19th Century Fashion Around the World: Europe

Let’s go way back to the 19th century and its fashion around the world again. This time we will look several countries on the continent of Europe. Like Asia, Europe was extremely diverse in its fashionable ways. In the early 19th century fashion women wore lightweight draping dresses. Most had empire waistlines, if they had a waistline at all. Dressing was simple yet elegant. There were no restrictions of the waist and soft fabrics were the choice of most women.

It wasn’t until the late 1800s that ladies were wearing wild hats and, well, gut-wrenching boned corsets in most European countries. Adding to that, high fashion also consisted of bustles and cages that made the rear stick out farther and layers of petticoats under heavy brocade gowns. While the gowns were quite lovely, the act of putting them on must have been exhausting.

The French has a monopoly, so to speak, on the style of the 19th century in Europe. The NeoClassical dress of the early years was ending and the more form fitted waistlines and vibrant colors of the latter ones were coming directly from Paris, France. It was a time of wealth in the late 1800s and much of society felt it. Prosperity showed in the clothing of men, women, and children. Haute couture designs become popular and everyone who was anyone had tailor made attire.

As the nineteenth century was ending, both men and women preferred a more refined taste in clothing. Although there
was some rebellion about the exact style in each country. For example, during the Aesthetic movement in England, members preferred to wear dresses with huge puffy sleeves. These dresses were similar to the women in some Florentine paintings.

Early 19th century, Spanish ladies rebelled against the French fashion scruples. Women of lower classes exaggerated the traditional dress of Spain. They balked at the dress of the French. Below is a picture of a maja, as they were referred to. Painters of the era took a liking to these women, as is reflected in the art of this time.

In Norway, Denmark, and Germany embraced the romantic period. The rural dress of the era included the bunad. The bunad was a conventional dress that incorporated local history and culture into the embroidery and embellishments.
Ireland and fashion here has little history. It is believed that the ladies of this country wore woolen clothing. During this time period, there was a great famine in Ireland. Most of society dressed to display their wealth, or lack there of. Men and women alike dressed in only the clothing they could afford. But, by the end of the 1800s the women of Ireland had a new technology, the sewing machine, This helped with the fashion movement because they could make more stylish clothes.

Finally, in Italy, there had been a decline in the popularity of Italian fashion for a few hundred years. France was at the top of its game during the early part of the 19th century. However, with affordable silk being imported from China, Italy was able to come back into the lead in the latter part of the 1800s. Fashion houses such as Gucci and Prada were founded late in this era and still exist today.

European fashion trends of the 1800s brought about the ways we see fashion today. It was in the late 1800s that real models were used to display the beauty and movement of the clothing. And it was a time for ladies to care more about the way they looked. The influence of the European fashion districts is clearly a turning point in history.

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