Civil War Era Fashion Chit Chat - May 1863 Godey's Lady's Book
Chitchat upon New York and Philadelphia Fashions for May
Although some time has elapsed since the wedding of Tom Thumb and the little Warren amused the town, we think a description of a dress designed and made for her at Mme. Demorest's may be acceptable to many of our readers.
It was of a golden maize-colored silk, the skirt cut en traine, and ornamented with designs, intended to be emblematical of our own country, England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Germany, and Italy. The decorations were formed of very narrow pipings of white satin, softened by rich point applique lace. The design in front was an ear of corn, the grains in seed pearls, for America. On the right, a rose encircled with buds and leaves for England; on the left, laurel for France; Germany was represented by acorns, with leaves; Italy, by grapes; Ireland, by shamrocks; and Scotland, by the thistle. This rich drapery was caught up at the left to display the petticoat of white silk, with its blonde puffings and diamond-shaped crossings of strung Roman pearls. The corsage was low, with short sleeves, very tastefully trimmed with satin pipings and point lace. But even this elegant robe was not so fascinating to us as the dainty little corset of white satin, elaborately stitched and embroidered, moulded to fit the perfect little figure it was destined to inclose. Its proportions strongly reminded us if doll-dressing days in the nursery. We must not forget to mention the hoop, also a model in its way, and so closely woven that, though perfect in proportion to the tiny figure of the wearer, it contained fifty-two hoops, covered with white silk. The binding and facings were of white satin to match the corset. We venture to say that these contributions of Mme. Demorest to the trousseau of Mrs. Thumb have never been excelled. While on the subject of hoops, we must not neglect the new style called Quaker skirt. This is much smaller than the usual hoop, tapering most gracefully from the base to the top. It is especially suited to light summer, and airy ball dresses. Heavier dresses, being very long and ample, require a large hoop with a decided spring to give them a graceful appearance.
We select from the many beautiful articles in Mme. Demorest's salons, the following: A rich mauve moire dress, ornamented on the corsage and sleeves with guipure applications, laid upon the material in elegant and varied patterns, which is quite a relief from the ordinary lace with one straight edge. Another was a jacket of white silk, bordered with a piping of cerise silk, covered with a tiny guipure edge. On each side of the corsage was a true lover's knot, formed of guipure, lined with cerise silk, closely stitched down. The sleeves were ornamented to correspond. Another attractive garment was an opera cloak of white cloth, bound with pink silk. It was a circle, bias at the back, with seam down the centre. The front was caught up very gracefully, and thrown over the left shoulder like a Spanish cloak, where it fell in soft graceful folds. We consider this one of the most stylish garments of the season, and one that will be very suitable for street wear, made of drab or cuir-colored cloths. We noticed that most of the white bodies at Mme. Demorest's were tucked in bunches, which is a slight, but very pretty change from last season. We may remark, en passant, that both thick and thin muslins can be purchased striped, to imitate tucks in all their different styles, which, of course, will be a great saving of trouble to the blanchisseuse.
As mothers are becoming anxious about the little folks' hats, we are now able to gratify them, having paid a recent visit to Mr. Genin's establishment on Broadway. We found a most excellent variety, both in shape and style, the colors being entirely new. For instance, a dark cuir-colored straw, and a mixture of the most brilliant purple with black and white, besides every possible combination of black and white. For boys, there is the Harrow cap, of a cuir-color, a turban with closely fitting brim, and a vizor, with a binding of a rich blue straw. Others are trimmed with bindings of fancy leather, and bound with velvet the exact shade of the leather. The Berwick is another pretty style, with straight and taper crown, brim very wide and heavily rolled at the sides, and slightly rolled in front. This style is suitable for boys from two to four. Then the Eton, for boys from four to seven, generally of a mixed straw, with sailor brim an inch and a half wide, and the crown a complete round. This style has a dark blue ribbon tied at the side, and fastened with a straw knot. The same style, slightly modified, will be worn by older boys, the difference being that the crown is straight, and rounding only on top. One of the most artistic hats is a Leghorn with double brim, the brim turning from the under part to the outside, reaching the crown, where the straw is fluted, and forms the sole trimming of the hat. Conspicuous among the straw and hair ornaments for children's hats are bees, flied, butterfly bows, bugles, cornets, and other devices.
For little girls, there is the Dartford hat. This is one of the prettiest styles. It has a high taper crown, drooping slightly both back and front, bound with velvet and a piping of velvet, the same width as the binding, laid on the brim. It is trimmed with two bands of velvet round the crown, and a tuft of field flowers directly in front. The trimmings will be flowers, and scarfs of silk with fringed ends.
The riding-hats are of the Spanish styles, very high pointed crowns, with brims rolled at the sides. They are made of every variety of straw, and are very stylish.
We have but few decided novelties to record. One, however, is a monstrosity in the shape of a pocket handkerchief. It is of grass cloth, the color of brown wrapping-paper, ornamented by a single row of hem-stitch, and a narrow border of either blue or red.
Black lace leaves are among the newest things. These are used for ornamenting white muslin jackets, dresses, and opera cloaks. The effect is striking and beautiful. We have seen some pretty grenadine veils, with borders formed of pin stripes. For instance, a light mode-color veil, with a border of black stripes, is very effective. For morning collars, we have the Byron style; that is, a standing collar at the back, and the ends turned down in front. These are worn by both sexes. Another style, called the Alexndra collar, has the Prince of Wales feather stitched on them with colored cotton.
Piques will be very fashionable, and the colored ones more varied in design and color than in former years. The designs being the same on the muslins, large Grecques, stars, pin dots, and other styles. We use the future tense respecting piques, for though we are told it is Spring, it is difficult to believe it, and nothing thinner than summer poplins, India silks, mohair lustres, queen's cloth, alpaca, and such goods, can yet be worn.
Many of the dress sleeves are made quite small at the wrist, barely admitting a small undersleeve. Dresses of all kinds are being trimmed with flutings, which are to be had ready fluted in tarletane, ribbon and silk, and any material can be quilled at a trifling expense.
Perfect scaffoldings of hair are now built on the head - roll upon roll - puff upon puff. Some of the styles are extremely odd; not the least odd, is that, for which are used two rats, two mice, a cat, and a cataract. Lest, however, we should be the means of some pussy being cut off by a premature death from the circle of which she is the ornament, we hasten to explain. The rats are the long frizetts of curled hair for the side rolls; the mice are the smaller ones above them; the cat is for the roll laid over the top of the head; and the cataract is for the chignon at the back of the head - which is sometimes called waterfall, cataract, and jet d'eau.
Little girls are wearing their hair in short frizzed curls, and, in some instances, we have seen very long hair floating down the back only slightly crepe. This, however, is not a pretty style, and we would not advise its adoption.
For coiffures, the humming-bird alone disputes with the butterfly the favor of fashion. These ornaments were introduced by the Empress of the French, and bring fabulous prices, many of them being made of precious stones, or of enamel worked with gold. They are worn by young ladies as well as matrons; the humming birds, being the natural bird of the rarest plumage, frequently set with diamond eyes.
At a recent ball the dress of the Empress was hooked up with diamond butterflies. The coiffure was composed of tufts of violets, from which a brilliant diamond butterfly seemed ready to spring into the air. The natural butterfly is however a coveted headdress, and as it is extremely fragile, it is rather an expensive fashion. They, as well as humming birds, are frequently mounted on barbes, with charming effect. One of the prettiest ball dresses we have seen, was a mass of little puffings over which were scattered butterflies of every hue and shade. The mania extends still further. We see them in the florist's windows hovering over plants, baskets of flowers, and choice hand bouquets. The last novelty however is this; every variety of humming bird and butterfly is gotten up on cartes of the carte de visite size for albums.
Mrs. Ellis, of 880 Broadway, is making up with her usual good taste, a number of very recherche walking suits. A very attractive one is an ashes of roses. Spring poplin, with very deep braiding in black above the hem. A talma of the same has a narrower braiding above the binding, and on the shoulders it is braided to represent a guipure round cape, the same as worn on the velvet cloaks this winter. The effect is beautiful. Another is a buff mohair lustre, braided in large palms round the skirt, with a talma of the same braided with smaller palms of the same style.
Brodie is making up Rotundes, sacks, and circles of every shade of steel, mode, and cuir. Most of them are braided in very striking patterns, some with merely a braided epaulet, while others are elegantly trimmed with gimp and jet ornaments. The silk wraps are generally trimmed with rich lace, oftentimes laid over white silk or satin, which gives a very distingue appearance. There is a great variety of out door garments, and the choice is left to the individual taste of the wearer.
We see but little alteration in the shape of bonnets. They are quite high, very shallow at the sides, and a gradual slope from the crown to the front. Gray straws are very fashionable, also silk bonnets closely shirred, sometimes with puffs between. In our next we will give more definite information respecting bonnets.