During the 1870s, women’s clothing became increasingly complex, colorful, and restrictive, while menswear was marked by an industrious sobriety.
This afternoon dress, though not extravagant compared to some of the elaborately decorated gowns of 1874, proves to still be en vogue due to its bustled silhouette, tight-fitting bodice with an elongated waist, and decorated high neckline.
This green silk day dress, patterned with an abstracted floral design, displays aspects of style associated with the early 1870s. Its bustle silhouette, vibrant hue, and abundance of trimmings all speak to its fashionability and provide an insight into the trends of the year.
The early 1870s were characterized by bustles, square necklines, sleeves that flare at the wrist, jacket-style bodices, the appearance of aprons, asymmetry, and flounces, frills, and ruffles. This ca. 1872 silk day dress designed by Mon. Vignon is the perfect example of a fashionable early 1870s garment.
In Sargent’s most famous portrait, Virginie Gautreau, a celebrated American beauty living in Paris, dresses in daring advance of fashion–the unadorned simplicity of the dress makes it appear modern even today. Her apparent lack of underwear and daringly dropped shoulder strap (later repainted by Sargent) in combination with her heavy makeup and seeming indifference to the viewer provoked scandal when the work was first exhibited in the 1884 Paris Salon.