It is many months now since Dame Fashion was good enough to lay down the law that separate waists [blouses] were in style. This law has been the means of a great deal of economy being exercised and no end of comfort and ease indulged in. Now there is a rumour made public that these separate waists are no longer to be fashionable. Women who dress in the very latest style are looking with disfavour upon this particular mode of dress, but the fashion is so sensible a one, and in many respects so absolutely necessary, that it will be a long time before it can be entirely done away with. To be sure, the newest and smartest gowns have waists to correspond with the skirts, but no outfit for the winter will be complete if it does not include one or more waists which do not match any skirt but can be worn with several..
Golf, bicycling and all outdoor sports demand a loose-fitting waist, and the weather is too cool now for a linen shirt-waist. The newest thing that the skirt-makers have offered for sale is the flannel shirt-waist, which is an exceedingly pretty garment. It is made without lining, quite on the model of the linen shirts worn all summer, and is finished with band around the neck so that it can be worn with either a stock or a linen collar. All the pretty shades of colouring are to be seen in these flannel shirts, and they are made of good quality material and wash and clean well. The plain colours are preferred as yet, but those of plain colour with polka dots of black are exceedingly smart. Of course there is the objection that they are hard to wear under a coat if the coat be not lined, but as most coat sleeves now are lined with satin, that objection is soon done away with.
In spite of the fact that they are supposed to be out of fashion, there are a number of models shown of silk waists which are immensely attractive. The smartest ones are made as carefully as a dress waist, have a fitted and boned lining and in many cases, rich trimming. Black and white check is still fashionable and plaid silk waists are very much in fashion. They are made with a plain back, the fronts quite full and trimmed with bands of narrow black velvet ribbon drawn down to a point. In all the waists the sleeves are small and fit tightly from shoulder to wrist so far as the lining is concerned, though the outside is put on in a shirred and wrinkled effect, and just at the top of the sleeve is either a butterfly bow or a puff caught up in the middle. Sometimes the sleeves, girdle and collar are put in of an utterly different colour. Odd and distinctive effects are still allowed in these waists.
For theatre wear there is nothing so comfortable as a waist of some thin material, for no matter how well ventilated a theatre may be, the waist of a cloth or velvet gown is quite too warm to be comfortable. Velvet, which is a warm fabric is used but made up with the thinnest silk lining and generally with the entire front of lace over silk, so that it is not so warm as supposed. But the fancy silks and brocades are more suitable for this purpose. All the sleeves are exaggeratedly long; they broaden out over the hand but reach as far as the fingers, where they are either round or cut in points, and inside is a lace ruffle. Of course this hides the beauty of the wrist, if there is any, but at the same time the hand looks smaller. With sleeves of this length long gloves are impossible, and two buttons and even one are shown in all the new shades. They are longer than the old-fashioned one and two button gloves used to be but are the only things possible with long sleeves.
Harper’s, November 1896
For further information, please see our article THE NEW WOMAN - Fashions in the 1890s and also the 1896 bodice pattern.
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