From “Fashion: A Timeline in Photographs, 1850 to Today” by Caroline Rennolds Milbank (Rizzoli New York)
The 1890s would see most of the attention focused on the head and shoulders. Fairly simple skirts (little “dress improver” will be needed) with a smooth appearance, and flaring as the decade progresses, are in contrast to bodices with gigot sleeves, bertha collars, wide revers, and high collars worn with plateau hats with upright aigrettes (called “panaches”) and ribbon bows. A plain, masculine shirtwaist or an ornate bodice worn with a plain and usually dark skirt both become popular.
The allure of perfectly tailored clothes was at its most pronounced in the riding habit, amusingly described by Winston Churchill reminiscing about his mother: “My picture of her in Ireland is in a riding habit, fitting like a skin and often beautifully spotted with mud.” Although still made exclusively with side-saddle skirts, habits riffed on every possible form of male attire. One shown here is worn with a leather vest and a bowler instead of a top hat—a look that would gain further acceptance the following year when worn onstage by Lily Langtry, while another habit is worn with the wing-collared shirts and black associated worn with a dinner jacket. The best tailored clothes for women, as was true for men, were considered to emanate from England.