Friday, August 3, 2012

The Dolly Varden Gown - 1902

These are showing a revival of the Dolly Varden dress, a style that is named after the character in Charles Dicken's book Barnaby Rudge. These dresses were popular in the 1870's. There was quite a fad, the name shows up in songs, on stage and there is even a trout we still call a Dolly Varden.
Since this is from The Ladies' Home Journal dated 1902, these gowns were a look back. It's too bad these aren't in color since "The term Dolly Varden in dress is generally understood to mean a brightly patterned, usually flowered, dress with a polonaise overskirt gathered up and draped over a separate underskirt.".
These are designed by a Mrs. Ralston and illustrated by Thomas Mitchell Peirce, the same artist who did the bride on the cover.


  1. I love these 1902 styles, inspired by the 1870's who re-interpreted the 1780's. How funny is that--yet a few bits from the original Shepherdess style remained: like the chintz fabric, gauzy neckline fichu, sleeve ruffles, big straw hat and polonaise drapery. Have we seen this revival in recent decades? It all seems a bit like the 1980's to me!

  2. Well, I remember the romantic era in the seventies, it sure wasn't a Dolly Varden revival, but there was a lot of lace, gauzy fabrics and ruffles. But then we had the whole Laura Ashley era. Who knows what's next?

  3. Love these! Thank you!!

  4. So true Jen - very 1980s. Everything comes back eventually, haha!
    Thanks for this post - I had no idea about the Dickens connection. My mother always used the term to describe a doll, either of the toilet-roll-holder or ice-cream-cake variety! In either case, they involved voluminous skirts. You've inspired me to research further.