Just like the changing fashions, things don’t stay the same for long at the Vigo County History Museum. The Victorian Women’s Fashion exhibit is now closed to make way for an upcoming display of historic quilting. If you missed your chance to see the exquisite gowns and accessories, this week’s Historical Treasure presents itself as an encore.
The pouter pigeon Edwardian Era dress was donated to the museum in 1975. The highest importance of the desired style made popular from 1900 to 1910, was all about the wearer’s silhouette. This style gown was worn everyday as well as designed for wedding dresses and younger girls, yet was mostly worn by middle-class women. Named after a type of fancy pigeon, the “English Pouter pigeon,” the blouse resembles the puffed high chest of the bird. A mature beauty figure was coming into fashion with curves, small waist, and delicate features. But, there is more to this story than meets the eye, because an important part of the dress’s history lies in what was worn underneath it.
A woman had to wear certain undergarments to get the look right. Women wearing this style wanted a full bust creating a mono-bosom, in addition their hips were pushed backward resembling an “S,” an effect created by the Health or “S-Bend” Corset. The corset was described as helping reduce diaphragm and stomach pressure. The final look was often called the “kangaroo stance.”
The blouse sometimes had a high lacy collar drawing attention to the neck. Gone were the big puffy sleeves from the Victorian Era. Now, sleeves were fitted or even a bit droopy and fuller near the elbow. The skirt, resembled a trumpet. It had a tighter waist with a flare as it reached the hem. Most were floor-length or might’ve even had a small train.
Two-piece dresses of a blouse and skirt were popular during this era, including some pouter pigeon dresses. The blouse was tucked into the skirt showing off the women’s waistline. Press fasteners were added to help connect the skirt and blouse. The soft, flowing fabrics used, light cotton, silks, satin and chiffon with trim such as taffeta, emphasized the feminine style. The sleeves were a delicate handmade lace often with fine detail of pleats, bows, ruffles and frills. Blouses and skirts were sometimes embellished with big ribbon ties and velvet, beading and rhinestones.
Changing times brought big changes to women’s clothing. With the coming of World War I, many of these fashions were seen as too extravagant for times of such suffering. Practicality overruled the elaborate and so began the demand for less restrictive, and functional designs.
The Vigo County Historical Society Museum is now open. With appropriate sanitizing, social distancing, and face masks we encourage you to come enjoy a safe atmosphere to learn about Vigo County history. Memberships are available at www.vchsmuseum.org.