1860-1900

GRACE UNES

1860-1869- Princess Pauline Von Metternich

An influential figure in women's fashion is Princess Pauline Von Metternich. Pauline married the Austrian ambassador to France, Prince Richard von Metternich in 1856. Due to his title, they moved to Paris in 1859, where she established herself as a fashionable figure (Fashion History).  In addition to her status, she was an actress, singer, and dancer (The Metallic Masquerade). She was also known for dueling the countess Anastasia Kielmansegg over flower arrangements (Historical Fencer).  She was close friends with Empress Eugenie, and the Empress considered her to be extremely important in demonstrating the luxury and fashionability of the French court. 

Pauline was one of Charles Frederick Worth’s first clients. Worth is celebrated as “the father of haute couture.” Worth’s career was owed to Pauline when she wore one of his evening gowns, a white tulle material that was full of diamonds and pink daisies, to an event in which Empress Eugenie took note of. The Empress wanted to learn more about Worth due to her liking of Paulines gown. From there, his career took off. Worth and Pauline had a close friendship the rest of their lives, and he attributed his career to her (Fashion History). 

Her influence in fashion didn’t stop with her relationship to Worth. Pauline was seen as a trendsetter, and was always seen in the latest fashion. For example, it is said that she began to loop up her skirts to reveal a petticoat in the early 1860’s. Petticoats could be trimmed with ruffles along the hem and were made in bold colors and patterns. However, this double-skirted appearance became more common late in the decade, particularly when looped overskirts and long basques came into fashion. The practice of showing one's petticoat didn’t become widespread until the mid 1860’s, however Pauline was doing this far before then (Fashion History).

Princess Pauline Von Metternich
 

1870-1879- Alexandra, Princess of Wales

Alexandra, Princess of Wales held a significant role in nineteenth century fashion. Alexandra married Queen Victoria's oldest son, Albert Edward on March 10, 1863. The exceptional beauty and grace of the princess made her popular with the public as well (Britanica). By the 1870’s the “princess line” was named for her. Her physical characteristics and figure was the beauty ideal of the time and was displayed in this new style (Fashion History).

Alexandra utilized her stylish fashion choices to her advantage. In contrast to the aging Queen Victoria, Alexandria appeared youthful and kept a busy social calendar. Her youthful and fashionable style gave a sense of modernism to the British monarchy. Fashion historian Kate Strasdin states:

 “As the epitome of a ‘princess’ her clever clothing choices meant that she was both regal as the event required, or through a general conformity of style she made herself more available as a public figure in a way that Victoria had ceased to be.” (Fashion History)

Her influence on fashion had a large effect on women at the time. She has been credited with the emergence of the preference for tight chigons and curled fringe in the late 1870s. She also loved to stay up to date on the latest trends in color, and wasn’t afraid of brightness. One of her most lasting trends was wearing dog collar necklaces and chokers. It is thought that the reason she did this was to hide a surgery scar on her throat. In addition to this, she can be thought to have influenced the trend of women using bejeweled walking sticks. This trend is said to have begun with the “Alexandra limp”- another fashion craze that was inspired from her adaptation to an illness (Edwardian Promenade). 

Alexandra, Princess of Wales
 

1880-1889- Princess Beatrice of Battenberg

Princess Beatrice had an interesting influence on women's fashion in the 1800’s. It was thought for a long time that Beatrice’s only role was to be her mother’s (Queen Victoria) helper, and that marriage seemed unlikely for her. However in 1884, when Beatrice was 27, she fell in love with Prince Henry of Battenberg. Queen Victoria only allowed the marriage to happen on the condition that prince Henry resigned his commission in the Prussian army, and that the couple made their home with her (English Heritage). 

Due to the intense nature surrounding the marriage, there was pressure as to what her wedding dress would look like. Her dress was made of white satin, trimmed with lace (which was said to be the princesses favorite) and orange blossom (Fashion History). 

Throughout the 1880s day bodices and dresses had high, narrow shoulders that included tight sleeves. The 1880’s had two distinct silhouettes: the “princess line” and a style that focused more on the bustle. The “princess line” was a dress without a horizontal seam, and instead molded to the body by vertical seams and tucks, which created a body-hugging silhouette. The princess line showed the change from soft bustles, to decoration that was concentrated low on the back (Fashion History).

The second silhouette focused more on the bustle. By 1884 the bustle had returned and became more complex. The “Lillie Langtry” bustle was a series of metal bands that folded up to allow the wearer to sit (Fashion History).  Princess Beatrice frequently wore both of these styles and kept with the times of the 1880’s. 

Princess Beatrice of Battenberg
 

1890-1899- The Gibson Girl
One of the influential figures in women's fashion, wasn’t even a real woman. The “Gibson Girl” was an illustration drawn by Charles Dana Gibson. The drawings showed a feminine ideal throughout the 1890s.Gibson began to create these illustrations based on his observations of the upper-middle-class lifestyle and showcased them in magazines such as Life, Collier’s Weekly, Harper’s Weekly, Scribner’s, and Century (Library of Congress). The Gibson girl was an icon and exemplary figure of American upper-middle class womanhood, and was always presented in the latest fashionable attire (The Vintage News).  She represented the shifting ideals and sense of freedom of the era (Fashion History).
The Gibson girl could be often seen in sporty clothes. Women had been slowly starting to participate more in sports in the 1870s. The Gibson Girl was sometimes drawn in a standard shirtwaist or tailormades. At this time, cycling also became popular. A popular form of attire for cycling was a skirt with a deep pleat in the back that would allow the woman to sit on the bicycle while still appearing to be wearing a skirt (Fashion History). Gibson helped to promote the idea of the athletic girl as fashionable and socially acceptable (Library of Congress).
The Gibson Girl helped to shift ideals and demonstrate the evolving times. Gibson stated, “I haven’t really created a distinctive type- the nation made the type… There isn’t any “Gibson Girl,” but there are many thousands of American girls and for that let us thank God.” (Fashion History)

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