|Week 1 |
Preconceptions and New Perceptions
- What are your existing preconceptions/impressions of Western clothing in the nineteenth century?
- (Provide an image to illustrate each decade in men and women’s fashion, preferably silhouettes.) Arrange the images provided in chronological order and assign a date to each image to complete your timeline; conduct a peer review of your partner’s answers.
- (Provide a complete correct timeline for students, along with a chronology of key events—example below.) As a group, share results. Discuss any unexpected or surprising outcomes.
- Watch The Forsyte Saga (British TV series: BBC 1967; Granada Television 2002). Compare the fashion interpretation between the two adaptations.
| || |
Chronology of Key Events in the Western World, 1800–1900:
1800: Napoleon is established as First Consul in France.
1805: The Battle of Trafalgar.
1812–1815: War of 1812.
1825: The world’s first public railroad opens in England.
1837: Queen Victoria ascends the throne.
1849: Californian gold rush begins.
1839: The first Opium War between England and China.
1851: The Great Exhibition held at Crystal Palace, London. First gold rush in Australia.
1853: The Crimean War begins.
1861: Abraham Lincoln is sworn in as president of the United States. The American Civil War begins (1861–1865).
1865: Assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
1870: Franco-Prussian War begins.
1876: Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone.
1868: Benjamin Disraeli becomes prime minister of Britain.
1899: The Boer War begins.
|Week 2 |
This week’s content examines both broad and niche styles and influences within the period 1800–1830.
Breward, Christopher. “The Dandy: London’s New West End 1790–1830.” In Fashioning London: Clothing and the Metropolis. Berg Fashion Library, 2004.
O’Brien, Alden. “Empire Style.” In the A–Z of Fashion. Berg Fashion Library, 2005.
- Identify how and why the styles of Ancient Greece and Rome were an important influence in the early nineteenth century.
- How did the empire line mark a radical departure from previous eighteenth-century fashions?
- Examine this caricature from 1829. What is it telling us about popular perceptions of men’s and women’s fashionable dress?
- To what extent did the “dandy” style influence men’s fashions more broadly?
|Week 3 |
The Industrial Revolution and continuing technological innovation were changing the way clothes were produced. During this period the fashionable silhouette altered considerably, ushering in the first years of Queen Victoria’s reign.
Hughes, Clair. “Unrepentant Dandies: William Thackeray’s Pendennis.” In Dressed in Fiction. Berg Fashion Library, 2006.
- Art and fashion historian Geoffrey Squire commented that: “The dullest decade in the history of feminine dress began in 1840. An insipid mediocrity characterized an entirely middle-class epoch” (Dress and Society, 1560–1970, New York: Viking, 1974, p.159). How far we can declare this statement to be true? Discuss the factors that must be considered when making judgments about fashion, and consult the following images to aid your discussion, considering male dress as well as female:
1840s Dress with 'Bertha'
1840s Croatian Dress
- Identify some key ways in which men’s dress had changed by 1850. What do you think the “gentlemanly ideal” was by the middle of the century?
| Week 4 |
The crinoline was one of the most satirized fashions in history. Consider the clothing of both men and women in the 1850s and 1860s, and discuss how gender divides were perceived in the wake of this extraordinary garment.
Emery, Joy Spanabel. “Nineteenth-Century Technology.” In A History of the Paper Pattern Industry: The Home Dressmaking Fashion Revolution. Berg Fashion Library, 2014.
- To what extent can the crinoline be considered an emancipatory garment for women?
- Source fashion caricatures from any decade of the nineteenth century, and discuss how constructions of the female body are depicted. Crucially, consider the ways in which they may have influenced and affected gender and sexual roles and relationships.
- Explore these early daguerreotypes showing ordinary men and women in fashionable clothes. How do such images help us to understand and appreciate fashion during this era, and what are their limitations?
| Week 5 |
One of the most recognizable silhouettes of the nineteenth century was the bustle, a protraction at the back of the skirt from which to display ornate draping and embellishment. For men, more casual styles developed, including three-piece suits worn with a simple “sack” jacket.
Haugland, Kristina H. “Bustle.” In the A–Z of Fashion. Berg Fashion Library, 2005.
- Research the origins of the bustle through history: when and where were its earliest appearances, and how were these reappropriated in the late nineteenth century?
- Identify likely dates for these skirt supports:
- The 1860s and onward saw the development of new “lounge suits” for men. How did the idea of “lounging” complement both male and female fashions in this period?
| Week 6 |
This week, think back over the knowledge you have gained about nineteenth-century clothing. Use the discussion questions to consider the impact of the end of a century on fashionable styles.
Steele, Valerie. “Femme Fatale: Fashion and Visual Culture in Fin-de-siècle Paris.” Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture 8, no. 3 (September 2004). Berg Fashion Library, 2004.
- It might seem that women’s fashion of the nineteenth century has had a lot more focus on it than that of men. To what extent do you think men engaged with fashion and cared about personal appearance and style?
- Discuss the concept of the fin-de-siècle and ideas around “anxiety” at the end of the nineteenth century. In what respects can you see such ideas made manifest through clothing and fashionable styles?
| || The final four weeks of the course focus on specific themes and explore their impact on nineteenth-century clothing. Use the knowledge you have gained so far to inform and expand your discussions. |
| Week 7 |
Fashion in Art
This week focuses on the role of dress in nineteenth-century Western works of art. Students may also wish to consider the question of fashion as art, including an exploration of the fashion plate medium.
Steele, Valerie. “Art and Fashion.” In Paris Fashion: A Cultural History. Berg Fashion Library, 1998.
- Consider the medium of the fashion plate. To what extent does it create an idealized view of fashion?
- Examine the following portraits and consider the role of dress. What is it telling us about the status, aesthetics, and personality of the sitter?
- Images to be chosen by the instructor; examples might include:
| Week 8 |
As seen in many other periods, the nineteenth century took much inspiration from dress of the past. This week we look at the catalysts behind such influences, as well as learning to identify and pinpoint which aspects of a garment have been inspired by history.
(This week, the reading comes from a primary source. Read Wilde’s thoughts on the usefulness and attractiveness of historic dress as daily wear.)
Wilde, Oscar. “House Decoration.” In Essays and Lectures, 1882–1883.
- Why might certain political, social, and economic events or situations encourage the design of historically inspired clothing?
- What type of revivals coincided with the concept of the fin-de siècle at the end of the nineteenth century?
- Explore these two images from the early and late nineteenth century, and discuss which main influences have been derived from history:
Evening Dress & Jacket
Woman's Evening Dress
- Look at these garments by couturier Worth, who was well known for his use of historical elements in his designs. Identify the influences he has used. How are they reconciled with contemporary style?
Woman's Evening Dress
| Week 9 |
At various times through history fashion reforms have been attempted, for a mixture of political, social, economic, and religious reasons, among others. The nineteenth century was no exception, and this week’s topic explores how and why such efforts were carried out.
Callahan, Colleen. “Bloomer Costume.” In the A–Z of Fashion. Berg Fashion Library, 2005.
Cunningham, Patricia A. “Dress Reform.” In the Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion, Volume 3, The United States and Canada. Berg Fashion Library, 2010.
- Discuss the differences between “reform,” “aesthetic,” and “artistic” dress. What were the aims and philosophies of each: did they overlap?
- Why do you think Amelia Bloomer’s early reform attempt was short-lived?
- Look at these reform and aesthetic garments and assign a date to them. Make a note of the ways in which high fashion has been altered in order to give the outfit its reform credentials.
Dress Worn by Sir Hamo Thornycroft's Wife
Paris Couture Coat
| Week 10 |
Sports and Leisure Wear
Sportswear as we know it today is a relatively recent phenomenon, and did not exist for much of the nineteenth century. However, modifications were made to clothing that allowed men and women less physical restriction when playing sports.
Klepp, Ingun, Grimstad Stig Sørheim, and Erik Kjetil Enstad. “Sports and Dress.” In the Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion, Volume 8, West Europe. Berg Fashion Library, 2010.
LaBat, Karen. “Bicycle Clothing.” In the A–Z of Fashion. Berg Fashion Library, 2005.
- Consider the images below. Assign dates, and discuss how these styles have been designed for leisure wear and sportswear. How are they different to conventional day-to-day fashion?
Woman's Bicycling Ensemble
- A craze for bicycling took the late nineteenth century by storm, and challenged popular ideas about conventional dress. Discuss the impact, controversy, and slow acceptance of the clothes developed for this pastime.