Florals For The Spring & Summer…

Floral design motifs were a major element in dress styles throughout the late Nineteenth Century and especially during the 1880s and 1890s and came in many forms and were utilized both in the fashion fabric and trim to varying degrees. Here’s one interesting example from circa 1889 that was made by Maison Felix:

Day Dress c. 1889 Felix

Felix, Day Dress, c. 1889; Albany Museum of History and Art (u1973.69ab)

Day Dress c. 1889 Felix

Side Profile

The sheer expanse of the side panels utilizing the pattern is amazing and it definitely stands out.

Day Dress c. 1889 Felix

Close-up of  the fashion fabric.

Looking closely at the pictures, it appears that the fabric was most likely a silk brocade.

Style-wise, this dress is simple, sharply defined lines characteristic of the late 1880s and employs a pale green background fabric for the bodice back and sleeves as well as the front and back skirt that offsets the areas with the floral brocade with its various shades of green. The pleating and folds are used to create the effect of an overdress/robe but if you look closer, it’s actually one unit; the bodice and skirt appear to be joined at the waist but whether this is simply hooks and eyes or stitching, it’s hard to tell without a closer examination in person (Hmm..maybe a trip to Albany, New York is in order…). Finally, the total effect is enhanced by the lack of any extraneous trim- the fabric speaks for itself.

Below are a few fashion that show different uses of florals:

 Just for comparison, here’s another dress from the same year thereabouts:

Visiting Dress c. 1889

James McCreary & Co., Visiting Dress, c. 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art

Visiting Dress c. 1889

Side Profile

Visiting Dress c. 1889

Detail of Cuff

This dress has a more elaborate construction in that we see the use of a rich silk brocade executed in several different colors set against a dark brown brown shades of velvet and silk, creating a multi-tonal color pattern. Also, the luster qualities vary between the fabrics with the silks having far more luster from reflected light versus the silk velvet which tends to absorb light. The above examples give only a small glimpse of the variety of design possibilities and we hope that they might provide some inspiration for people recreating historic fashions.

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