should explain the term "Second Empire" as well.  Many people use "Reform" or "Aesthetic" almost interchangeably for this style of dress that I'm looking into.  However, the term "Reform" isn't used as commonly to describe the dress style in period literature. Rather, it's used to describe the change in fashions and the movement towards getting rid of the corset.  The term "Empire" is used to describe the dress style.  Now, that's not to say "Reform" wasn't ever used - just that I only saw it used far more sparingly than the term Empire. 

One of the places I saw the term "Second Empire" mentioned was in Godey's November 1893.

However, because there is "Second Empire", other magazines, namely Harper's Bazar Jan 7, 1893 mentions fashions of the "First Empire" to differentiate the two styles.

The Empire style - typically referred to as reform by most costumers- wasn't regulated to tea gowns.
Harper's Bazar Jan 1893
 Although the scan is of a poor quality, you can easily see the coloration difference between the skirt and the bodice of the Reception gown above.  There were also Wedding gowns:

Homemaker Magazine 1893
1890 Wedding Gown

1894 Wedding Dress

And there were ballgowns:

Harper's Bazar Feb 1893

Basically, no matter the activity, there was an Empire dress for that.  In fact, there is a wonderful article in the Ladies Home Journal from July 1893 on Dressing without a Corset.  It goes into some of the various styles and the usefulness of dress reform.

Hopefully, having established that the dress was indeed meant for everyday wear and not just for lounging around at home and that the dress was a stylish mode in the early 1890's, I'd like to go back to this image:

Delineator Feb 1893

There are three different Empire styles available as patterns on this page.  I actually found an extant dress that is very similar to the pattern on the bottom left:

Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco
The extant dress is made out of puce colored wool with sky blue silk taffeta sleeves and yoke.  Although the sleeves are more stylized than in the pattern and the yoke doesn't have the high collar, the wool part of the dress matches perfectly to the Delineator pattern.   I was really excited to find this because, although the museum doesn't have multiple images up, it does give me an idea of how it might actually have been worn. 

I believe the reason we don't see more examples of extant Second Empire dresses wasn't due to their perceived lack of popularity, but because of what happened about 15 years later when the neo-directorate styles (typically called the "Titanic" styles in the costuming world) came into being.  Take off the sleeves, put new ones shorter ones on, rip out the yoke have a reasonably fashion dress for the late Edwardian, early teens era.  Given the yardage in the skirt of the Second Empire gowns, it's wouldn't be hard to take some of that fabric to create the new sleeves so no one would be able to tell you are just raiding your Mom's closet...or your own closet.

That's not to say there aren't any others - I actually found several including possibilities on my other blog- just that it doesn't seem to be the majority of survivors from this period.  

Next, hopefully, I'll be able to post about my horrible construction techniques to get a semi reasonable pair of Second Empire stays!


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