Thursday, February 17, 2011

19th Century Day Dresses

Woman's day dress, USA c.1826-1834
ROM 975.241.18 A-B (Gift of Mrs. Henry P. Kendall)
Photo by ROM Staff under copyright

In "Striking and Innovative Printed Fashions in the 19th Century" at the Royal Ontario Museum's Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles & Costume, a selection of beautiful 19th century day dresses are currently on display. In the photo above, a woman's cotton day dress and belt (c.1826-34) illustrates the 19th century technical innovations achieved in printing fashionable textiles. According to Dr. Alexandra Palmer, senior curator, the "inventive manufacturers enticed consumers by combining hand and mechanical printing techniques, thereby creating new colours and patterns. The resultant fashions using the latest scientific inventions in textile production clearly signified modernity."

19th Century Dresses on display at the ROM
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2011

The display at the ROM includes these printed cotton gowns from the 19th century as well as charming examples of children's wear of the time.

According to the chapter Of the Choice of Clothing in the book The Lady's Stratagem, there were very defined rules for what was considered fashionable and appropriate attire in the 19th century.

"When at home, you should always be dressed neatly and respectably enough to go out or visit your friends without having to put on any thing except your gloves, shawl and hat; but dress without any affectation. If you clothing is over-trimmed or appears to hamper daily occupations, it might perhaps be even more ridiculous than if it were too common. Wear pretty prunella shoes; very white cotton stockings; a gown of gingham, a beautiful calico, or merino according to the season, suitably trimmed; a belt without ribaund loops; a collerette or fichu de lingere; a very neat coiffure en cheveux; and finally, if you have a great deal to do, a black silk apron. Such is the costume which is proper for a woman in her home. Gowns of silk, muslin, and other such materials, unless you have a very considerable fortune, bespeak vanity and indolence. In my opinion, a young woman's attire should be a constant testiomy of modesty, order and industry." (page 186)