The 1880s brought the return to the bustle. The knees had been freed by this time, and the trains for day disappeared for easier walking, but the weight of the costumes and the structures needed to support the huge rear extension added little to increase mobility. In the 1880s, many of the fabrics were upholstery-like, made even heavier with beading, fringes, braids, and furs. Some dresses alone weighed over ten pounds. Yet it was during this period women pushed further into the area of sports, invading some that had wholly been the domain of men, such as yachting and fencing.
In 1887 a number of ladies who had witnessed the grace and dexterity of their male friends thought they also would benefit by such exercise. In fencing, the ladies wore an ordinary tennis skirt, reproduced here in white wool and pleated at the waist. No corset was worn, which was quite a departure from the norm. Drawings in Harper's Bazaar for 1889 indicate how deforming the corsets were. Fashion dictated a 16-inch waist. Some women had their floating ribs surgically removed to achieve this.
An easy fitting blouse and jersey were worn over the skirt. Here we see a nautical flavor with a blue and white striped jersey, white blouse and red silk tie. The purpose of the sash has not yet been determined but all the ladies pictured were wearing them. Flat soled shoes and an antique rapier complete the picture. A wire mask protected the face, a padded buckskin plastron was worn over the chest and a buckskin gauntlet saved the hand from any chance scratches or thrusts.
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