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The early 1870s, after the Franco-German War won by the Germans, saw an unprecedented development fuelled by speculation, stock trading, and increasingly rapid industrialisation. In this period, the increasingly wealthier upper classes openly and willingly display their affluence. A pretentious, grossly overdone style prevails.
Architecture, interior design, fine art and fashion are oriented to the Baroque style of the court of Louis XIV
Men's fashion remains essentially unchanged over the previous decades. Around 1880, the shape of the stand-up collar changed in favour of collar flaps. In 1889, England saw the introduction of the tuxedo, as well as the first collared shirts. In 1896, creased trousers made their appearance.

For its part, women's fashion witnesses the comeback - in exaggerated form - of the highly billowing skirts of the late 17th Century. To ensure enough support in the back, a horseshoe-shaped frame is attached around the waist and above the buttocks. It may consist of steel rails or horsehair padding and is called bustle. Inspired by the frame, this trend went down in costume history as "bustle fashion".

Its inventor was the Englishman Charles Frederick Worth.
Worth was also the founder of Haute Couture as we know it today. Among others, he dressed Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Empress Eugénie of France, Queen Victoria and the Princess Pauline von Metternich.
As such, the bustle has to bear enormous amounts of material. Over the petticoat, there were several more layers of skirts of outer fabric, with a variety of ruffles and draping. There was also - even for daywear- the train with the lushest garnishings.
The corset is still worn and tied ever tighter in the course of the coming decades. The cleavage is found only in evening wear, often featuring a very wide cut. Daywear is high-necked and provided with long sleeves.
In 1878, the bustle comes suddenly out of fashion. Now, skirts are cut extremely tight down to the knees. In fact, they were so tight that wearers could barely run. For the first time in the history of fashion, hips and legsare considered in the garment cut. The slim-line silhouette comes to life. and goes by the name of cuirass waistline.
In 1883, the bustle makes a short-lived comeback only to transition - always in smaller form - into the Cul de Paris and finally disappear towards the end of the decade. The overall silhouette of this second bustle fashion appears narrower overall.
In the second half of the 19th Century, daywear is mostly made of silk and wool fabrics. Evenings see precious silk fabrics like brocade, satin and damask. Both day and evening dresses are profusely decorated with ruffles, braids, fringes, etc. Laces and trimmings are specially popular and used ad nauseaum.
Material consumption and therefore costs are huge. Moreover, trimmings usually need to be sewn by hand which, given their abundance, represents a significant cost factor even at the low wages of the time.
The 1880s see the strengthening of the English Pre-Raphaelites' dress reform drive, which started several decades earlier. In particular, doctors point out the health risks of wearing corsets and call for their abolition.
Costumes are totally renovated in the second half of the century - starting with Britain. , clearly showing the dress reform influence. The costume will eventually become an essential piece of clothing, first for the working women, whose numbers were increasing, but also for the wealthy bourgeoisie afterwards.
World trade is in the 90s experiences rapid growth. More and more technological inventions are produced and an increasing number of raw materials and supplies become available. This time, the 'Belle Epoque', continues until the beginning of the First World War.
At the beginning of this decade, people still retain previous fashion styles, especially evident in the ham-shaped sleeves of the Biedermeier, which developed by the middle of the decade into a whole new style: the "Art Nouveau".
Art Nouveau fashion is distinguished by the slim silhouette. The skirt is worn without underframes and with only a petticoat. It wraps extremely close around the hips to amply extend downward by means of folds and pleats. This gives rise to the flared skirt, which is cut into numerous narrow and wide webs at the top and bottom respectively.
The front area is often provided an excess length that must be gathered when walking. The now visible petticoat -the jupon- becomes an important part of fashion, being sometimes more valuable than the dress worn over it.It is always made of silk. Clothes are also lined with silk.
Chiffons, crepe de chine, lace fabrics and other delicate transparent materials are among the favourites of this era. Finery remains abundant and sumptuous.
 
Fashionable items include oversized hats, lavishly decorated with flowers, feathers, ribbons and tulle veils. Hairdos, always voluminous and pinned-up, soon demand artificial enhancement.
The famous S-line with the bulging chest is achieved using a novel cut corset, which tightly presses the waist and the stomach too - tighter indeed than ever before. 55-cm waists and less are commonplace.
This corset, ignoring any anatomical consideration, as well as the tight lacing, lead some wearers to their death, and thus, to the end of the corset era. Future models no longer serve to shape the body but to reinforce and support the same.
Nearing the turn of the century, the blouse enjoys increasing popularity, initially only for working women, and later in the upper strata of society, whose members favour those made of precious materials. It makes the ideal companion for the costume, which becomes an essential component of clothing.
The jacket of the costume is more or less cut tight at the waist, sometimes even in a straight line. Skirts are partly worn with a train.
The jacket becomes an essential wardrobe element. From fitted shape to bag-like designs, forms and variations abound. For the first time in fashion history, fur leaves its trimming or lining role and returns to the outside.
In the late Belle Epoque, the influence of Asian, especially Japanese clothing, becomes apparent. This very picturesque style blurred the body shape by means of cleverly arranged draping. Kimono sleeves can be found in dresses and coats.
Precious materials and embroidery are further used.
In 1908, the onset of the economic crisis makes fashion for daydresses often conservative. After the end of World War I, women's appearance has drastically changed.

Costume examples from our workshop

 
 

Gründerzeit-Tournürenkleid

Period: around 1873

This dress was designed after an original cut from the early bustle period for an exhibition at castle Letzlingen.

It was crafted from heavy silk brocade interwoven with gold threads and delicate silk organza. Through this precious material combined with numerous pleats and gatherings we were able to express the opulence of this epoch, while simultaneously ...


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Abendkleider Period: around 1912-13

Here, too, we find the high-raised waistlines, the tenuous silk chiffon, and the precious hand-embroidery.


The antique pink suit is draped over a slate gray silk dress, which is adorned with gold-colored Venetian lace at hem and sleeves. The overlying silk chiffon skirt was edged with facetted stones at the hem. The middle skirt is ...

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Kürasstaillenkleid

Period: around 1880

This dress with wasp waist was crafted for the Living History event 'Der Kaiser kommt' [The Emporer's visit], more precisely for the actress of the Empress Augusta.

During design and documentation step we quickly settled for an expressive, i.e. broad striped, silk fabric. The subsequent material procurement from all over the globe took more than half a year. We eventually found a very sophisticated silk taffeta with chatoyant stripes, which depending
...

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Tournürenkleid

Period: around 1912

This glamorous gown consists of three layers:
a golden undergarment with sleeves from silk organza, hand embroidered on top with pearls, a top dress from antique tulle lace and a tunic from hand ...


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Tageskleider Period: around 1912

The high-raised waists, the multi-tiered skirts and the filmy materials are distinctive stylistic characteristics of the Belle Époque. We also crafted two corresponding straw hats with flowers, feathers and tulle ribbon.

An original blouse made of delicate muslin and of very good condition was worked into the striped cotton dress. High collars decorated with lace were common during this epoch until 1913. Bodice skirts were a famous...

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Hüte Period: 1910-1913

What is the Belle Époque without its hats? From 'cart wheel' to 'flower pot'; from generously garnished models – with fabrics, flowers, huge feathers and ribbons en masse ...


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Tornürenkleid aus gemusterter Seide Period: around 1883

For this plain promenade dress we decide for light-blue-cream-patterned silk. The antique brooch, which reflects the colors of the silk, and 24 antique gold buttons are the only decorations of the horsehair strengthened jacket; coil springs further reassure the serious shape....

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Empfangskleid Period: around 1912-13

We crafted this tea gown from silk cotton-damask after an original cut from the year 1913. Hems and neckline are furnished with antique feather boa and underlaid with pleated organza ribbon. A tunic made of silk organza with antique lace is worn over the actual dress. Opulent ribbons, as they are used in this creation,
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Abendkleider Period: around 1911-12

The following dresses are three distinct kinds of typical evening fashion from the 'Titanic era': delicate fabrics, high-raised waists and picturesque draperies of different materials.


The red dress is worn in combination with a tunic made of multi-tiered silk chiffon of red and cream color. Very delicate hand-embroidery shimmers...

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Jugendstil-Kleid aus Batist

Period: around 1900

This 'S'-curved corset has the distinctive silhouette from around the year 1900 – pushed-up breasts and pulled-in stomach – and was designed for a TV documentary about the history of the corset. This corset type puts a lot of pressure on internal organs and often leads to shortness of breath. Of all corset varieties this is most certainly...

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Jugendstil-Brautkleid

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