With Halloween rapidly approaching, the Goldstein Collection is a great place to look for inspiration. After all, part of the fun of this time of year is that, for one day at least, outlandish and dramatic clothing is socially acceptable. The late 19th century was a time of dramatic silhouettes, many of which make for a great starting point for a spectacular costume design.
Cartoon “The Extremely Reprehensible Conduct of Those Two Podgkinsons, As They Walked To Church With Their Papa, Mamma, And Sisters Last Sunday,” 1957
As you can imagine, this look was not always taken seriously in the press. The 1857 cartoon above was meant to poke fun at this dramatic style of skirt, but it also shows a creative way to play with this silhouette.
C1880 1981.003.005 Gift of Natalie Gallagher
Later in the century, skirt fullness was moved to the back, as in this c1880 satin ensemble with bustle skirt (above). As the bustle fell out of fashion, skirts slimmed down considerably at the end of the 19th century, while at the same time sleeves grew significantly. Known as Leg-o-Mutton sleeves, their dramatic shape was sometimes supported by a small cage.
C1895 1990.036.001a-c Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Lindsay
These styles also, as you might suspect, were not taken seriously by the media. The satirical magazine Punch showed the bustle reinterpreted as a snail shell in this 1870 cartoon (below). The sleeves in this 1895 cartoon are re-imagined as tennis rackets, ores, etc. While meant as a jokes, these would be fantastic costumes.
Two cartoons from Punch. Left “Thoughts of Great Men,” 1870. Right “Suggestions for Novelties in Sleeves”