The Changing & Evolving Fashions of Late 1860s Victorian Dresses (Poison or Protect Special Extras)

Poison or Protect follows the exploits of one lady assassin with a penchant for poison, one gentle soldier with a white knight complex, a house party, a ghost, and…

The changing fashions of 1867.

No really, the diminishing nature of full skirts is a plot point.

I roll like that.

Even so, I can’t go all over with the info-dumping in the story itself, although I hope I’ve made the point as needed, so I thought I’d give you a glimpse at what I mean in further detail.

So here you have a peek at the evolving nature of skirts in the 1860s. I’ve chosen to give both fashion plates and actual dresses.

Fashion plate, 1860 V&A Museum no. E.267-1942


At the beginning of the 1860s dress skirts were very wide indeed, notably assisted by the cage crinoline.

“The steel-hooped cage crinoline, first patented in April 1856 by R.C. Milliet in Paris, and by their agent in Britain a few months later, became extremely popular.” (source)

1860  The Victoria & Albert Museum

By the end of the 1850s, the cage was hugely popular with the fashionable set as it allowed one to wear (slightly) fewer petticoats.

Note, however, that it was the height of vulgarity to see evidence of the cage in terms of steel rings or tapes (like VPL), so one did still require several petticoats over the crinoline to hide these.

A ruffle was often sewn on the bottom, which could be replaced with a different color to match the over-skirt.

Also the cage caused ladies to be vested in the need for longer underpinnings, should the cage swing too far when dancing. Hence the brief fad for pantalettes.

And now for the retrospective: 1860-1869

Emile Pingat, 1860  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
“Spring Pardessus, No. 2”, fashion plate from Harper’s Monthly Magazine, 1861
Evening Dress  Charles Fredrick Worth, 1861  The Chicago History Museum
Fashion plate, 1862 US, Godey’s Lady’s Book
1862  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Fashion plate, 1863 England, the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine


As you can see, the early 1860s were very wide full skirts. But right around the middle the century they began to shift toward the back into a train…

Cage Crinoline  1862  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1863  The McCord Museum
1864 (source)
1864  The Kyoto Costume Institute

1865 Dresses from the The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Les Modes Parisiennes

Date: Sunday, January 1, 1865

Item ID: v. 44, plate 64


Note how the skirts are sliding more and more towards the back by this point? At the same time they become more narrow.

An advanced oval form of the cage crinoline became quite popular, but a lady was also permitted to wear layers of petticoats cleverly cut instead.

A discussion on this matter occurs in Poison or Protect, and is key to understanding Preshea’s character.

Godey’s Fashion Plate 1866
1866  Musée Galliera de la Mode de la Ville de Paris
Plate 39. December 1867.

Robe à Transformation  1867  Collection Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti1

Fashion plate, 1868 England
Dinner Dress  Emile Pingat, 1868  The Philadelphia Museum of Art
1869  Collection Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti


And so the style leads into the 1870s tighter bustle silhouette, as described in the Parasol Protectorate series.

Cage Crinolette  1872-1875  The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Want more on these specific transition of styles?

I hope you have enjoyed this insight, Fashionable Reader.

Yours in ovals,

Miss Gail

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