Winter Catalogue 1891 from Deutsch & Company of New York heralded exciting changes in women’s fashion. With eyes to a new century, the company catered to the independent New Woman’s active life style. While this Deutsch line was expensive, this Winter Catalogue 1891 undoubtedly influenced the look of affordable clothing for the masses.
A Fashionable Note: The “New Woman” Defined Trends
By the last decade of the 19th century, the fashionable female silhouette was transformed into a sleek hourglass. For the most part, the ornate decoration of the earlier Victorian Era was toned down or eliminated. Big bustles worn by Queen Victoria were minimized. The aging queen was no longer a fashion trendsetter.
The concept of “rational dress” for female athletes remained fertile ground for debate in all sports including tennis. Cyclists were still fighting for the right to wear bloomers. They were warned about getting the dreaded “bicycle face” if they overexerted themselves. By the 1890s, it was the bicycles that finally did more to liberate the “New Woman” than anything else according to Susan B. Anthony.
Women were gaining mobility, physical strength and redefining conventional notions of femininity. The literacy rate among women was rising. Intelligent ladies magazines like Godey’s were read by millions of women. Female artists like Mary Cassatt illuminated the transformation of women into independent beings.
Fashion trends reflected all of these dynamic changes. Fashion became less restrictive, allowing freedom of movement. But as you can see in these plates, exquisite design was not sacrificed.
The Original Deutsch & Co. Winter Catalogue 1891
This catalogue was published by Forgotten Books, which publishes reproductions of rare and classic books. Because The Deutsch Catalogue is considered an important historical work, they digitally preserved the original format. Some imperfections were repaired.
Browsing through the pages from Deutsch & Co. of Fifth Ave, 22nd St. New York feels like a journey in a time machine.
Elegant coats and capes took center stage. Large shoulders and sleeves created the sought-after hourglass figure. They were full-length or fell to hip. High collars or ruffles covered the neck. Velvet or plush fabrics might be trimmed with fur, beading or embroidery.
Basic information lays out the terms of orders:
“Time required to fill orders: 10 to 30 days. Extra charge per inch for longer garments in Seal. Allowance at same rate for shorter length. Garments varying from regular Sizes, made to special measurement, cost 10 cents extra.”
“When Ordering Please Mention Style Number, Description, Bust Measure and Price NOTICE.— CHINA SEAL is A new fur, a perfect counterpart of ALASKA SEAL at a cost of about ONE-THIRD of ALASKA.”
Seal Skin was fashionable.
Victorian Secret: While many antique garments made from sealskin can still be found, it is illegal to buy or sell them, unless you are Inuit and it is an Inuit cultural item.
“DESCRIPTION Cape, Alaska Seal …. Same as above Cape, Alaska Sable …. Same as above . . . . . Cape, Beaver …..’. Same as above Cape, Monkey, China Seal or Astrachan Collar …. Same as above Cape, Black Opossum . . . Same as above Cape, Nutria Beaver . . . Same as above Cape, White Tibet ” Mongolian Sheep ” Same as above Cape, Royal Ermine . . . Same as above Cape, Wlite Iceland Lamb . Same as above Cape, Sable Same as above.”
Furs and skins of animals that few people would consider wearing in today’s world were in vogue.
“MUFFS Russian Hare French Coney Black …. French Coney Brown …. South American Seal …. China Seal Black Opossum Black Raccoon Natural Raccoon Astrachan Gray Krimmer Natural Lynx Black Lynx Black Fox Alaska Sable Colored Huron Bay Otter . . Alaska Seal Nutia Beaver Beaver Persian Lamb Mink Monkey White Tibet ” Mongolian Sheep Iceland Lamb Sable Wool Seal Natural Opossum.”
A Word About Hats In the Winter Catalogue 1891
These Deutsch & Co. hats are smaller affairs, featuring less feathers than earlier years. For the most part, they were small-brimmed or brimless with face veils. Piles of ruffles, lace and netting could rise high above the crown. Artificial flowers grew more popular. Fake feathers were beginning to replace real ones.
"HATS Fine French Felt Hat, trimmed in Persian and Feathers ...... price $18.00 Velvet Hat, Persian. trimmed, and Aigrettes ........ " $22.00 Velvet Hat trimmed in Mink and Violets .......... " $23.00"
By the late 1800s, the plume trade had decimated several species of birds including flamingos, birds of paradise and roseate spoonbills. Topping the endangered list were snowy and great egrets. At one point their pure white feathers were worth more than gold. Hunters decimated rookeries because feathers are most resplendent during mating season. They often skinned parents and left babies in nests to die.
But the backlash against the slaughter of birds escalated. Many women were at the forefront of the nascent conservation groups and promotional efforts to change social attitudes. Thankfully, hat designs began to respond to these changes. The Winter Catalogue 1891 offers many alternatives to the extravagant feathered hats from previous decades.
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