The garments worn by western women have varied considerably in terms of materials, shapes and colours over the centuries. They have, however, always consisted of a top and bottom part. In the 19th century women's styles of formal dressing changed many times, and often imitated older styles, such as antiquity and rococo. Women's dress sometimes aimed for a hourglass-shaped body, sometimes for a swan-like style.
The crinoline dress was in fashion for a short period in the mid-19th century. A cupola-like skirt that extended down to ankles was supported by a frame of metal hoops, the so-called crinoline petticoat. A corset was worn under a snug bodice, and sleeves were frill-like. The dress was used to achieve very slim waistline. The crinoline dress was soon superseded by the bustle dress. A corset that pushed up the breasts and made the stomach rounder was worn under the dress. Under the skirt above the buttocks was a bustle made of metal hoops and a pad that puffed out the rear part of the skirt. It gave the body a rather special shape that accented the waist and the rear. The bustle dress was also very snug, because the ideal that prevailed for most of the 19th century was slim and slender.
The first forms of the men's suit did not appear until the late 17th century, when the British upper class adopted a three-part attire consisting of pants, vest and jacket. All three parts of the new attire were usually made of the same fabric. In the 19th century the men's suit was updated a few times. One of the variants was the bonjour suit, a knee-length, almost invariably double-breasted jacket with waist seam and silk lapels. It was usually worn with striped or chequered long pants and a double-breasted vest. The bonjour suit and other men's suits invented in the 19th century are still made and used today.
A women's crinoline summer dress
A girl's dress
A woman's bustle dress
1890s (with the back facing out at the rear of the showcase)
A black silk and satin bustle dress made by a dressmaker in Oulu.
A man's bonjour suit
1880s/1890s (with the back facing out at the rear of the showcase)
This dress was made by a tailor's shop in Oulu.