Women’s Fashions From An 1896 Newspaper

It is one thing to have photos found in antique stores and try to guess the date they were taken, but another to have a newspaper spread of dated photos.  There have been many styles during the years, and some women adhered to them, always wearing the newest fashions.  Others were not lucky enough to have ready funds available for new clothes, and wore their dresses until they had to be replaced, fashion notwithstanding.  But seeing these photographs from the February 23, 1896, issue of The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Jefferson County, gives us a great example of what was in vogue for women’s fashion at that time.

And what a glorious time the late 1890’s were.  This was the era of the gigot or leg ‘o mutton sleeve.  At the beginning of the decade the bottom of the sleeve fit tight to the elbow, then a small puff to the shoulder.  Throughout the next six years the puff sleeve expanded and drooped, then expanded until it took almost a yard of material for one sleeve!.

from Dressed for the Photographer, Severa, 1995

‘The drooping sleeve persisted through 1893 and into 1894 but by 1895 had become much stiffer and wider.  Godey’s described the popular sleeve as wide and very flat on top with “a distinct inflation as they approach the elbow” (November 1895).  Such sleeves required about a yard of material each and were so heavy that the shoulder seam was lengthened somewhat to carry the weight.  By 1896 the sleeve had reached its apogee, extending almost horizontally from the shoulder.  The ideal by this time was to have no drooping lines in the upper sleeve, which meant that some internal support was necessary; this was accomplished by flatlining the super sleeve with a stiff crinoline or fibre chamois, a leathery fabric, before pleating into the armscye.’

The women listed in the top photo –

Top four – Miss Eula Haidison, Miss Lowle Braly, Miss Ella Steel, Miss Lena Hawkins

Middle three – Miss Vera Kerchival, Mrs. P. D. Houston, Jr., Miss Lois McClure

Bottom three – Miss Olivia Davis, Miss Clarice Braly, Miss Josephine Houston

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