1890s Style- Evening Wear, Part 3

The high 1890s- that period from 1895 through 1896 when enormous gigot sleeves, acres of lace, and multi-gored skirts ruled the fashion world and evening wear was no exception. In this post, we continue our survey of 1890s evening wear with a focus on ballgowns in particular; also, as noted in the last post, in the mid 1890s, the gigot sleeves trend also affected evening wear but to not as great extent as was the case with day wear.

So, what was the mid-1890s ballgown like? Here’s a brief description from the September 14, 1895 edition of the Los Angeles Times:

To approach the new. ball dress from a technical standpoint is to talk at once of the cut or its skirt. ‘Tis sliced out of taffeta in two straight front and three wedge-shaped back pieces, for in these days of undivided skirt patterns all the fullness goes to the rear. Underneath it Is braced by a lining of stiffly starched muslin and inside up to the knees are mewed a great many overlapping flounces of silk muslin edged with lace or rows of little variegated palettes.

As was the case for daywear, the basic style centered around creating an “X” or hourglass silhouette through a combination of corsetry, gored skirts, and wedge-shaped tops. Gigot sleeves helped accentuate the top but they were used in varying amounts of fullness and in some instances were minimal such as with these examples:

Evening Dress Ball Gown c. 1895 Worth

Worth, Evening Gown, c. 1895; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2003.288.1-2)

Evening Dress Ball Gown c. 1895 Worth

Ball Gown Jeanne Paquin 1895

Jeannie Paquin, Ballgown, c. 1895; Staatliche Museen Berlin (2003,KR 424 a-c)

Evening Dress Ball Gown 1897 Worth

Worth, Evening Dress, 1897; Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation via Europeana (2006.6.0416)

And now for some with more elaborate sleeve treatments:

Evening Dress c. 1895

Evening Dress, c. 1895; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1979.346.59a, b)

We would be inclined to say that the above dress is more of an evening dress than a ballgown but sometimes the dividing line can be fluid. And here’s a ballgown with a bit more sleeve:

Evening Gown Ball Gown Worth c. 1896 - 1897

Worth, Ballgown, c. 1896 – 1897; Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti via Europeana Fashion

Doucet Ballgown 1897

Doucet, Ballgown, 1897; Metropolitan Museum of Art (49.3.26a, b)

From most of the extant examples, it would appear that when it came to mid-1890s ballgowns, their design pretty much followed the general trends of the time with the exception that the sleeves which tended to not be as extreme as was found with daywear. On the other hand, evening gowns (a more general term for dresses that were worn for formal occasions other than balls) tended towards daywear in sleeve style. In the end, it’s logical that ballgowns would diverge some from sheer practicality:- ballgowns placed an emphasis on bare arms and a low cut bodice (a continuation of the earlier 1870s and 80s style), and gigot sleeves worked against this.

It’s easy to get lost in all the details and that especially with evening wear. In the next installment, we’ll delve more into the late 1890s. Stay tuned!

(To Be Continued…)

 

Charles Worth & Textiles

Image result for silk fabrics charles worth

Textiles are a major element in any fashion style and a good designer will always seek to utilize the right fabric so that a specific style looks its best. For Charles Worth, fabrics played a major role in the design process to the point where he would commission textile manufacturers to create textiles for his exclusive use. Drawing on his background as a draper, Worth created relationships with a number of textile manufacturers, most notably the silk weavers of Lyon, France.

Charles Frederick Worth Haute Couture bridesmaid dress gown from American 1896. Probably made from silk and fabric material with contrasting woven flower floral pattern, pearl, bead and lace tulle. High neckline with blown up gigot puffed sleeve, contrasting color for the bodice, dress fully flared with train at the back. #Vintage #Haute #Couture #Fashion House of Worth.

Worth’s opinion of the role of textiles was neatly summarized in an interview quoted in the March 24, 1896 edition of the Los Angeles Herald:

When a manufacturer invents any special fabric or design, he sends me a pattern asking if I can use it. The fabric may require a severe style of dress, or if light and soft it is adapted for draperies and puffings. If the material pleases me, I order a large quantity to be mades specially for me, and design my dresses accordingly. A purchase by a large firm of a great quantity of material influences other firms, and that material, with the style it is suited to, becomes the fashion. All my models are first made in black and white muslin, then copied in the material and coloring which I select.

Worth notes that with enough yardage and the right design, one can create a popular fashion. In the above quote, Worth notes that the textile manufacturer would come to him in the hopes of an order. However, knowing Worth’s tendency to commission custom fabrics, it was a two-way process in that Worth’s designs often drove textile development. In future posts we’ll be covering this in more detail but it’s interesting to hear from one of the leading designers of the day.

Fashion Push-Back…1890s Style

Today, it’s often said that the fashion industry has way too much influence over dictating what people should wear and that people are far too willing to uncritically follow the dictates of big-name fashion designers. Commentators further advocate that the fashion consumer needs to liberate themselves from the chains created by the fashion industry and be free to follow their own minds as to what’s fashionable and what’s not as they see fit.

The idea of “pushing back” against the dictates of the fashion is actually not a new one as can be seen in this article in the December 19, 1897 edition of the Los Angeles Times entitled “The Triumph of the Crinoline”:

Sometimes, even in fashions, common sense has her own way and every women is chuckling with glee over the defeat of the great Parisians dressmakers dressmakers who wish to do away with crinolines [the term crinoline refers to stiffening the skirt itself rather than wearing an additional appliance]. Two months ago those great and gifted men, Worth, Doucet, Pingot [Pingat] and their ilk, cut a new skirt with with just four straight seams, actually sloped it in at the foot and left the bottom as limp as a wet moldering leaf. Right royally they ordered this to be worn and the secret leaked out that Greek draperies were to be our models for the coming half-dozen years. With one accord the women have flouted, scorned and rejected the new skirt, and until further notice crinoline, hair cloth, or what you please to use as stiffening, will be work to a depth of six inches at every skirt’s foot.

There is no denying, though, that French ruling as to the length of evening costumes is followed everywhere. Great Is the joy among small women over tho arrival of the train, and their stout sisters rejoice with them, for a train makes long lines and equally fervid self-congratulation should stout women express at the marked advance in favor of the black and white gown.

The outrage expressed above is relatively trivial in the scheme of fashion in general but it’s interesting that it sparked push-back. Could this be one of the dresses in question (or just bad staging)?

Worth Ball Gown c. 1896

Worth, Ball Gown, c. 1896; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1982.299a, b)

Worth Ball Gown c. 1896

Side Profile

Worth Ball Gown c. 1896

Three-Quarter Rear View

The specific issue raises as many questions as it answers and it bears a little more research just to what the specifics are. But in any case, it still shows that consumers of fashion were not as passive as one would think. 🙂

Colors For 2018…

Color is an essential part of any garment and one of the first things designers do is create a color palette. The palette can be based on things that inspire the designer such as the seasons, a particular location, or even a specific feeling. In today’s fashion world, designers often rely on trend prediction services to attempt to understand what the market is going to favor and this is especially true when it comes to colors (eve wonder why it seems that everything from cars and appliances to clothing seem to come in certain specific colors?). Just for fun, below are the “official” colors for Spring 2018, as interpreted by Pantone:

Don’t be surprised if there are a few of these in our designs… 🙂

Saying Yes To The Dress…That Fits

Wedding Gown

We’re great fans of the show “Say Yes to the Dress” for both professional and personal reasons and never does an episode pass by where Adam and I debate the merits of the various dress styles (and sometimes that debate can become quite heated 🙂 ). In watching this show (and others like it) is the constant phenomena of the bride selecting a dress, getting fitted, and then returning sometime later (usually several months) and it doesn’t seem to “fit right.”

Most wedding gowns are actually ready made, following sizes that are standard in the garment industry. When the prospective bride settles on a particular dress, unless her body type is a perfect match for the standard size (which almost never happens), there’s going to be areas that are either too tight or too loose- typically in the neckline, bust, armholes, sleeves and hips. At this point, the areas that need alteration are marked and the dress sent out for alteration. For the most part, the system works and excellent results are achieved (in most cases).

However, problems can arise when there is an extreme change in size and especially when it involves a change of one or more dress sizes. This may seem like an easy fix- take in or open up a seam or two, add some fabric, and voila, you’re done! Well…not really. First and foremost, dresses (like clothing in general) are three-dimensional objects and as such have various curves and angles that do not always scale well (which is why grading is more an art form than science). To make large-scale alterations, it is necessary to change the dress’s basic proportions and that in turn can require major reworking of the basic dress pieces. In extreme cases, this can require the dress to be re-patterned and new fabric cut out. In short, make a new dress. Needless to say, this is not a good situation that both costs extra money and eats up time.

To avoid this situation, after the initial fitting, we also schedule a client for at least two fittings in the course of constructing the dress so that we can identify fit issues and resolve them early on. It’s not always 100% effective but in most situations it works out to everyone’s satisfaction. In our view, it’s essential that the client and the designer are in clear agreement over specific requirements and expectations prior to work commencing as well as important, maintaining two-way communication throughout the entire process. Here at Lilly Absinthe, we strive to meet and exceed the client’s expectations and we look forward to creating that one-of-a-kind special dress for you. 🙂

Roubina Wedding Gown