The emperor and empress encouraged the adoption of western clothing and customs as part of modernizing Japan and breaking from centuries-old feudal customs.
It was a tough period for Japan and you can read a little more about what it meant to Japanese women at the source where I found these images: Lina's Lookbook.
I was looking at images of 19th century Japan mostly out of curiosity; I am watching Shogun (which takes place in the 1600s), but so much of the Japanese style did not change until the 19th century, so I was interested in how constant the clothing had been over the centuries in many ways. When you look at how diverse western clothing is from century to century, this constancy is particularly striking.
And yes, I am sort of playing with the idea of making a paper doll based on the character of John Blackthorn in Shogun, but it's kind of out the era I'd prefer working in, so it was just an idle thought and a few sketches on an energy bill that happened to be handy for scrawling. Nevertheless, I do have two Japanese characters who I could draw belonging to the "proper" era represented in this blog. Eventually. Meanwhile, click on the pictures above to see more detail.