Viennese Couple, 1830s
by Franz Eybl
The lady's dress shows a gradual mode away from the high-waisted empire style, towards what in the German-speaking countries would be called Biedermeier.
The waist lower, but still relatively high and emphasised with a wide belt; the neckline higher but not all the way up. As if to balance that, the shoulder line has dropped. Portraits of the Biedermeier era depict more ladies with very sloping shoulders than genetically probable, while fashion plates show us more steeply sloping shoulders and longer necks than anatomically possible.
This lady is unusual in that her shoulders are quite normal, i.e. visibly angular, so the dress has to sit lower than seen in most pictures, on the upper arm rather than on the shoulder. The impression of sloping shoulders that seem to turn into arms without an intervening angle is supported by huge sleeves.
The skirt would form a steep A line, between late Regency skirts and the upcoming crinoline, but as yet without any skirt support. The typical hairstyle is parted in the middle, apparently with the help of a ruler, and pulled to the back, leaving a few strands to cover the ears with cork-screw curls. In back, a knot is formed that often sticks up above the head.
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