1889 women’s fashion takes a modern twist

Apr 16, 2023

In 1889, women’s fashion was all about a tight waist, ruffles, buttons and bows. Four UMass Dartmouth fashion students showcased these trends with a modern athleisure twist.

Dartmouth Cultural Center partnered with Sydney Hawes, professor of Fashion Design at UMass Dartmouth, to have students create a modern athletic outfit inspired by 1889 fashion, the year the Cultural Center building was constructed.

“I think there's a lot of interesting correlation,'' said Hawes. “I talked a lot about the Kardashians and the idea of the tiny waist and big hips and the corsets.”

Sadie Keefe, a sophomore fashion design student, created a romper that incorporated the 1880s through the use of bows, ruffles and lace.

“Obviously it’s not extremely sporty, but it’s loose fitting [and] comfortable so, I more got my inspiration from the 1880s in the details,” said Keefe. “All of it could be worn modern now. Like I’ve seen a lot of things like bows coming back and the ruffles.”

Keefe was not the only student who took their looks in a one-piece direction. Layla Montina, a sophomore fashion design student, created a jumpsuit inspired by the fabric gatherings on the back of dresses as was common in the 1880s. She used this technique to create a comparable silhouette to 1889 dresses in an outfit fit for working out.

She did admit “it was pretty difficult to combine the two [eras].”

Mandy Kaipainen, a sophomore fashion design student, created a look she imagines could be worn to play tennis. She created a pair of shorts that flared out, creating a similar line to a long skirt that would be typical of an 1889 tennis match.

“I took a lot of inspiration from both the looseness of…a button-down shirt while also trying to keep it sporty and able to run around in, which gave it a tennis kind of vibe,” said Kaipainen.

Chris Rodriguez, a sophomore fashion design student, said he first thought about the athletic side then added the 1880s.

“It took me a long time to sit down and design each look because I like things a certain way, so I took my time with each one, trying to see what I like and try to incorporate the 1880s with it,” said Rodriguez.

All of the students had a week to work on their looks before it would be presented. Students made the most of the time and created looks that inspired onlookers, like 9-year-old Vivian Theobald who came with her sketchbook and pencils ready to be inspired.

“I thought it was very interesting and very new. And I thought it was breathtaking and I loved [Montina’s] outfit because I loved the droops. It also kind of reminds me of the ocean, and it reminds me of some of my favorite things,” said Theobald.

Representatives from the Dartmouth Cultural Center said they are excited to do more work with UMass Dartmouth students with the hope more young people will find out about the opportunities the center offers to draw them in.

UMass Dartmouth will hold its annual Light + Fashion runway show, where all of the 1889-inspired looks and others will be modeled, on April 22 at 6:30 p.m. in the main campus auditorium in the MacLean Campus Center. Admission is $10 and tickets can be purchased at the door.