19th Century fashion part 2 1870-1900

19th Century fashion part 2 1870-1900

The second part of this aticle, written and illustrated by Claire Kinloch,

doll fashion from 1873appeared in issue 32 of Kinloch and Sellers Catalogue


19th CENTURY FASHIONS PART 2 1870-1900

by V.H.C.K.


The 1870s saw the French firmly established as the supreme doilmakers, with their luxury lady dolls with trousseaux and trunks often costing as much as the doll itself. Fashions in clothes were elaborate - favourite materials used were wool, alpaca, velveteen, for everyday, with ball dresses of tulle, tarlatans and muslin and summer clothes of linen, cambric and muslin. With the invention of aniline dyes, colours became much stronger and brighter - with purples, royal blues, grass green and red. Trimmings were very lavish and braids, frogging, laces and embroideries decorated the edges of clothing. 




Bustles disappeared temporarily during the mid 1870s, while the fullness at the back of the skirt was set lower down, with long trailing trains. High boots appeared with high heels - often seen on waxed and composition dolls, as well as the blonde bisques and chinas.



Hats of the period became small and instead of the bonnet, little flat and curved hats were set on top of the head or perched forward, balancing upswept hair with a high bun at the back, or a cascade of ringlets down the back of the neck.


A black velvet ribbon or a tiny collar of lace was often worn round the neck, with dangling earrings. All of these were echoed faithfully by the dolls of this time. The Fashion dolls, with their paperweight eyes, closed mouths and inscrutable expressions - their bodies of gusseted kid, and an amazing selection of clothing and possessions, must have seemed the ultimate in presents for a rich little girl. The other luxury dolls of the time were the poured waxes, which also cost about £5 and could cost up to £50 - an incredible sum of money for a child's birthday present! 


These dolls were produced in England by the Montanari and Pierrotti families - Montanari dolls often wear commercially made low cut dresses with typical fringing as decoration.These dolls were often modelled as young girls,

1889 dollwith heavy features and heavily modelled shoulder plates and limbs. The typical Pierrottis were often dressed as babies, with shorter blonde hair, a pink wax and paler blue eyes and sweeter expression,but without quite so much character. Their clothes are usually long white baby dresses, often finely embroidered, and with carrying capes, little bonnets and plenty of underclothes.



Dolls modelled as children began to be made by the French in the 1880s, and the Jumeau and Steiner Bebes possess the charm of an ideal,good, beautiful child. They had enormous fixed eyes,


sailoroutfitheavy brows, closed mouths and pierced ears for earrings; and a sweet, serious expression. The Bru Bebes had stronger, more realistic faces, and were on kid bodies with bisque lower limbs, but other firms used the new jointed wooden and composition bodies, which were designed to hold any position, like the wooden artist's models. These dolls were so successful that the German dollmakers, who had already been producing some of the heads for the lady dolls, set up in competition to produce their own versions and during the 1890s until the 1920s a dropped waist was very prevalent.


Child dolls often had a dress gathered from a high waist under the bust, but the standard dress was often a white muslin, straight to the hip, with flounces embroidered with lace or broderie anglais.


Hairstyles sometimes help the heavy fringe and loose hair, known as the Rembrandt style, was late 19th century the centre parting, or side parting with the hair caught up with a ribbon, is more typical of the 20th century.




Ladies clothes of the late 19th century were very constricting and tight - skirts were narrow, corsets were wasp-waisted and shaped to provide the 'Gibson girl' outline. The turn of the century saw a romantic, looser look for clothes for the literary and artistic fashionable ladies, but the bourgeoisie still remained firmly corseted. Dolls did the same - not easily influenced by the more outrageous fashions - even the 1920s flapper dollswith their long lower legs to accommodate the shorter skirts, don't wear beaded Charleston dresses, but sensible outfits like Girl Guide uniforms.


Possibly the  only way of deciding when a doll was dressed is by using a combination of instinct, commonsense and a feeling for period. A doll in original dress has a distinct look of its time - something indefinable perhaps - but just as some old ladies still arrange themselvesin the same way that they did in their heyday, so a doll will often proclaim its date in all sorts of little ways - hairstyle, ribbons, shoes, type of lace, accessories. Be guided by your own judgement!


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