A timeline of fashion

I love timelines showing changes of fashion through time. It’s a very interesting subject, and gives a very good overview of what types of garments were worn when. Especially silhouette has gone through a lot of changes. Although several such timelines exist, I decided to make my own! It’s focused on 19th century fashion, but with a slight expansion of +- 20 years in either direction to give a little context. I started off with +-10 year increments, but it switches to 5 years from the 1870’s on because I felt with 10 years some silhouettes would be skipped. I focused on day-wear. As I’m not a very good artist, I shamelessly traced all silhouettes from fashion plates. I chose fashion plates over extant examples or portraits because they show the ideal silhouette and shape of that time. The originals can be found here, all credit goes to the original artists of course.

And this is what it turned out like, click for full size!

Silhouette change timeline web

And, for those who are interested, a write-up of the changes.

1780-1791: During this time, the width of the skirts starts to narrow, transforming from a wide shape to a more rounded one with emphasis on the back. The general silhouette of the bodice stays largely the same, with fitted sleeves.

1791-1798: A time of a lot of turmoil, which is reflected in a dramatic change in silhouette. The waistline rises to just below the bust, bodices are generally gathered and where before the torso was a conical shape, the bust is now lifted. Skirts are gathered from the waistline, still quite full and sleeves stay fitted.

1798-1811: The waistline stays roughly where it is, but the gathered bodice disappears mostly in favor of a smooth fit. The skirts become less full, now gathered only at the center back. Although fitted sleeves still exist, puffed sleeves make an entrance.

1811-1823: From about 1820, waistlines start to drop, although still above the natural waist. The puffed sleeve is here to stay and growing bigger. Skirts become more A-lined, with more fullness at the bottom.

1823-1830: Waistlines slowly drop to the natural waist. Sleeves continue to grow, becoming epic in size. The onset of the sleeve is low on the shoulder. Skirts keep widening at the bottom, becoming fuller and a little shorter.

1830-1840: The giant sleeve disappears, but fullness at the lower sleeve still exists. Sleeves still start low on the shoulders. Skirts become a little longer again, and are full and bell-shaped.

1840-1852: Skirts continue to grow, with a bell-shaped form. The onset of the sleeves rises a bit back up the shoulders.

1852-1861: The cage crinoline is invented in 1855, allowing skirts to grow to epic proportions. By 1860 the skirts are becoming slightly elliptic in shape, with an emphasis on the back.

1861-1870: The emphasis on the back of the skirt continues to grow, while the circumference of the skirt starts to become less. 1870 marks start of the first bustle era. The waist is just a little above natural.

1870-1875: The bustle keeps growing for a while, but around 1875 it starts to drop into a low sloping line back from the waist marking the beginning of the natural form period. Trains are all-abundant.

1875-1881: The bustle keeps getting lower in the back, until it’s nearly gone in 1879. From that time on, a small new bustle starts to appear high at the back. The bodices start to become even curvier.

1881-1885: From about 1882, the second bustle era starts as the bustle keeps growing bigger. Around 1885 it’s at its largest.

1885-1890: During this period the bustle starts to shrink again, being nearly almost gone around 1890. While before sleeves for day-wear were fitted, a slight puff starts to appear.

1890-1895: The bustle disappears completely and skirts start to widen from the waist. The hourglass figure becomes exaggerated. Sleeves keep growing quickly until they’re huge in 1895.

1895-1900: The giant sleeves disappear again, although a slight puff still exists. Skirts become slimmer giving emphasis on the waist-hip ratio. The ‘pigeon-breast’ makes its appearance, the bustline is quite low but with a strong emphasis on the waist.

1900-1905: Not a lot of change happens. A slight puffed sleeve still appears and the pigeon-breast silhouette is at its peak.

1905-1910: Changes are happening again. The emphasis on the hourglass figure quickly disappears for a straight silhouette. Sleeves are fitted again, with a smooth skirt.

1910-1915: Waistlines rise slightly for just a bit, fit across the bodice is becoming looser. Skirts start to shorten.

1915-1920: Hemlines keep rising and the waist drops to the high hip. The silhouette becomes straighter and straighter, with very little waist emphasis.

1920-1925: Waistlines drop even more, and hemlines rise. The silhouette is almost perfectly straight in the late 1920’s.

 

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4 thoughts on “A timeline of fashion

  1. I love fashion timelines. Good idea to make your own, I might do the same. A big drawing stuck to the wall would be useful when you’re wondering what style to make.

  2. Once more thank you so much for sharing your work. The Costume Collection Committee that I belong to at the Colonial Dames in Massachusetts has a similar timeline of dress silhouettes that we use when dressing a mannequin, but yours is cleaner and clearer. Plus you have given us a written description as well, which is very helpful. I am printing both out and will take it with me to the Collection next time I’m there.. I also appreciate your sharing the source of your silhouettes, very scholarly.

    • Thank you, glad it’s helpful! I haven’t always been very good at giving sources for historical items, but in this case I wanted to be clear about it as I literally traced these plates ;). I’ve no wish to claim myself the artist, I just brought the silhouettes together.

  3. Pingback: My Top Ten Favourite Blogs – Miss Temby

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