Fashion Of The Times

Fashions of the 1880s
Fashion in the 1880s in European and European-influenced countries is characterized by the return of the bustle. The long, lean line of the 1870s was replaced by a full, curvy silhouette with gradually widening shoulders. Fashionable waists were low and tiny below a full, low bust supported by a corset. The Rational Dress Society was founded in 1881 in reaction to the extremes of fashionable corsetry.

Women's fashion


The fashionable corseted figure of 1883. Hair is swept up to the top of the head, and the front hair is frizzled over the forehead.

As in the previous decade, emphasis remained on the back of the skirt, with fullness gradually rising from behind the knees to just below the waist. The fullness over the buttocks was balanced by a fuller, lower bosom, achieved by rigid corseting, creating an S-shaped silhouette.

Skirts were looped, draped, or tied up in various ways, and worn over matching or contrasting underskirts. The polonaise was a revival style based on a fashion of the 1780s, with a fitted, cutaway overdress caught up and draped over an underskirt. Long, jacket-like fitted bodices called basques were also popular for daywear.

Evening gowns were sleeveless and low-necked (except for matrons), and were worn with long over the elbow or shoulder length gloves of fine kid leather or suede.

Choker necklaces and jewelled collars were fashionable under the influence of Alexandra, Princess of Wales, who wore this fashion to disguise a scar on her neck.

Bodices were very tight fitted as a result of darts and princess seams. In the early 1800s dropped waists were common, creating a very long torso. Most ended in a point just below the waist. Collars that were very high and banded were very popular. These types of collars were called "officers collars".


The bustle returned to fashion and reached its greatest proportions ca. 1886–1888, extending almost straight out from the back waist to support a profusion of drapery, frills, swags, and ribbons. The fashionable corset created a low, full bust with little separation of the breasts.

The usual undergarment was a combination, a camisole with attached knee- or calf-length drawers, worn under the corset, bustle, and petticoat. Woolen combinations were recommended for health, especially when engaging in fashionable sports such as riding or tennis.


Riding habits had become a "uniform" of matching jacket and skirt worn with a high-collared shirt or


chemisette, with a top hat and veil. They were worn without bustles, but the cut of the jacket followed the silhouette of the day.

In contrast, hunting costumes were far more fashionably styled, with draped ankle-length skirts worn with boots or gaiters.

Tailored costumes consisting of a long jacket and skirt were worn for travel or walking; these were worn with the bustle and a small hat or bonnet. Travelers wore long coats like dusters to protect their clothes from dirt, rain, and soot.

Aesthetic dress

Artistic or Aesthetic dress remained an undercurrent in Bohemian circles throughout the 1880s. In reaction to the heavy drapery and rigid corseting of mainstream Paris fashion, aesthetic dress focused on beautiful fabrics made up simply, sometimes loosely fitted or with a belt at the waist. Aesthetic ideas influenced the tea gown, a frothy confection increasingly worn in the home, even to receive visitors.

Hairstyles and headgear

Hair was usually pulled back at the sides and worn in a low knot or cluster of ringlets; later hair was swept up to the top of the head. Fringe or bangs remained fashionable throughout the decade, usually curled or frizzled over the forehead.

Bonnets resembled hats except for their ribbons tied under the chin; both had curvy brims.

Men's fashion

Coats, jackets, and trousers

Three piece suits, "ditto suits", consisting of a sack coat with matching waistcoat (U.S. vest) and trousers (called in the UK a "lounge suit") continued as an informal alternative to the contrasting frock coat, waistcoat and trousers.

The cutaway morning coat was still worn for formal day occasions in Europe and major cities elsewhere, with a dress shirt and an ascot tie. The most formal evening dress remained a dark tail coat and trousers with a dark waistcoat. Evening wear was worn with a white bow tie and a shirt with a winged collar.

In mid-decade, a more relaxed formal coat appeared: the dinner jacket or tuxedo, which featured a shawl collar with silk or satin facings, and one or two buttons. Dinner jackets were appropriate when "dressing for dinner" at home or at a men's club.

The Norfolk jacket was popular for shooting and rugged outdoor pursuits. It was made of sturdy tweed or similar fabric and featured paired box pleats over the chest and back, with a fabric belt.

Full-length trousers were worn for most occasions; tweed or woollen breeches were worn for hunting and other outdoor pursuits.

Knee-length topcoats, often with contrasting velvet or fur collars, and calf-length overcoats were worn in winter.

By the 1880s the majority of the working class, even shepherds adopted jackets and waistcoats in fustian and corduroy with corduroy trousers, giving up their smock frocks.

Shirts and neckties


Shirt collars were turned over or pressed into "wings". Dress shirts had stiff fronts, sometimes decorated with shirt studs, and buttoned up the back.

The usual necktie was the four-in-hand and or the newly fashionable Ascot tie, made up as a neckband with wide wings attached and worn with a stickpin.

Narrow ribbon ties were tied in a bow, and white bow tie was correct with formal evening wear.


As in the 1870s, top hats remained a requirement for upper class formal wear; bowlers and soft felt hats in a variety of shapes were worn for more casual occasions, and flat straw boaters were worn for yachting and other nautical pastimes.

Shoes of the 1880s had higher heels and a narrow toe.

Day to Day Attire in the Western US

For men, the ubiquitous Levi's with or without chaps, vest, cowboy boots and hats were the norm in the Western United States.

For women, the simple dresses made of gingham, calico, cotton, muslin and the like were serviceable and used every day, with or without aprons.

Beaver coats and cloaks, mink and leather were easily procured and made by the leatherer in town.

Sample Desc: Female

She is dressed in a calico dress, loose and comfortable. Long sleeved, against the elements, narrow lace is set at her neck and wrists.

Her high neck dress buttons up the front, stopping at the waist. Sable hair is placed high upon her head to keep her neck cool. Upon her head is a sun bonnet which ties beneath her chin. Serviceable boots cover her feet, high button, the heels low. Soft crinolines, well washed and limp are worn beneath the dress. Knickers of cotton and a vest with minuscule buttons make up theundergarments.

Sample Desc: Male

A white shirt of serviceable cotton lays beneath a leather vest, the buttons of deer horn. Suspenders hold black flannel pants in place. About his body is a yellow sack coat. Upon his head is a broad-brimmed Stetson. Under the tail of his coat rests a holstered pistol. Half-boots cover his feet, the spurs, their rowels small, decorate the heels.

Tribal Wear

Leather vests, lightweight clothes
Silver hairplates (hair ornaments) and shell eardrops
Breechcloth made of stroud cloth (Hvy wool textile from England)
Hairpipe breastplate
Silver pectoral with hanging najas
Quirt (whip)
Pectoral, armbands, and hairplates
Calico shirt
Beaded or quilled moccasins

Indians generally used traditional weapons, later repeaters and carbines. Dog Soldiers do not use Anglo-style saddle and bridles. However, they were beginning to adapt to the townsfolk ways of life and would tend towards the usual garb of the American Cowboy.

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