I’ll be the first to admit that anything older than 1915 is pretty much a mystery to me. Even so, I’m fully aware of the debt that modern dressing owes to the efforts of those far-sighted individuals of the 19th century that worked to “reform” women’s dress. I was happy last week when Susan Grote introduced me to the work of Annie Jenness-Miller. To quote Susan:
“Annie Jenness Miller (b. 1859) was a leader in the American Dress Reform Movement and the Aesthetic Dress Movement in the late 1800s. An author and platform speaker, she advocated exercise for women, less restrictive clothing, and education and careers for women, among other radical ideas, while trying to incorporate aesthetically pleasing designs in her reform dress clothing. In addition to her books & lectures, she published Dress Magazine, which was briefly called The Jenness-Miller Magazine Dress, and then simply The Jenness-Miller Magazine. Jenness-Miller also began selling patterns for her aesthetic / reform dresses and underwear for women and girls.”
All the illustrations here are from 1888 and 1890 copies of the magazine. Susan has a bound volume of the issues for sale now on ebay. She has shared a few items of interest that I’m sure you will enjoy. All the illustrations click to enlarge.
How many women in 1890 do you suppose were employed as geologists, or even had rock collecting as a hobby? In Annie Jenness-Miller’s world, healthier clothing led to one’s horizons being expanded.
“The business worker finds in her bicycle ride, to and from her place of occupation, opportunity for exercise which calls into play every muscle, and which refreshes every nerve and fibre of her being. Her bicycle gown, if it is a Jenness-Miller one, allows freedom to every movement, and she rides as easily and with as much absence of consciousness regarding her style of dress as any man upon his iron steed.” – April, 1890.
Jenness-Miller was also concerned about healthy clothing for children. In an article called “What the Little Folks Should Wear” she wrote, “A child should be dressed from the moment of its birth with reference to its physical needs….[in] garments … which restrict as little as possible the growing body…. Yet a little maiden of eight years was recently heard complaining that she could not get down on the floor to play, her corset was so tight.”
Annie Jenness-Miller advocated the wearing of a union suit for underwear. She explained that the union suit would keep a woman warm and permit her to wear fewer garments overall.
Jenness-Miller was a dress reformer, but she did not completely reject fashion. In this dress from 1890 you can see how the effect of a bustle is created through folded and draped fabric. And while she advocated the demise of the corset, she did devise an under-bodice that was lightly boned to maintain a more fashionable shape.
The Isa dress from 1890 was appropriate for tennis with the looser bodice and shaped sleeves.
To see more of the illustrations, check out the ebay listing. And many thanks to Susan for sharing this great magazine.