Posts Tagged ‘1860s fashion’

1880s New York’s most insane fancy ball costume

January 18, 2016

When Kate Feering Strong (below) received her invitation to Mrs. Alva Vanderbilt’s “fancy dress” ball, scheduled for March 26, 1883, she decided not to settle for a more traditional costume—like a Medieval princess or fairy tale character.

Katefeeringstrongcatcostume

Nope, Miss Strong went as a cat—complete with an actual (dead) white feline as a head piece and a gown sewn with the body parts of real kitties.

“The overskirt was made entirely of white cats’ tails sewed on a dark background,” commented the New York Times.

Mrsvanderbilt'schateauThe ball was arguably the most incredible social event of the year, and it also served as kind of a housewarming for the new Fifth Avenue Vanderbilt mansion.

“The bodice is formed of rows of white cats’ heads and the head-dress was a stiffened white cat’s skin, the head over the forehead of the wearer and the tail pendant behind. A blue ribbon with ‘Puss’ inscribed upon it, which hung a bell, worn around the neck completed the dress.”

Here are some of the other outrageous and ostentatious costumes, including the battery-powered “electric light,” worn by Mrs. Vanderbilt’s sister-in-law.

What fashionable ladies wore in the 1860s

April 27, 2009

If you think being a woman is tough now, imagine how arduous it was a hundred and thirty years ago, when fashion dictated a frighteningly elaborate clothing and makeup routine. 

fashion1870s“Once arrayed for a fete, especially if she had lost the bloom of youth, the butterfly of the eighteen sixties and early eighteen seventies staggered forth under the burden of an infinite variety of beautifying apparatus constructed of steel, iron, wire, cotton, wood, horsehair, and wool, all attached to her person by straps, tape, and mucilage,” wrote Herbert Asbury in 1929’s All Around the Town.

The look a woman of the time wanted involved a tiny waist and big breasts (attainable thanks to a steel corset), plump arms, small feet, and a “Grecian bend,” basically a butt supersized with the help of bustles and pads under her dress.

 fashion1870s2Hair was puffed up with the help of human-hair wigs or horsehair extensions. The face, neck, shoulders, and arms were painted with “vegetable rouge” as well as chalks and pastes. A coat of India ink darkened eyebrows.

Some fashionable chicks had their bodies coated in enamel—kind of  like a more time-consuming version of today’s spray-on tan.

“Many society women made regular tri-weekly trips to the enameling studio, while a few had coats put on to last anywhere from a week to two or three months,” Asbury wrote.

A hot babe of the 1870s, from All Around the Town