A Trip To The Fashion Museum Bath, Part I

We began our first full day in Bath with a trip to the Fashion Museum Bath for a special viewing some select items from the museum’s collection. First up, is this evening dress/day dress made by the House of Worth either in the early or late 1890s (the official date is 1890). We’ll start with some general views:

General view of the bodice and skirt front. It’s kind of hard to capture the magnitude of the dress because it was on a table and the room was small.

The front of the bodice and upper skirt.

The bodice back.

Close-up of the bodice.

For some basic details, the dress appears to be constructed from a black silk velvet with a lighter gray floral pattern created by burning out the velvet (or so it would seem). Supplementing the floral pattern decoration on the bodice are crystals (probably Swaroviski since they were a major supplier to Worth). The official date on this dress is 1890 but to us, there may be some play in the dating- it’s hard to determine the precise silhouette since this dress is not on a mannequin but our best estimate is either early or late 1890s since the sleeves are relatively restrained, lacking the gigot sleeves characteristic of the mid-1890s. Of course, we could be wrong and if so, we graciously concede. 🙂

So far, this dress seems fairly conventional within the range of Worth and we guess that this is either a better afternoon/receiving dress or even a reception dress (probably less likely). However, once we we were able to get a better view of the skirt, the beauty of the dress was revealed:

The front of the skirt is divided by a black silk velvet panel running down the front with a string of decorative flowers running down the center. Below is a close-up of the flowers:

The flowers themselves are created by long metallic beads combined with ribbon. If you look closely around the flowers, you will notice what appears to be white spots or collections of lint; but they’re not. Actually, these are discolored worn down spots in the velvet plush where the beads had pressed down hard into the velvet. It appears that this dress was stored folded up for a long time. Now, here’s a view of the back of the skirt which really shows off the decorative pattern. Notice how it grows as it gets towards the hem. The skirt, incidentally, appears to be either a five or seven-gored single skirt characteristic of the 1890s.

Here’s some more close-up views of the burnt velvet itself:

This picture is especially interesting in that is shows that the floral pattern had subtle outlines around the individual leaves and it was hard to tell if it was burnt-out velvet or if another process was at work. The backside of the skirt offered no clues since it was completely lined with a fairly sturdy cotton.

Although this is a bit blurred, note how it’s actually two pieces of fabric coming together in the middle. Also, it’s been sewn in on the bias since the floral pattern narrows as it moves towards the top. This is also illustrated below:

Turning to the bodice, here are some views:

Closures consist of hooks and eyes and the top of the bodice and neck were lined with lace. Below is a picture of the bodice back:

The bodice back is decorated in the same way as the skirt with the floral pattern completely covering the bodice back. Also, there’s a v-back with a plain black velvet fill and the a tail at the base of the bodice that provides a natural beginning for the pattern seen on the back of the skirt. The eye is naturally drawn up and down. 🙂 Next, here are close-up views of one of the sleeves:

 

Note the crystals that add to the overall effect. 🙂 And just to be complete, here are some interior views:

The bodice interior. It’s lined with what appears to be a black polished cotton. Note the three eyes- these attached corresponding hooks that are set in the back of the skirt to prevent any separation between the skirt and bodice. Here’s a view of the interior stitching:

The back and front of the bodice are lightly boned on top of the major seam lines to maintain their shape (a corset was worn underneath to maintain the basic silhouette (body contouring, if you will). Also, note that the seam allowances are all finished by overcast stitching, which was standard for the time, and tacked down to the lining. Compared to some Worth dresses we have examined, this is actually pretty tidy. Below are some more interior views:

In all the Worth dresses we’ve examined, the seam allowances are notched with gentle edges which allows the fabric to follow the bodice curves with no bunching or bubbles. Also, note that the bodice is NOT constructed as what’s referred to today as a “turn and flip.” Rather, the pattern pieces were flat-lined with each piece of fashion fabric stitched to it’s corresponding lining pattern piece BEFORE the pieces are sewn together.

And the iconic Worth label.

Overall, it’s a fantastic dress and is a good example of Worth’s later work and illustrates the construction techniques that were utilized during the period. The design is elegant and definitely catches the eye, leading it up and down the dress to admire the complete floral decorative effect. It’s simply brilliant. 🙂 We’re honored that we had the opportunity to view it in person- merci beaucoup to the museum staff!

(To be continued…)

And More From Bath…

We’re in the process of catching up on the blog and posting about our recent trip to the UK and you may notice a bit of backdating. Unfortunately, WordPress is not very user-friendly on either mobiles or tablets so we were unable to update the blog as much as we would have liked while we were over there so we’re going back and “filling in the blanks.”

The Crescent by John Claude Nattes, 1804, Victoria Art Gallery, Bath and North East Somerset Council


The Royal Crescent is one of the most iconic sights in Bath and naturally we had to dress up and take a walk there…

 

The weather was cool and crisp with lots of sunlight- perfect weather for a walk in Bath.  🙂

 

We Arrive In Bath….

After a wirlwind four days in London, we departed for Bath, arriving refreshed after a beautiful two-hour ride through the English countryside. As with every time we visit England,  we are struck by just how green everything is and it’s quite a contrast from Southern California.  After installing ourselves at our hotel, we took a quick stroll around town and naturally, we arrived at the Royal Crescent…

That grass is just amazing with its Fugi-color super-saturated green. 🙂 Here we are in civilian clothes…

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And for a little casual late afternoon lunch at Cafe Luca…

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Out And About At Hampton Court

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Second day in England and today we decided to head out to the countryside and visit Hampton Court Palace. Originally belonging to Thomas Wolsey (aka Cardinal Wolsey), construction began in 1515 and in 1529, Wolsey gave it to King Henry VIII. The palace is most noted has having been one of Henry’s principal residences but it was gradually expanded over the years by succeeding monarchs, most notably William III and Mary II and George II.

Ann Boleyn’s Gate

Hampton Court is not only a palace, but it also has extensive gardens such as the Rose Garden…

And extensive forested areas such as “The Wilderness”…

The Wilderness is especially interesting in that it was originally built in the 17th Century as a place for courtiers to “get lost” and encounter others “by accident”…one can draw many conclusions from this but when we visited, it was more like a series of jogging paths. 🙂

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After looking around outside for a bit, we decided to go inside and naturally we homed in on the Tudor section first, most notably Henry VIII’s apartments:

The courtyard leading up to Henry VIII’s apartments.

And finally, inside to the Great Hall:

The interiors are largely stone and brickwork with wood paneling in places and while it was moderate weather on the day that we visited, it didn’t take much imagination to realize just how cold Hampton Court could get in Winter (perhaps it’s a good thing that we were not able to visit the last time we were in  England in December 2018).

Stained glass windows in the Watching Tower- It turns out that the these windows were installed during the 19th Century.

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The Chapel Royal- Picture-taking wasn’t allowed inside so this was obtained off the net.

The Chapel Royal, looking south east

And here’s some portraiture we encountered as we worked our way through:

Charles V, 1500-1558; An early portrait by an unknown artist- Not the most flattering of portraits.

Francis I, King of France, 1494-1547

One of the most interesting things was the living history interaction programs that are presented at Hampton Court. One such program was when two interpreters portraying Anne Boleyn and Catherine Parr answered questions from the public in regard to their relationship with Henry, life at Court, et al. It was both entertaining and educational.

There’s a lot more at Hampton Court Palace that we explored but unfortunately, the battery in our phones were diminishing rapidly so we were unable to get anymore pictures. Just for completeness, below are some borrowed pictures of a few of the expansions that were built on after Henry’s reign:

The Fountain Court, designed by Christopher Wren during the reign of William & Mary.

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One of William III’s private apartments.

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The King’s Staircase

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The Queen’s Staircase

Overall, it was a wonderful experience and there’s far more there than we were able to view. It’s definitely one of those places that has to be experienced a few time over. 🙂

 

Off To The V&A For A Little Dior, Part III

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As you have no doubt discerned from our past two posts, the Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibit at the V&A Museum has exerted quite a powerful influence over us- it’s a rich treasure trove of ideas and inspiration to us even though it’s got nothing to do with the late 19th Century. Or does it? Well, fashion has always been influenced by history and the fashion cycle itself is a constant movement of styles, inspired by the past (as well as the present) and the House of Dior is no exception. Here are just a few examples from the exhibition:

Ancient Egypt, anyone? 🙂 Designed in 2004 by John Galiano, this one is definitely more of a couture “concept piece” than anything else. Here’s another view of it in action:

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Or, perhaps, the 18th and Centuries:

The coat could almost work for pure 18th Century dress… 🙂

This one just has us thinking “panniers”…

With this one, we see a melding of 18th and 19th Century influences, especially with the corset bodice and draping.

With this dress, it’s more about the fabric than anything else- The fabric and trim detail could easily have been seen on either an 18th or 19th Century dress and especially something by Worth. Next, we see an 18th Century silhouette that inspired this creation by John Galiano for the House of Dior:

The beading and trim on this dress are simply exquisite. Here’s a close-up view:

Or perhaps some Chinoiserie…

And then there’s the grand finale, there’s a ball room displaying various evening wear, complete with a rotating center display combined with changing light to simulate day and night (the full rotation takes about five minutes of so) and the effect is stunning! What’s especially interesting is that the colors of some of the dresses dramatically changed as the light changed from day to night (Note: in full disclosure, I was unable to get good pictures of the ballroom that capture the magnitude and sweep of the room so I borrowed a few pictures from the web).

 

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And here’s my favorite that I took:

With that, we conclude our tour of the Dior exhibit at the V&A. Overall, the experience was excellent, especially since we were there in the morning when it first opened so we didn’t have to contend with heavy crowds. There was a lot more than what we’ve posted, we focused on some of the highlights that we were particularly struck by. This is definitely worth a visit but if you were unable to view it in person, we highly recommend getting the book:

 

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We hope you’ve enjoyed these posts! 🙂