The 1880s in Fashionable Gowns: A Visual Guide to the Decade

Mimi Matthews

(Individual Images via Met Museum and MFA Boston) (Individual Images via Met Museum and MFA Boston)

The 1880s ushered in an era of tailored, close-fitting gowns, some of which were almost masculine in appearance.  These gowns exemplified women’s changing roles in society.  No longer content to be flounced, ruffled, and beribboned drawing room ornaments, 1880s ladies were engaged in outdoor pursuits.  Some had jobs, some participated in sports, and many were involved in the ongoing fight for women’s suffrage.  This was the decade of Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper, the Rational Dress Reform Movement, and the ready-made gown.  This was also the decade when black evening dresses became fashionable–and not just for those in mourning.

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