Fashion in period of Biedermeier (twenties and forties of 19th century)

Ideals and fashion

In the twenties up to the forties of the 19th century the romanticizing ideals were presented not only by means of literary and music works but they got also into the salon refined conversations. And some images about ideal of man´s and woman´s beauty were reflected also into the clothing. The morals were refined; especially the middle class, which was bearer of industrial and political progress, was civilized also thanks to these ideals. The men looked like over-refined courtiers and the women posed as fragile, melancholic ladies (fig. 1, 2).

In forming the contemporary ideal of woman also the being gaining strength townsman´s class partook which preferred a prototype of woman like obliging wife, of careful lady of house and mother. Then that is not a mondaine noblewoman which feels in society in Vienna and Paris in her element. The cult of domestic private welfare was distinctively connected with townsman´s class. Modesty and shyness became woman´s virtues. Female members of the middle and higher town class were transformed into shop window of her husband. It belonged to the duties of wife to demonstrate husband´s working or financial successes by clothes and jewels. It can be seen on many period sources that the women of the middle class learned really to be ⹂well” dressed and some of them did not have sense of extent, balance of accessories or decentness. At any cost, they need to show the most as possible from that what they owned (fig. 3).

Resurrection of cliché about woman´s beauty – subtle trunk

Return of subtle trunk was reached again by corset and visual contrast with voluminous sleeves. A falling silhouette of shoulders being reached by various tailor´s procedures and accessories, which started to wear in the twenties, intensified an impression of “defenceless” lady´s shoulders. Ephemeralness of woman was underlined also by material of dress: light silks were preferred and for summer clothes also cotton. Favourite flowers of varied kinds and shapes in very varicoloured compositions, living or silky ones, on hats. dresses, behind waist and in hands filled up woman´s romantic ideal.

In period from the end of the twenties up to the end of the forties clothing silhouettes of ladies were changed three times (fig. 4, 5, 6). The sleeves passed through most distinctive changes on the lady´s clothes. In spite of their modifications the waist remained constantly subtle; in the twenties it has been moderately raised but it dropped gradually into natural waist. Robustness of sleeves was reached by more procedures. Padding the sleeves with cotton was the most current way and the cotton was inserted between upper silky fabric and lining. The volume was created also by use of big quantity of yardage. The material itself helped: especially fabrics, which alone maintained an inflated balloon-shaped form. Also whalebones, various reinforcements and more padding were used which best held the shape of opulent sleeves.

Several underskirts created robust silhouette. In the forties when the skirt was started distinctively to enhance one of the underskirts was stitched-down with horse hairs. Also the known term for designation of voluminous petticoat – crinoline comes from here (from Fr. crin – horse hairs). In the twenties and thirties was unprecedentlessly shortened also the skirt length. Till then the skirts ground-long have been worn by the female aristocrats; this has been their privilege of estates unlike to townswomen who had skirts ankle-deep roughly.

The women in the Biedermeier period have worn hats and bonnets with liking. These ones reached large-dimension shapes and sometimes it could be hardly distinguish whether it concerns bonnet or hat. For the sake of fixation they were tied-up by ribbons underneath chin. The bonnets have been worn by married women of all social classes but not by single girls and misses. In this period the hats were worn with distinctively opened brim which has effectively framed the face of female bearer. They were manufactured of textiles and they used to be decorated similarly like bonnets with flowers, ribbons and laces. Historicizing influences were manifested at more mondaine ladies they were fond of turban-like covers of head. Also top hats being taken-over from man´s wardrobe were popular (fig. 7, 8, 9, 10).

Townsman became nobleman, nobleman became citizen

Men´s clothing from the Biedermeier period continued in gradual making itself civil. The men have worn not already decorative being woven-out fabrics and embroideries; only if on the waistcoats or ties or on the morning domestic overcoats. They ceased to wear wigs, shorts with coloured silky knee socks and they forgot about laces and ribbons. Well-fallen close-fitting suit suitably chosen according to the daily and social occasion became a symbol of men´s chicness. The emphasis was laid on carefully being chosen accessories to the suit: snow-white shirts with cuffs and high collar, complicatedly tied-up cravat, cuff buttons and watches on chain.     

The silhouette of men´s clothing despite incoming rationalization of men´s clothes acts still very in a womanly manner because it has been also formed into the letter X: suit coats and also topcoat had in upper part too much voluminous sleeves; wasp trunk was an ideal also for men and they were reaching it thanks to corsets. Bottom part of coats was spread into voluminous “skirt” shapes. Thereto all yet curled hairs on the whole head belonged. Ideal dandy still reminded a fine courtier (fig. 11).

The tailcoat was worn like suit coat which has been not only an evening suit but also daily one in this period. For daily occasions it was worn in multicoloured woollen fabrics and with trousers of paler colour. The tailcoat in dark plain-coloured tones presented the only admissible evening clothing. The redingote was a coat of daily type. For daily occasions also a shorter coat reaching roughly thigh-deep was worn. Difference between “men´s” fashion coat and a coat of working man was in length and the elegant fashion coats of this period have been still fitted-up to trunk and waist. Physically working social class and poorer inhabitants of towns worn coats similar to today´s men´s jacket (it was short only rump-deep and free in waist) (fig. 12).

The trousers were worn long and the daily trousers used to be broader than the evening ones. The hat was inevitability. The man without hat was not a gentleman. The top hat — hardened high hat – was worm. Also the top hat with spring has been already known – the opera hat which enabled the flatways folded-up top hat to blow out into high shape. The top hat was used day and night. More informal hats, which could be worn to clothes designated into the nature, have been soft and felted.  They were fond  by members of progressively holding-the- opinion intelligentsia and artists.

The men´s shoes reminded still subtle lady´s small light shoes. Subtle foot has been a standard not only for women but also for men. Man´s “pumps” had pointed shape and low heel. The fashionably getting dressed nobles have worn topcoats of pelerine type as top clothing which had wide volume for covering-up the mighty silhouette o men´s shoulders and chest. Except for classical pelerines – burnouses – also coats were worn thanks to big collars – reminding the pelerine – carricks. The scarf and gloves had to be accessories of the top coat (fig.13).