THE "GIBSON" GIRL



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"Gibson girl" is an expression that came into use around 1890-1900. Illustrator Charles Dana Gibson were known for his charming drawings of ladies engaged in sports, wearing almost semi-boyish outfits and/or a movement-friendly skirt and blouse. His "Gibson girls" created an impression of natural style and freshness. This costume is even more boyish than a true Gibson girl, and the most common name for it backstage is "Tyrolean".

There are some striking similarities to an outfit seen on a cigar box lid illustration from the 1890s (photo 2). The combination of tights, short trousers and a tailored jacket with puffed sleeves and large lapels is quite striking. The biggest difference is that the cigar box illustration shows the woman wearing a waistcoat and shirt in the style of a man, as well as blue tights - the illustration is a tongue-in-cheek comment on the growing feminism and the "bluestockings" - while the Phantom of the Opera costume has a bodice-like waistcoat, with a necklace instead of a bowtie.

They boyish costume is worn by one of the female dancers, and consists of a stripy red and white waistcoat under a blue jacket with yellow lining and red decorations. The shorts are yellow with blue trims, with openings at the side, and stripy blue/yellow tights and black higheeled boots completes the look. A tilted straw hat is also worn, as well as a halfmask.

Quote from James Laver's 1969 book "Modesty in dress":
"...the main purpose of the bals was, of course, dancing, and this was conducted in ordinary dress or in such an approach to evening dress as the patrons could afford. Fancy dress seems to have been an exception, and certainly none of the bals publics could compete with the masked balls at the Opéra. (...) Many of the women were dressed in masculine costume, the tight trousers setting off to advantage the rounded forms of the petit femme.

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