cutaway coat

1870s in fashion

1870s fashion in European and European-influenced clothing is characterized by a gradual return to a narrow silhouette after the full-skirted fashions of the 1850s and 1860s.

Women's fashions


By 1870, fullness in the skirt had moved to the rear, where elaborate draping was held in place by tapes and supported by a bustle. This fashion required an underskirt, which was heavily trimmed with pleats, rouching, and frills. This fashion was short-lived (though the bustle would return again in the mid-1880s), and was succeeded by a tight-fitting silhouette with fullness as low as the knees: the cuirass bodice, a form-fitting, long-waisted, boned bodice that reached below the hips, and the princess sheath dress.

Daytime dresses had high necklines that were either closed, squared, or V-shaped. Sleeves of day dresses were narrow throughout the period, with a tendency to flare slightly at the wrist early on. Women often draped overskirts to produce an apronlike effect from the front.

Evening dresses had low necklines and very short, off-the-shoulder sleeves, and were worn with short (later mid-length) gloves. Other characteristic fashions included a velvet ribbon tied high around the neck and trailing behind for evening (the origin of the modern choker necklace).

Tea gowns and artistic dress

Under the influence of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and other artistic reformers, the "anti-fashion" for Artistic dress with its "medieval" details and uncorseted lines continued through the 1870s. Newly fashionable tea gowns, an informal fashion for entertaining at home, combined Pre-Raphaelite influences with the loose sack-back styles of the eighteenth century .

Leisure Dress

Leisure dress was becoming an important part of a women's wardrobe. Seaside dress in England had its own distinct characteristics but still followed the regular fashions of the day. Seaside dress was seen as more daring, frivolous, eccentric, and brighter. Even though the bustle was extremely cumbersome, it was still a part of seaside fashion.

Hairstyles and headgear

In keeping with the vertical emphasis, hair was pulled back at the sides and worn in a high knot or cluster of ringlets, often with a fringe (bangs) over the forehead. False hair was commonly used. Bonnets were smaller to allow for the elaborately piled hairstyles and resembled hats except for their ribbons tied under the chin. Smallish hats, some with veils, were perched on top of the head, and brimmed straw hats were worn for outdoor wear in summer.

Style gallery 1870-74

  1. Petersons walking dress 1870.jpg of 1870 has a tiered and ruffled skirt back.
  2. 1870s fashion plate.jpg shows jacket-bodices with draped and trimmed skirts in back. Ruffles and pleated frills are characteristic trimmings of the 1870s.
  3. Renoir woman with a parrot 1871.jpg of 1871 features a narrow red ribbon at the low neckline and a large matching bow with streamers at the back waist.
  4. Whistler leyland 1872-3.jpg of the early 1870s. Portrait of Mrs. Frances Leyland by Whistler.
  5. Jennie Jerome photographed in 1874, the year of her marriage to Lord Randolph Churchill. She wears a newly-fashionable bodice tailored like a man's jacket (the forerunner of the cuirasse bodice). Her tall hat-like bonnet has a pouf of veiling, and she carries a muff.
  6. Tissot shipboard detail.jpg of 1874 feature overskirts caught up with buckled ribbons. Jacket-bodices (very like the one worn by Jennie Jerome) have cuffs and high necklines. Small straw hats with flat crowns and long ribbons (similar to men's boaters) are worn tipped forward.
  7. Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot 014.jpg of a gown of 1874 shows the draping of the overskirt and the slight train on the underskirt. France.
  8. Pierre-Auguste Renoir 089.jpg with draped overskirt and ruffled underskirt.Overskirtes are a thing of the pst

Style gallery 1874-79

  1. Journal des Dames 18474-1876.jpg of the mid-1870s are trimmed with pleated ruffles, bows, buttons, and braid, and are worn with hats with ribbon streamers.
  2. Morisot.woman-theater.jpg is festooned with flowers and is worn with mid-length white gloves and a black neck ribbon. The high-knotted hairstyle is typical of the mid-1870s.
  3. Tissot lilacs 1875.jpg has a trailing overskirt and is trimmed with a profusion of ruffles and ribbons. Hair is braided into a crown high on the head.
  4. Tissot HMS Calcutta.jpg show back fullness beginning at hip-level rather than the waist as in 1874-5. The tight, princess-line dress on the right fits smoothly to the body from the shoulders to the lower hips.
  5. Jeanna Samary-Renoir.png of 1878 has a long train and a squared neckline. It is worn with opera-length gloves.
  6. ZINGARELLA1879.gif of 1878 features a long train trimmed with pleated frills and ruching. Matching ruching trims the cuffs of the sleeves.
  7. Margaret Forrest.jpg of 1876 features a train.

Caricature gallery

  1. Late-1870s-dumaurier-veto.png "Veto" by George du Maurier from Punch, satirizing the tight dress styles of the late 1870's.
  2. 1871-fashion-class-contrast.gif "Young lady of fashion, 1871" vs. "London Dairywoman".
  3. From the Danish Punch, satirizing the general fashion in 1876
  4. Late-1870s-dumaurier-veto.png by George du Maurier from Punch, May 25th 1878, satirizing both impractical women's fashions and men's formal military uniforms.

Men's fashion

Innovations in men's fashion of the 1870s included the acceptance of patterned or figured fabrics for shirts and the general replacement of neckties tied in bow knots with the four-in-hand and later the Ascot tie.

Coats and trousers

Frock coats remained fashionable, but new shorter versions arose, distinguished from the sack coat by a waist seam. Waistcoats (U.S. vests) were generally cut straight across the front and had collars and lapels, but collarless waistcoats were also worn.

Three-piece suits consisting of a high-buttoned sack coat with matching waistcoat and trousers, called ditto suits or (UK) lounge suits, grew in popularity; the sack coat might be cutaway so that only the top button could be fastened.

The cutaway morning coat was still worn for informal day occasions in Europe and major cities elsewhere. Frock coats were required for more formal daytime dress. Formal evening dress remained a dark tail coat and trousers. The coat now fastened lower on the chest and had wider lapels. A new fashion was a dark rather than white waistcoat. Evening wear was worn with a white bow tie and a shirt with the new winged collar.

Full-length trousers were worn for most occasions; tweed or woollen breeches were worn for hunting and hiking.

Topcoats had wide lapels and deep cuffs, and often featured contrasting velvet collars. Furlined full-length overcoats were luxury items in the coldest climates.

Shirts and neckties

The points of high upstanding shirt collars were increasingly pressed into "wings".

Necktie fashions included the four-in-hand and, toward the end of the decade, the Ascot tie, a tie with wide wings and a narrow neckband, fastened with a jewel or stickpin. Ties knotted in a bow remained a conservative fashion, and a white bowtie was required with formal evening wear.

A narrow ribbon tie was an alternative for tropical climates, and was increasingly worn elsewhere, especially in the Americas.


Top hats remained a requirement for upper class formal wear; bowlers and soft felt hats in a variety of shapes were worn for more casual occasions, and flat straw boaters were worn for yachting and other nautical pastimes.

Style gallery

  1. President Rutherford Hayes 1870 - 1880.jpg of President Rutherford B. Hayes. His coat and shawl-collared vest or waistcoat have covered buttons. Note functional buttonholes all the way up his coat lapel.
  2. Tissot Railway Carriage.jpg wears a dust-colored coat, trousers, and collar-less waistcoat with a dark red necktie. He wears a fur-lined overcoat and tan gloves. Britain, 1872.
  3. Mens Coats 1872 Fashion Plate.jpg shows a fur-lined overcoat (left) and double-breasted topcoat (right) with braid trim and decorative topstitching, 1872. Checked trousers were quite fashionable.
  4. Mathew Brady 1875 cropped.jpg wears a coat with braid trim on the collar and lapels over a matching waistcoat. His turned-down collar is worn over a four-in-hand necktie. 1875.
  5. Major-General The Hon. James MacDonald large.jpg is drawn by James Tissot in a slightly fitted, double-breasted topcoat with a diagonally positioned breast pocket and a contrasting collar. His shirt collar is pressed into flat wings and is worn with a wide, dark tie. He wears a top hat and gloves. 1876.
  6. BatMasterson.jpg of American lawman Bat Masterson wearing a three-piece suit and a bowler hat. His cutaway sack coat has a high front closure and is worn buttoned only at the top, over a vest or waistcoat cut straight across at the waist and decorated with a prominent watch chain.
  7. Albert Sassoon.jpg shows Sir Albert Abdallah David Sassoon in "morning dress" (formal daywear): grey trousers, dark cutaway coat, white waistcoat, wing-collared shirt and dark tie.
  8. Acgladstone2.jpg wears conservative clothing; his tall collar is still upstanding, and he wears his tie in a bow knot. 1879.

Necktie gallery

1873 portraits of Category:Members of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario illustrate the variety of fashionable neckwear (and facial hair).

Children's fashion

Infants continued to be dressed in flowing gowns, a style that continued into the early twentieth century. Gender dress changes often did not occur until a child was five or six; however, in the later decades gender dress came much sooner. Girls' ages could be depicted often based on the length of their skirt. As the girls got older, they wore longer skirts. A four year old would wear her skirt at knee length; ten to twelve at mid-calf; and by sixteen, the girls dress would be ankle length. The age of a boy could often be decided based on the length and type of trouser or how similar the attire was to that of a man’s. Boys often dressed similar to adult males, as they too wore blazers and Norfolk jackets.

Much influence on the styles of children's dress came from artist Kate Greenaway, an illustrator of children’s books. She strongly influenced styles of young girls' dress, as she often showed girls dressed in empire styles in her books. The idea of children’s dress being taken from books is also found is styles such as the Little Lord Fauntleroy suit which was worn by the hero of a children’s book.

See also


  • Arnold, Janet: Patterns of Fashion 2: Englishwomen's Dresses and Their Construction C.1860-1940, Wace 1966, Macmillan 1972. Revised metric edition, Drama Books 1977. ISBN 0-89676-027-8
  • Ashelford, Jane: The Art of Dress: Clothing and Society 1500-1914, Abrams, 1996. ISBN 0-8109-6317-5
  • Goldthorpe, Caroline: From Queen to Empress: Victorian Dress 1837-1877, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1988, ISBN 0-87099-535-9
  • Payne, Blanche: History of Costume from the Ancient Egyptians to the Twentieth Century, Harper & Row, 1965. No ISBN for this edition; ASIN B0006BMNFS
  • Steele, Valerie: Paris Fashion: A Cultural History, Oxford University Press, 1988; ISBN 0-19-504465-7
  • Tortora, Phyllis. Eubank, Keith: "Survey of Historic Costume, A History of Western Dress", Fourth Edition. Fairchild Publications, Inc. 1989; ISBN 1-56367-345-2
  • Martin, Linda: "The Way We Wore, Fashion Illustrations of Children's Wear 1870- 1970", Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1978, ISBN 0-684-15655-5

External links

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