formal dress for upper- and middle-class Englishmen and women in the 1870s


The 1870s were a period of change and complexity in women's fashion (Nunn, ). Between 1865 and 1870 the enormously popular crinoline fell from high fashion, and for a short period relative simplicity was the key. As we see here, the large bustle, so obvious in some of Du Maurier's illustrations of the mid-70s, went out of fashion before returning in the mid-80s.

The woman depicted here wears "a princess sheath dress or polonaise," a fairly tight-fitting, long-waisted dress with "bodice and skirt cut in one (popular between 1878 and 1880). . . associated with the Princess of Wales, later Queen Alexandra." Simple as the dress appears in front, it has a long, intricate train -- even for daytime wear.

Men's Jackets

A form of the single-breasted lounging (or lounge) jacket known as the Albert. More than a decade earlier (in the '60s) the the modern men's suit -- or lounge suit, as it is known in Great Britain -- first became popular when jacket, trousers, and waistcoat appeared in the same fabric.

Men's Trousers

Throughout the 1870s tubular trousers "were at equal length at knee and ankle" (142).

Left: Sherlock Holmes wears a lounge suit in Sidney Paget's illustrations of A. Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories that appeared in the 1901-02 Strand Magazine. Right two: The men wear lounge suits in checked fabric. [Click on these images for larger pictures.]

Men's Footwear

Short ankle-length boots with either elastic sides or laces.

Men's headwear

Low top hat.

Source of image at top: Detail from "You Will Please To Deliver Them Into No Hands But His Own," by George Du Maurier for Hardy's A Laodiceanthe February 1880 Harper's New Monthly Magazine.


Nunn, Joan. Fashion in Costume, 1200-2000. 2nd edition. Chicago: New Amsterdam Books, 2000.

Last modified 11 June 2001