Tag Archives: nineteenth century fashion

Fashion Moments – Cuirasse Bodice

Fashion Moments by Deborah SweeneyWelcome to my weekly fashion blog post. Each week I will discuss a female garment, fashion trend or influencer from the age of photography (1840s through the 20th century). My goal is to educate family researchers and genealogists about the clothing worn by our ancestors. Dating photographs is an issue we all struggle with as family archivists. Additionally, anyone who writes about their family’s history should be aware of the environment in which their ancestors lived. Period clothing is an important part of that environment from how it affects a person’s movement to their overall lifestyle. This week I introduce you to the Cuirasse bodice. (I mentioned this style briefly in my bustle post.)

Cuirasse Bodice

The cuirasse bodice came into fashion in the mid 1870s and continued into the early 1880s. The bodice takes its name from the cuirass, a piece of close fitting defensive armor worn over the torso or chest. The resulting nineteenth century garment was tightly fitted and required corsets and additional boning to create the effect. A defining characteristic of the bodice is its extension below the natural waistline, often over the hips and sometimes even lower. Because the hips were so fitted, skirts were forced to became narrower (in contrast to the wider bustles and hoops earlier in the decade). In fact, the bustle almost entirely disappeared during the years 1875-1883, with extensive drapery coming to the forefront of fashion.  It was during this period that the longer “princess” seam came into prominence.


Further Reading

Google Books has limited viewing of Alison Gernsheim’s Victorian and Edwardian Fashion: A Photographic Survey. There are several great examples of cuirasse bodices. See particularly plates 109,  121, 123, 126, 127, and 129.

Newspaper article “The Cuirasse Bodice” from the Otago Witness (Otago, New Zealand), 26 December 1874, p. 21, from the Papers Past website, the National Library of New Zealand.

Good overview of the fashion changes from 1870-1883, from the History of Fashion and Dress, by Susan Jarrett, M.ED.


Wedding dress, 1879 (Brown silk with gold accents), Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accession number: 2009.300.3017

Afternoon ensemble, 1878-1882 (Grey silk with fringe trim), Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accession number: 2009.300.87a–c

Dress, 1878-1879 (Cream silk with asymmetrical drape), The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accession number: C.I.45.38.1a, b

Digital Collection, Thomas J. Watson Library, Metropolitan Museum of Art. Women 1879, plates 073, 020, 036

©2015 Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/09/20/fashion-moments-cuirasse-bodice/