Anatomy of an 1880s Taille


The dating of this item is very difficult, as is identifying its use. The corset line and standing collar clearly place it in the late 19th century, but apart from that, it's a job of eliminating the improbable. The slight "tail" suggests the bustle era, but there wouldn't have been enough room for a large bustle. That leaves the late 1860s/early 1870s and the early 1880s. Both are possible, but knowing my luck it can't be the earlier period...

As for the use, the short sleeves and jett bead ornaments suggest a soiree or evening taille. But those were usually made with a décolleté, not with a standing collar. A couple of features suggest a later alteration and heavy use, so maybe this is a late 1860s day taille which was made into an evening garment in the 1890s, when jett beads appear to have been particularly popular. It's certain that it was, in the present short-sleeved shape, not used as a day garment.


Left side, taken apart
Right side, whole
The fabric is black ribbed silk with narrow satin stripes 2mm wide and 7mm apart. The two back side parts are made of black ribbed fabric without stripes, rectangular, 7.5 cm wide and with selvedges on both sides, i.e. ribbon material. This is the most important hint at a later alteration. There is no lining or boning, but along the lower armscythe and collar scraps of taffeta remain, as well as thick thread along the seams as was used to fix boning. Both have probably been taken out in course of the alteration.

Detail of sleeve
The most interesting part are the sleeves. They consist of semi-circles of a grid-woven fabric over and over embroidered with jett beads. The material has in many places given under the weight of the pearls and ripped. Many beads have fallen off, but it seems that they formed blossoms arranged in stripes running down from the shoulder. The lower sleeve edges carry 7cm long bead fringes ending in loops and have been reinforced with black linen. The sleeves have only been fixed at the back, over the shoulder and in front, but not under the arm.

Collar, inner side
The collar is closed in front with a hook hidden under a "brooch". The brooch is bone-shaped, made of stiff material covered in atlas silk and embroidered with jett beads. It may be a later addition. The foundation of the collar is made of a third black ribbed fabric with a dot-and-rope (?) design in satin on top of stiff linen. Set onto that is black lace with the "nice", zig-zagged edge facing upwards, forming fourfold pleats to either side of the centre back, where the zigs and zags stick out over the collar edge more than in front. On top of the lace sits a ribbon made of a fourth black ribbed fabric with narrow satin edges. In the CB, the lace is turned down over it and fixed with a few stitches. The collar is lined with black taffeta, possibly all that remains from the original lining.

The seams of the breast darts had obviously given in to strain and covered in criss-crossing machine stitches to hide and reinforce the gaps. The left front part has been repaired twice more where the fabric has ripped horizontally and been loosely herringboned closed. This has obviously been a valued garment, else it wouldn't have been altered and repaired so much. Lace is sewn to the right front edge from the collar to breast level.

The hem of the taille is decorated with lace of the same zig-zag design as on the collar. It goes down 10cm from the centre front to follow the front tips and is slightly gathered every 2-5cm, more towards the CB. It wanders up the CB where it is gathered more, then back down.

Front edge detail
Hem and front edges are reinforced with interlining. The centre front closes with hooks and eyes. In some places, pieces of the lining remain. It must have sat on top of the hooks/eyes.

Flower ornament
Ornament and brooch
The back side seams, where the original fabric meets the back side parts made of non-striped fabric, are not quite hidden under flower ornaments of jett beads set onto very thick thread. They look as though they have been bought ready-made for sewing on to compliment the bead-covered sleeves.


waist 75 cm
breast 92-96 cm
hip 108 cm
shoulder width 10 cm
back width 31 cm
neck->waist 34 cm
shoulder->breast 18 cm

Established 13/4/99



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