Afternoon Or Evening, Worth Has You Covered…

One interesting sub-styles popularized by Charles Worth was the combination day and evening dress consisting of a base skirt and two separate bodices for day and night wear. Here’s one example of this style that was created by Worth circa 1885-1890 in a combination afternoon and reception dress.1The terms “afternoon dress,” “day dress,” and “reception dress” were often used interchangeably by fashion commentators and museum curators. The important determiner was whether a dress was meant for daytime wear or evening wear. Also, the degree of formality of the occasion also played a role. First we see the dress withe the afternoon bodice:

Worth, Afternoon Dress (combination day/night), c. 1885-1890; Palais Galliera

And now the dress with the reception bodice:

Worth, Evening Dress (combination day/night), c. 1885-1890; Palais Galliera

Here’s a three-quarter rear view of the dress with the reception bodice:

Here’s a close frontal view of the reception bodice:

Essentially, dresses meant for evening wear tended to have bodices with lower necklines and minimal sleeves with more exposure of the arms.2Ball gowns were usually the most extreme in this regard. In terms of silhouette, this dress has a high probability of dating from the later 1880s, having a fuller train than what you would see in the early 1890s and it’s definitely outside of the earlier Mid-Bustle Era styles. Also, it’s highly likely that the original wearer of the dress would have been wearing a more pronounced bustle that what was used to stage this dress for museum display and the train would have been more fully extended.

Continuing on, the dress’ underskirt and bodice fronts are constructed from white colored silk satin or taffeta, and the overskirt and bodices of purple silk satin or taffeta. The bodice fronts are both decorated with silver metallic trim and spangles to create a vertical floral design that draws the eye to the center of the dress and up. The white underskirt also has the same trim pattern running along the sides and along the hem. In the middle of the underskirt appears to be a series of pleated insets, trimmed in a silver embroidery pattern. On the reception bodice, the sleeve tops are also trimmed in white silk chiffon with the same silver metallic trim as what is on the bodice front. On the afternoon bodice, the sleeves are in purple and the cuffs feature white chiffon and same metallic trim seen on the bodice front.

This is an interesting design in that the dress has been styles and decorated so that it’s suitable for both formal afternoon occasions as well as evening affairs while the bodices are different enough to suitably establish the dress for either time. The ensemble is a complete harmonious package that’s a testament to Worth as a designer.

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  1. Pingback: The Ensemble Dress From Maison Worth, Redux | Lily Absinthe

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