Saturday, November 3, 2018

DAY 80: The Afternoon Dress

Having donned an elegant morning dress--suitable for writing letters, greeting callers, and perhaps visiting her children in the nursery--a woman of Jennie's station would change her clothes if she intended to leave the house. Shopping, paying a call on a friend, visiting a dressmaker, strolling through a park in colder months, touring an exhibit at a museum, attending a session of Parliament or traveling in a train required a different form of clothing altogether--the afternoon, or carriage, dress.

These differed from morning dresses mainly in their greater degree of formality and elegance. They were dresses made to be seen in public, rather than merely among one's intimate friends, houseguests, or family. They generally maintained the day dress's style of high neckline or minimally exposed bodice.

Here is one of my favorite afternoon dresses, dating from just around the turn of the 19th century, that might have served as "half-mourning," being predominately black, but relieved with purple, dark blue, and teal in a peacock- patterned silk.

This afternoon dress from the 1880s might usefully have merged into the dinner hour, certainly for a simple dinner at home, with its more open neckline and decorative train.

I like to think this one could have been worn by Jennie Churchill to the Speaker's Gallery, when she observed Debate in the House of Commons, or when she campaigned for Lord Randolph in his racing colors: Pink and Chocolate. This old rose underskirt with the chocolate overmantel would have been ravishing on Jennie.

When intended for an "airing" out of doors, afternoon dresses were generally made of heavier, darker fabrics (velvet, wool, or in the summer, linen) that would both protect the wearer from cold and wet, and show less of the dirt of carriages, railways and public streets than an elegant silk gown would suffer. Often, a carriage dress was fashioned with a matching mantle, designed to further protect the wearer without sacrificing an ounce of style. Notice the gray velvet carriage dress at left, and the same dress with its coordinating mantle for carriage travel, on the right.

Here's another example, showing front and back views of a carriage dress with and without its matching mantle, hat and muff.

In warmer months, a mantle alone might be thrown over a walking or day dress when a woman ventured outside. Here are two examples of mantles, one obviously for spring or summer and the other perhaps for fall, designed to offer lighter protection when in an open carriage or subject to a breeze. Note the longer front to protect the lap of a dress while a lady was seated. The red mantle is by Worth, and was probably worn over an evening dress. It dates from 1888, and is in the collections of the Museum of the City of New York.

For more images from THAT CHURCHILL WOMAN, visit the  Pinterest board behind the novel. 

No comments:

Post a Comment