And Still More 1890s Style…(We’re On A Roll Here)

Yes, we’re on a roll here…it seems to be shaping up into 1890s week (or maybe month). Here’s another great dress we came across while looking for something completely different (funny how that always seems to happen). For today’s consideration is this ball gown that was made by Pingat sometime around 1894:

Pingat, Ball Gown, c. 1894; Museum of Fine Arts Boston (56.816)

Rear View

As ball gowns go, this is a relatively simple design with a minimum of trim (mostly beading on the front bodice), relying instead on combinations of lace, and silk satin to achieve its effect.  With roses strategically placed on the skirt front, collar and shoulder, there are pops of color that offset the blush pink/ivory silk satin. The gigot sleeves combined with gored skirt definitely place this dress safely in the mid-1890s and create the classic hourglass style that was typical of the period. Overall, as with many of Pingat’s designs, this is elegant and clean and would definitely make an excellent bridal gown. Although best know for his outerwear, Pingat also produced many elegant dress designs- ball gowns, evening/reception dresses and day dresses and this is just one excellent example.

Some 1890s Style…

The styles of the 1890s never fail to fascinate us here at Lily Absinthe- at the same time they look represent one of the heights of Victorian fashion yet at the same time give a hint of fashion developments to come in later years. To start, here’s a more formal day or reception dress from the mid 1890s:

Day Dress, Mid 1890s; Augusta Auctions, Museum of the City of New York Deaccession.

Three-Quarter Front View

Side Profile

Rear View

Style-wise, this dress has a silhouette characteristic of the 1890s, characterized by an upright cylindrical profile. The skirt and bodice are constructed of a bottle green silk velvet combined with what appear to be silk faille facings and collar created to look like a faux vest underneath (no doubt, it’s all one piece in actuality). The faux vest/waistcoat is especially striking in that it almost jumps out from the dress with its contrasting ivory silk faille set against the bottle green velvet, effect that’s enhanced by the velvet absorbing light because of its texture and depth. Here’s a closer view:

Close-up of front.

The jeweling and decoration on the silk faille further enhances the bodice’s effect:

Detail of front bodice.

Collar Detail

Detail of front bottom corner of bodice.

Detail of facing.

Overall, this is a textbook case of how various different fabrics and colors and be combined to create an effect that’s greater than the sum of its parts. The eye is instantly drawn to the bodice, following the dresses’ vertical silhouette. Unfortunately, there’s no detail as to who designed and constructed this dress so that remains a mystery but never the less, this is a testament to 1890s style in that it’s both backward and forward-looking at the same time. The faux vest/waistcoat is reminiscent of later 18th Century styles while at the same time, the silhouette, fabrics and colors seem point towards later dress styles- the lines are clean and the bodice is restrained in its decoration and balances the skirt nicely. Definitely an aesthetic treat to behold and it will certainly serve as a source of inspiration for us.

Our Latest Visit to the V&A Museum

One of the high points of any trip to London is spending a little time visiting the V&A Museum and this past visit was no exception. What was a real stand-out for us this time was viewing some textiles and garments from South Asia. Here’s just a few examples:

This one is a chintz dating from the 18th Century which was essentially a glazed cotton print fabric that was originally made in India. This fabric was exported to England in quantity and it quickly caught on as a fashion fabric to the point where manufacturers in England was producing cheap knock-offs. The fabric was used to make this waistcoat from circa 1770-1775:

Waistcoat, c. 1770-1775; V&A Museum (IS.20-1976)

And here’s a close-up of one of the buttonholes:

This mantle/cape was also interesting:

Unfortunately, we were unable to find out more about it- there wasn’t any sort of card explaining it (or we might have just missed it). Here’s another interesting dress:

Unfortunately, all I could get was the side profile. Here are some other views I obtained from the V&A Museum website:

Gown, c. 1770s, reworked 1790s; V&A Museum (IS.3-1948)

Most of these fabrics were prints, although there was also a few that were embroidered such as this one:

And of course, we visited the regular costume collection… 🙂 In particular, the this Salvador Dali-inspired dress by Schiaparelli caught our eye:

And of course, we had to hit the bookstore:

This barely scratched the surface of what’s there at the V&A and we learn something new every time we go. For a little more, check out this post and this post.  If you’re in London, the V&A is definitely worth a visit. 🙂

And For Some More Originals…

LBD*, circa most likely 1898 with those smaller sleeve puffs at the shoulder and that interesting shirred silk brocade contrast arm gusset that matches the applied collar pieces. Someone tried to steal some of her inner boning before she came to live with us, but that assault allows us to politely inspect her insides. Don’t you love that pretty cotton print on the inside and those precise hand stitches for her Hong Kong finishes? She’s not a mourning bodice, she was somebody’s special gown that glittered with every graceful corseted turn. I like to think she’s seen a lot of happy occasions and deserves the love we can give her. She’s definitely on my “must pattern her” list! 🙂

*Little Black Dress- term made famous by Coco Chanel

The Princess Line, Redux

Our previous post on the Mid-Bustle Period, and the princess line dress in particular got such a favorable response that we decided to follow up on with some more examples.

Le Moniteur De La Mode, 1876

One of the dramatic and interesting styles is the one above utilizing an open redingote combined with an underskirt in two complementary colors and contrasting ruffles. The train also employs several layers of the same complementary colors. Also, the use of revers is taken to an extreme, especially towards the bottom when the revers open out to create the illusion of turn-backs. Overall, the effect is very reminiscent of the 1780s and 90s, an era something that often influences mid-1870s styles.

Le Moniteur De La Mode, 1878

This style is a bit more “conventional” in that it stays with one color, taking its decorative effect from the various ruffles, pleating, and trim. Also, while it’s impossible to tell just what the illustrator had in mind with the fashion fabric, one could easily imagine silk brocade or similar.  🙂

The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, June 1878

Here we see a couple variations with the trains with various degrees of pleating, bows, and contrast colors. In many respects, the only limits are one’s imagination. Also, it must be noted that the illustrator has used a bit of artistic license portraying two ladies’ dressed with trains that are clearly not optimal for trekking through the woods. 🙂

Looking past the sheer beauty of these designs (and making allowances for the fact that these are fashion plates), one can see that there’s a few different design options here when recreating this style. First is the train- trains varied in length ranging from a full train for the most formal of occasions to the demi-train which was pretty standard for the majority of formal occasions (and a lot more practical to maneuver in). For day wear, the train was either short or non-existent. Moreover, with the train, one could choose to leave it relatively unadorned, with maybe a small row of knife-pleating or one could go all out, adding rows of pleating, ribbons, and other lace trim.

Turning to the overall style, while upright sculpted silhouette set the basic shape, one  sees a variety of variations to include a straight skirt all the way to the feet or the skirt is draped and gathered towards the bottom. Also, the entire dress could be styled as an open redingote with revers that opens up to reveal an underskirt that could be in a complementary color with ruching or a similar style. This style could also be done in either a single color or with complementary colors. In short, there was a wide variety of style choices available and designers/dressmakers/individual sewers utilized them all. Below are a few original dresses that help illustrate this point:

Day Dress, Swiss, 1880; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.55.40.5)

With the above dress, we see a simple arrangement of shapes and lines in blue and ivory  combined with contrasts in the fabrics’ textures as well as the use of ruching.

Day Dress, Princess Line, c. 1878; National Museum, Prague (H2-193316)

With this dress, we see the fashion fabrics have similar textures but with contrasting steel gray and ivory. Pleating and trim are kept to a minimum and the style relies more on colors and fabrics to make its statement.

For this dress, while it utilizes complementary colors, it relies more on contrasts in textures: the ruching and pleating on the dress’s front panel are combined with a silk brocade covered by netting.

Afternoon Dress, c. 1878-1880; Manchester Art Gallery ( 1947.4118)

Rear View

This final example utilizes two fashion fabrics in complementary colors combined with contrasting fabric textures: a pale blue flat textured silk combined with a lighter blue silk satin. To further add interest, floral embroidery has been added to the bodice front and train. Also, while the bodice has a fairly simple shape, the lower skirt incorporates a series of ruffles and pleats to give a draped appearance.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief excursion through the the world of the Mid-Bustle Era princess line dress and we want to emphasize that while we may have deluged you with a wide a variety of style variations, our intent was to show that one has a wide range of choices when it comes to recreating this style and perhaps provide a bit of inspiration. 🙂