Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Girl Who is Dancing Needs Many Dresses

Early arrivals at an 1887 ball
Too many dresses are a mistake, even for an opulent woman. They get out of fashion, and excepting for a girl going out to many balls they are entirely unnecessary. A girl who is dancing needs to be perpetually renewed, for she should be always fresh, and the "wear and tear" of the cotillion is enormous. There is nothing so poor as a dirty, faded, and patched-up ball-dress; the dancer had better stay at home than wear such. (Mrs. John Sherwood, Manners and Social Usages, New and enlarged edition, New York: Harper & Brothers. 1887. p. 171-172.)

Let's take a look at late 1880s ball gowns. The illustration at the top shows girls who are ready to dance. I do not believe that they are wearing trains, though it is hard to be certain with the style of the time. Below are some dresses that the Metropolitan Museum of Art calls ball gowns, but which, given the trains, I would call reception gowns. I particularly love the first one, because it shows how distinctive the  silhouette is: straight and tight from the front, full and trailing from the side.

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