Hot Air Balloon

The huge crinoline skirt of the early to mid-1860s symbolised a Britain happy with its family-orientated Queen and prosperous as never before.  Church schools had brought every working-class child at least some education.  The expanding middle-classes had new public and grammar schools and universities were being created. Mid Victorian society was changing for the better scientifically and technologically, and a powerful urban middle-class made the provincial town’s important and civic pride fashionable.  Recently empowered public libraries and art galleries had become social centres for learning.  In literature, the novel of contemporary life became important, by Trollope, Dickens and Thackeray.  It was the great railway age, both for commuters and leisure passengers escaping the city for the seaside and country.  In 1863, a second ‘Great Exhibition’ was staged.  The only cloud, as the 1860s began, was a troubled Italy seeking unity, – this was the age of progress.

13a ‘Girl with a lunch basket’, 1860
Oil on canvas by Robert Collinson (1832-1890)
Collinson painted contemporary scenes with a country theme, exhibiting at the Royal Academy from the mid to late 19th Century. Painted in London when the artist was 28, it is a ‘portrait’ of a country girl in her natural setting, designed to appeal to the city-dwelling, middle-class patron.  It was usual to paint from the model in the studio, so this version of Little Red Riding Hood off to Grandmother with a basket of food may be only loosely based on reality.  The girl is wearing a red wool cloak, the standard colour for rural wear, flattering country complexions and brightening dull days.  By the 1830s, it was already more likely to be an old woman’s garment as well as a young girl’s.  It survived as party wear for children until the early 20th Century.  Our girl also wears a plaited straw hat, probably made in Dunstable or Luton, and typical country wear.

13b Girl in wool dress with puff sleeves, c.1860
Reproduced from a carte-de-visite from Melbourne, Australia.  Inscribed on reverse – ‘Josephine Cooker for mother.’  This little girl is wearing her ‘best’ dress for the photo session – a cut down adult garment, worn over a slightly too big crinoline cage or hooped petticoat.  Her drawers, in white broderie anglaise, are just visible below her dress hem – common to children’s fashions.

Main Garment
13c Ball dress, green sprig woven silk, c.1865-67
Probably the silk from which this mid 1860s dress is made was woven around 1770.  Remodelling 18th Century silk dresses was most popular in the 1840s, but earlier and later examples of recycling are seen.  This dress is a strong apple green, with purple and yellow woven sprigs.  Lurid greens, pinks and purples were again fashionable in the 1860s as new, bright chemical dyes had been synthesised by Sir William Henry Perkin in 1856.  The most famous were the fuchsia pinks called ‘magenta’ and ‘solferino’, named after battles in the Franco-Austrian War.  All synthetics faded faster than natural dyes.  This dress was provided with two bodices: (the other has a low neckline and short, tulle-trimmed sleeves).  It also has a choice of belts and a pair of black satin boots with a purple silk lining. It was worn at a yacht club ball.

Given by Lady Hungerford of Loughton, Essex, in 1981

Main Garment
13d Child’s best dress, open-work, c.1860
Broderie anglaise dresses were popular for children between the ages of 1 and 3.  Made of white cambric, these dresses always had low wide necklines and short sleeves, and were worn with shoulder knots and sashes of coloured ribbon, either round the waist or over the shoulder.  Boy’s skirts were generally in flat, overlapping pleats, and crinolines were worn by little girls only.

Given by Mrs D. M. King of Maidstone, in 1961

Main Garment
13e Doll’s dress, sprig and squares print, early 1860s
Doll’s dresses followed women’s fashion more or less, but in doll-like proportions and sometimes in older fabrics than their fashion shape might suggest.  The sprig printed cotton of this doll’s dress might have been produced 30 years earlier and also might have continued to be used for lower class garments until the later 19th Century.  A very full skirt dates it to the crinoline period (roughly mid-1850s to mid-1860s) and its bell sleeves, with over sleeves could have been from either decade.  The bodice front has vertical pleats, a style of the early to mid-1860s.

Provenance Unknown

13f Child’s sun bonnet, blue sprig motif, c.1860
Not a fashion garment, but a utilitarian protection from the sun, for probably a lower-class child who had a job to do outdoors in the country.  The huge double frill at the back of these practical bonnets was adopted early on as a fashionable concealment of the back of the neck in the early Victorian period, (known as a ‘bavolet’).  Such borrowings from country styles, making them high fashion statements, is characteristic of upper and middle class clothing throughout clothing history.

Given by Mrs Mary Turk of Maidstone, in 1958

13g Indoor cap, dress front and inner sleeves, open-work, c.1860
Often the main part of a dress survives, but its vital accessories (without which it was never worn) have gone.  White work, such as broderie anglaise, was widely used for cuffs, inner sleeves, collars, dress fronts and caps.  In net, muslin or cambric, quantities of these accessories survive, unmatched with their original dresses.  During the 1850s, under sleeves extended from elbow to wrist and were quite full.  By 1860, a closed, balloon shape made of cambric about 18″ (46cms) square was more common.  Broderie anglaise (overcast stitching around the edge of an open-holed design) was available to do at home, ready-printed on cotton.

Provenance Unknown

13h Reticule (bag), appliqué in red/white, c.1860s
This pouch bag, in red linen with white appliqué depicting a bold floral spray, is clearly both an 1860s fashion accessory as well as being practical.  Scarlet was very popular in the 1860s, as Garibaldi and his famous ‘red shirts’ had liberated Italy in 1860.  Military style imagery in women’s fashions was also popular due the Crimean War, and the ‘glamour’ that attaches to brightly-uniformed soldiers intruding on female civilian life.  Our reticule has a definite military flavour about its strong red and white contrasts, and its flamboyant decoration.

Given by Mrs Mary Turk of Maidstone, in 1969

13i Gloves, white embroidered kid, c.1860
For the mid Victorians, a small hand was a symbol of gentility. (Lower- class women and servants must often have had large, rough and red hands from having to do practical work).  Early 1860s gloves were tight-fitting and short, just a little above the wrist for both day and evening.  Later in the 1860s, long evening gloves were fashionable (no buttons, so not easily removed).  Day gloves were often coloured to match the outfit.  Kid leather is from the skin of a young goat.  This pair belonged to the donor’s French grandmother.

Given by Miss M. Hills of Maidstone, in 1952

13j Stockings, maroon knitted cotton, 1860-70
The Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III of France, started a trend for stockings matching the dress colour.  During the 1860s, for walking, the skirt was looped up onto the crinoline cage (whose lower portion was usually covered in a coloured wool/ cotton flannel, which hid the lower ‘steels’), revealing the stockings. These became coloured, often striped horizontally, and matching the crinoline.  Prior to this, stockings had been white or sometimes black, held up by garters or tied bands.  Even then these were well-known to inhibit the circulation in the legs and cause varicose veins.

Given by Mrs A. C. Mayo Thomas of Hunton, in 1958

13k Evening boots, elastic-sided, early 1860s
Heels for boots came in during the 1860s.  Prior to this, footwear was generally heelless.  The elastic-sided boot had first been patented in 1837 by Sparkes Hall, and was fashionable until about 1870. Boots were also ahead of shoes in being made in different shapes for left and right, whilst most shoes were still ‘straights’ (identical).  These boots are white kid, with a silk taffeta rose with tassels.  They have tapes to help pull them on, and may have been worn as wedding boots.

Given through Miss Alice Greenard of London, in 1960

1860s – What’s New?

Makers’ labels, 1860s
Makers’ labels became important in dresses from this time, a subtle form of advertising.  Advertising in fashion magazines was also important, leading to brand names.

Telephone, 1860
Philip Reis showed in 1860 that sounds could be transmitted electronically.

Mourning dress, 1861
On the death of Albert, Victoria’s husband from typhoid, the Queen’s adoption of mourning dress, made this outfit suitable for widows.  It caused a dramatic increase in the production of suitable fabrics.

Queen Alexandra, 1863
Alexandra married the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) and popularised the full length, double breasted pelisse which buttoned to the hem.  Chokers of jewels were known as her dog collar, and a petticoat was named after her during the late 19th Century.

Japanese Art, 1867
The Paris World’s fair introduced Japanese Art to the West.  The Kimono became a big influence for western designers and painters and was frequently imitated in Hollywood film costumes of the 1930s.

Acetate, 1869
Man-made cellulose acetate fabric or yarn created in Germany.