A January “New York Fashions” column in Harper’s Bazar, subtitled “Change of Styles,” carefully outlined changes between the fashions of 1870 and 1871:

“Although we have had no radical change of fashions within a year, the most casual observer must perceive a difference between the costumes of last winter and of the present. The dashing ‘girl of the period’ styles have passed away, and we have in their stead more quiet, refined dressing, suitable for dignified women, yet not too demure for the most youthful. In lieu of costumes made up of colors in violent contrast, we now have shades of one color pervading the suit; the Grecian-bend panier, with its unsightly puff, has given place to a modest tournure and graceful drapery; towering chignons of false hair are supplanted by natural braids that disclose the contour of the head; plump, healthy-looking waists are preferred to waspish ones; instead of skirts ankle short for promenading, we have more graceful ones just clearing the ground, while voluminous trains are discarded for the more sensible half-train; high, curved, French heels are positively outré, and the jaunty jockey hat, with its defiant aigrette, is gradually receding before the demure-looking gipsy bonnet. The last-mentioned change we regret somewhat, but we congratulate our readers on the tasteful, sensible, and lady-like ensemble that a fashionable dressed woman now presents. There is scarcely a target left at which critics can aim their arrows of malice.” (35)

This helpful summary notably makes no reference to the current state of affairs in France, where most French fashion magazines ceased to publish during the Franco-Prussian War, only resuming in April 1871, only to again be interrupted by the outbreak of the Paris Commune. When they finally returned, plates illustrating full mourning dress, rare before the war, were seen in French magazines and their allied publishers in other countries (Figs. 1-2).

Fashion journals in other countries that depended on Paris for fashion innovation and color plates improvised solutions and reported on what news there was. American periodical Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine reported in March 1871, for example: “The new color for winter is a rich shade of red, which, in spite of its repulsive name, sang de Prusse, promises to become very popular” (200). Sang de Prusse (Fig. 3) literally means “blood of the Prussian,” a frightful name, but an unsurprising one given the political circumstances and the tendency to name new colors after contemporary events–magenta takes its name from a bloody battle in Magenta, Italy, for example (Tétart-Vittu 272).

The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine

Fig. 1 - E. Preval (French). The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine, (1871): pl. 1014. Source: Pinterest

La Mode illustrée

Fig. 2 - Adèle-Anaïs Toudouze (French, 1822-1899). La Mode illustrée, no. 27 (January 8, 1871). Source: Bunka Gakuen Library


Fig. 3 - Artist unknown. Victoria, (February 1871). Source: Pinterest


Fig. 4 - Édouard Manet (French, 1832–1883). Repose, ca. 1871. Oil on canvas; 148 x 113 cm (59 1/8 x 44 7/8 in). Providence: Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 59.027. Bequest of Mrs. Edith Stuyvesant Vanderbilt Gerry. Source: RISD Museum

Mlle Fanshawe, Montréal, QC

Fig. 5 - William Notman (Scottish-Canadian, 1826-1891). Mlle Fanshawe, Montréal, QC, 1871. Albumen print; 17.8 x 12.7 cm. Montreal: Musée McCord, I-68103.1. Achat de l'Associated Screen News Ltd. Source: Musée McCord

Afternoon dress

Fig. 6 - Designer unknown (European). Afternoon dress, ca. 1871. Cotton; dimensions unknown. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, C.I.38.23.247a–d. Gift of Lee Simonson, 1938. Source: The Met

Mode di Parigi

Fig. 7 - A. Lacourieux? (French). Mode di Parigi, December 1871. Source: Pinterest

The British journal World of Fashion thought the war had improved fashion, writing in February 1871:

“In our opinion indeed, the taste in Fashion has been purer and more really elegant, than it would have been if some of the leaders of Parisian Fashion had reigned at the present time. There has been a cessation of that extreme extravagance, both in style and costliness, which has so often formed the subject of remark” (1).

World of Fashion was not afraid to give England the credit for this improvement, remarking that their French fashion plate artists—temporarily relocated to London—“since their arrival in England have acquired a purer taste, and we have no doubt that there will be a great reform, and that Fashion will now become all that can be desired” (1). Similar hopes for the renewal and reformation of fashion were also expressed in French fashion journals after the war.

This desire led to an attempt at simplicity in dress (Figs. 4-8) and a great deal of continuity with the prior year’s styles. Monochromatic styles were embraced and the overall silhouette continued to move towards a bustled profile with a modest train (Figs. 5-8). Given the disruption of the Paris Commune, which saw women take up arms in the streets of Paris, there was also a strong emphasis on domesticity and femininity in 1871 styles. Tablier, or apron-front, gowns became especially popular (Figs. 9-10), with Harper’s Bazar commenting in June: “Coquettish little aprons of various materials from Swiss muslin to black silk, now form part of afternoon costumes for the house… the whole tablier is so elaborately trimmed with ruffles, lace, and passementerie that it becomes an ornament for almost any dress” (371).

Carte de visite

Fig. 8 - Photographer unknown. Carte de visite, 1871. Source: Pinterest

Portrait of Baroness Paul von Derwies

Fig. 9 - Alexandre Cabanel (French, 1823-1889). Portrait of Baroness Paul von Derwies, 1871. Oil on canvas; 140 x 105 cm (55.12 x 41.34 in). Source: Athenaeum

Maria von Berg

Fig. 10 - Michele Gordigiani (Italian, 1835-1909). Maria von Berg, 1871. St. Petersburg: Hermitage. Source: Athenaeum

Magasin des Demoiselles

Fig. 11 - Isabelle Toudouze (French, 1850-1907). Magasin des Demoiselles, (September 10, 1871). Source: Pinterest

Miss Dolton, Montreal, QC

Fig. 12 - William Notman (Scottish-Canadian, 1826-1891). Miss Dolton, Montreal, QC, 1871. Albumen print; 17.8 x 12.7 cm. Montreal: Musée McCord, I-63890.1. Source: Musée McCord

Light purple silk fringed dress

Fig. 13 - Designer unknown. Light purple silk fringed dress, 1871. Bath: Fashion Museum. Source: Fashion Museum, Bath

Skirts with multiple flounces and trimmings of lace and fringe were frequently seen (Figs. 11-16). A September 1871 column in the British periodical Bow Bells notes an enthusiasm for bright colors and lace flounces: “Satins of the brightest hues, deeply trained and covered with flounced muslin or lace robes…” (139).

Jules Elie Delaunay’s 1871 Portrait of Madame Mestayer (Fig. 14) embodies many of the trends of the day in its restrained color palette—black, with only touches of pink—and yet emphasis on femininity—with bows, ruffles and lace as accents.  A dress with a similar neckline and restrained simplicity can be seen in Fig. 7.  This deft navigation of the fraught fashion landscape after the Franco-Prussian War and Paris Commune befits Mme Mestayer’s status as “wife of the president of the Nantes Museum board… [and] a close friend of Delaunay and [fashionable painter Auguste] Toulmouche and a cultivated woman whose salon was frequented the city’s intellectuals” (Sciama).

Portrait of Madame Mestayer

Fig. 14 - Jules Elie Delaunay (French, 1828-1891). Portrait of Madame Mestayer, 1871. Oil on canvas; 78 x 64 cm. Inv. 2270. Mestayer Bequest, 1940. Source: Jules Elie Delaunay


Fig. 15 - Collection Geszler. 1871. Published 1898. Source: Pinterest

The Young Ladies' Journal

Fig. 16 - Héloïse Colin (French, 1819-1873). The Young Ladies' Journal, no. 92 (September 1, 1871). Source: Pinterest


[To come…]

Jeantaud, Linet and Laine

Fig. 1 - Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917). Jeantaud, Linet and Laine, 1871. Oil on canvas; 38 × 46 cm. Paris: Musée d'Orsay, RF 2825. Source: Wikimedia

Le groupe de D. J. Edwards, Montréal, QC

Fig. 2 - William Notman (Scottish-Canadian, 1826-1891). Le groupe de D. J. Edwards, Montréal, QC, 1871. Albumen print; . Montreal: Musée McCord, I-62715.1. Source: Musée McCord

Gentleman's Magazine of Fashion

Fig. 3 - Artist unknown. Gentleman's Magazine of Fashion, vol. 23, no. 265 (January 1871): pl. 2. Source: Google Books

Gazette of Fashion

Fig. 4 - Artist unknown. Gazette of Fashion, vol. 26, no. 308 (December 1, 1871). Source: Google Books

Double-breasted frock coat

Fig. 5 - Maker unknown (Irish). Double-breasted frock coat, 1871. Fine wool; 97 cm chest, Length: 88 cm overall. London: Victoria & Albert Museum, T.47-1947. Given by Mr A. W. Furlong. Source: V&A


Concepción Serrano, later Countess of Santovenia

Fig. 1 - Eduardo Rosales Gallinas (Spanish, 1836-1873). Concepción Serrano, later Countess of Santovenia, 1871. Oil on canvas; 163 x 106 cm. Madrid: Museo del Prado, P06711. Source: Prado


Fig. 2 - Dallinger, Modes, Richmond (British). Dress, ca. 1871. Silk, cotton; dimensions unknown. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1983.93.3a–c. Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Trust Gift, 1983. Source: The Met

Carte de visite

Fig. 3 - Photographer unknown (German). Carte de visite, ca. 1871. Source: Pinterest

Moniteur de la mode

Fig. 4 - A. Bodin? (French). Moniteur de la mode, (August 1871): pl. 1005. Source: Google Books


Historical Context

Wikipedia: 1871

Treaty of Frankfurt, 1871. Source: Omniatlas

  • 1870-71 – Prussians besiege Paris
    • “During the siege of Paris, many designers, including Worth and Madame Maugas, organize ambulances for the men protecting the city. Department stores remain open, but some, like Les Grands Magasins du Louvre (located on the Rue de Rivoli) and Pygmalion (on the rue Saint-Denis) are damaged by fires.” (IFM 274)
    • “Prussia defeats France in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71), instigated by Chancellor Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898) with the aim of a unified Germany. Bismarck triumphs, and William I, king of Prussia (r. 1861–88), is crowned emperor of Germany (r. 1871–88) in the same year. As a result of the war, Germany gains the greater part of former French territories Alsace and Lorraine.” (The MET)
  • March 26 – The Paris Commune is formally established in Paris.
  • May 30 – French Third Republic: Government suppression of the Paris Commune rebellion is completed.

Timeline Entries

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Primary/Period Sources

NYC-Area Special Collections of Fashion Periodicals/Plates
In English
Bow Bells (London: 1862-87)

Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine (London: 1852-79)

  • 1871 – FIT Special Collections (TT500 .E6)
Frank Leslie’s Ladies Magazine (New York: 1852-1922)
Godey’s Lady’s Book & Magazine (Philadelphia: 1830-1898)
Harper’s Bazar (New York: 1867-present)
Peterson’s Magazine (Philadelphia: 1842–1898)
World of Fashion: A Journal of the Courts of London and Paris (London: 1852-79)
  • 1871 – Google Books
In French
Journal des demoiselles (Paris: 1833-1922)
La Mode illustrée: journal de la famille (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1860-1937)
Les Modes parisiennes: dessins des modes élégantes (Paris: 1843-1896)

Le Moniteur de la mode: journal du grand monde ; modes, illustrations, patrons, littératures, beaux-arts, théâtres (Paris: Goubaud, 1843-1905[?])

In German
Der Bazar : illustrirte Damen-Zeitung (Berlin: 1855-1937[?])

Victoria (Berlin: Victoria-Verl., 1851-1879)

[More to come… Have a primary source to suggest? Contact us!]

Gazette of fashion, and cutting-room companion (London: 1846-1940)

  • 1871 – Google Books

The Gentleman’s Magazine of Fashion (London: 1848-79)

  • 1871 – Google Books

[More to come… Have a primary source to suggest? Contact us!]

Secondary Sources

Also see the 19th century overview page for more research sources… or browse our Zotero library.