When we start out in costuming for a particular era, we think in centuries – the 18th century, the 19th century – and quickly move into thirds. What were fashions like at the beginning, the middle, or the end? Then, as we learn obsess more, we define the decades separately from each other, and finally – if you’re a particular kind of nerd like Abby Cox – your resolution is as fine as years and sometimes even season or months within a year. When you’ve whittled it down to decades or years, you start to notice particular trends in fashion that are lost in the wider view of a period.
One of these trends has recently piqued my interest. I call it, them, Flippy Flappies – bodices with tabs at the waist, popular for the second half of the 1780s (possibly earlier) to at least 1790 (possibly later). That’s a pretty narrow few years, but during this time, Flippy Flappies were all the rage.
Patrick Berria “Zone Gown” – link is dead. This is a great example of a late 1780s Flippy Flappy bodice with an underbodice.
The underbodice from the Patrick Berria gown (dead link).
I first noticed the Flippy Flappies on the Mademoiselle Guimard portrait, 1790, that I’ve been studying so closely for my Costume College ensemble, as well as on the famous, delicious pink and white striped Italian Gown in The Met (C.I.66.39a, b). Then I began to see them more often:
Detail of the portrait of Guimard by Greuze, 1790, LACMA – you can see the tabbed bodice and an overlap at the front “point.” that falls open with the lapels at the neckline. The white beneath is the underbodice.
Cabinet des Modes – November 1786 – great example of a Robe a la Turque with a cutaway gown and flippy-floppy underbodice.
Portrait of Madame de Serres by Joseph Boze, 1787.
A ridiculously amazing gown from Villa Rosemaine, 1780s – these flippy floppies are pinked, but still lined with linen squares beneath.
I have yet to discover any particular cause or reason for the trend. There may be none more than just fashion for fashion’s sake, but quite often short-lived trends flare up from contemporary politic events, regional interests, or the whims or conditions of royalty. It would be interesting to cross-reference what was going on in Europe at the time that may have spawned this “Harlem Shake” of bodice design.
Dressed in Time’s Flippy Flappy late 80s bodice at Costume College 2017 – so cleanly finished!
The Flippy Flappy bodice seem to often be what we call “zone fronts,” with the cutaway look, but not always. Some of the FF’s are hemmed, bound, and some pinked (cool!). I hemmed mine and it was a pain-in-the-tookus, and in seeing Dressed in Time’s recent exploration into this style I much prefer her method of binding those tricky raw edges.
I look forward to sharing all the trials and tribulations of my own Flippy Flappy gown, which I shall share with you in future, detailed posts – but I would like to explore the 1780s and early 1790s more in the future. It was a bit of an “anything goes,” wacky few years with potential for much creativity and expression.
My own Flippy Flappy bodice in progress – what a pain those tabs are! Next time I will pink them like in the Villa Rosemaine gown!