Around the 1789 French Revolution, the Rococo period's extravagant dresses of brilliant hues changed, becoming simple, white dresses. In this period, the round gown appeared, and at the beginning of the 19th century, during the transition to the wildly popular white muslin dress, is when high-waist, one-piece dresses, as shown here, were in vogue.
The high-waist skirt has a lot of gather at the back, and a long train. White chemise dresses reminiscent of underwear harmonized with Neoclassicism in this period, and won the hearts and minds of women who sought novel aesthetics and new values after the Revolution. We can find examples in the portraits of Madame Récamier, a leader of society, drawn by Jacques-Louis David and François Gérard.
This high-quality silk dress, with its magnificent elegance, was used by the royal court. At this point in time, thin, cotton dresses were wildly popular and the Lyons silk industry, important for the French economy, suffered a severe blow. In order to revive it, Napoléon Bonaparte encouraged the wearing of silk garments in the royal court. In 1811, he issued an Imperial decree that men and women must wear silk clothes at public ceremonies.
This dress might be termed a typical example of the delicate, alluring and womanly style of the 1850s. The décolleté is kept wide, and short sleeves cover the slender shoulders. To accentuate the small waistline, the seam edges at the waist narrow downwards as well as the skirt gracefully widens its shape. The triple-flounced design creates a decorative effect and further emphasizes the slightly rounded contour.
In France, during the Second Empire (1852-1870) under the authoritarian rule of Napoleon III (1808-1873) and the impact of economic growth caused by modernization, the luxury goods industry, including fashion, greatly progressed. On the frequently held formal ceremonies, balls or large-scale events like the International Expositions, women of the wealthy classes competed with each other for the most sumptuous dresses as well as the numbers of them they owned.
The cashmere shawl was imported into Western Europe at the end of the 18th century. It comes from the Kashmere region in the northwest of India, where the short soft hairs of the mountain goat were hand-spun into cashmere yarn and woven into woolen cloth. The cashmere shawl became a popular item since the beginning of the 19th century for its rarity and exoticism, as well as for its practicality.
In the latter half of the 19th century, Paris, that had been reborn as a modern day city thanks to a major restructuring program, experienced the development of department stores and commercial institutions, openings of exhibitions and fairs, outfitting for highways and parks, and several other circumstances that led to the spread of taking walks outdoors. Moreover, the rapid progress of a railroad system encouraged picnics, visits to summer resorts, and vacation trips as the populace became able to enjoy leisure time.
As the 1880s drew to a close, the bustle reduced in size. The lines of skirts were transitioning toward forming a clearer shape. In contrast to this, around 1890 the sleeves began swelling to such sizes that one may say it was the return of gigot sleeves. These large sleeves were called "elephant sleeves," and they reached their maximum size around 1895.
Sleeve pads were used to produce the puff sleeves that characterized in 1830s. They were made of thin cotton fabric and tailored three-dimensionally with abundant gathers. The feathers inside are light and expand the padding. Puff sleeves were used to extend the shoulder lines, enhancing the gentle lines that were popular at the time.
The bustle (French: tournure) was designed to add volume to the rear of the dress below the waist, and many different shapes of bustles emerged. In the 1870s, skirt-style bustles like this example were particularly popular. Earlier, crinoline had used steel wire bones as a framework to give fullness to a skirt. Bustles like this one, that adopted the same principle, were also known as crinolettes.
Internal lacing can be tightened to lift the wires and adjust the curve of the bustle, allowing it to provide an appropriate volume for the silhouette of the dress worn on top.
Women used corsets in an effort to get closer to an ideal physical form of the time; until the beginning of the 20th century, their waists were tightened by the corset. With the development of modern technology, people applied their creative originality and corsets by new devices were born. In particular, the invention of eyelet in 1828 allowed great improvements in the tightening of the waist on a corset.