Keeping up appearances was essential for the class-obsessed Victorians who used clothing as a marker of social respectability. Observing these rules became more affordable with the rise of the ready-made garment industry, although fashion continuously evolved to maintain an exclusive hierarchy.
'The West End Plate of Fashions'
Date: 15 January 1894
Catalogue reference: View the record COPY 1/111 in the catalogue
Fashion plates like this were produced to showcase the latest trends in clothing, in this case the spring and summer outfits for gentlemen. The drawings were produced by the lithographer Thomas Way and published by F.T Prewett and Co. They might have been circulated in a magazine or journal, or produced for clothing manufacturers to advertise their products, although the record doesn’t indicate where this plate was used.
Artworks for commercial purposes were registered with Stationers’ Hall to protect the artists’ and publishers’ copyright.
Advertisement for 'Andersons’ Waterproofs' at the Chicago Exhibition
Catalogue reference: View the record COPY 1/108 in the catalogue
Anderson, Anderson, and Anderson were a waterproof clothing manufacturers and retailers, with premises in Cardiff, Swansea, Bristol and London. The manufacture of waterproof garments from natural rubber in Britain dates from 1823, when chemist Charles Mackintosh invented a process of applying the material to fabrics.
This advertisement shows that the company displayed their fashionable waterproofs at the Chicago World Fair in 1893, where they won two prizes. The company were official suppliers to the military, the Metropolitan Police and the Fire Brigade.
Registered designs for crinolettes and bustles
Date: 29 December 1873
Catalogue reference: View the record BT 43/400/279439 in the catalogue
Cage crinolines were an innovation in women’s fashion that first emerged in the mid-19th century. Constructed from a hoop supported by a skeleton frame, they were worn under a dress and created the voluminous shape of skirts popular at the time without the need for cumbersome layers of petticoats.
These designs were registered by Léonce Bernard Schmolle who also patented his innovations in crinolines. Collapsible crinolines, which Schmolle specialised in, gave the wearer more agility due to the flexible and lightweight construction of the frame.
These designs, registered in 1873, are for crinolettes and bustles which capture the fashion at the time for a fuller skirt at the rear.
'The New Uniform Shirt Front'
Date: 9 October 1858
Catalogue reference: View the record BT 45/21/4122 in the catalogue
White cotton or linen shirts were a staple of the gentleman’s wardrobe throughout the 19th century. Considering the difficulty and expense in keeping these clean, a dickey or a separate shirtfront was a popular solution for those who wanted to keep up appearances without the means to afford an extensive wardrobe.
This design shows how a shirtfront might be worn to conceal a striped shirt, a style that was not considered respectable formalwear according to the strict middle- and upper-class fashion rules of the period.