More Late 1890s Evening Dress Style From Maison Worth

Today we take a look at a circa 1897 evening gown from Maison Worth by way of the Olive Matthews Collection at the Chertsey Museum!

Worth, Evening Dress, 1897; The Olive Matthews Collection, Chertsey Museum (M.2017.013a–c)(Image 1897

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of information online about the dress but style-wise, it’s consistent with what the Maison was producing during the late 1890s and early 1900s. The most striking aspect is this dress are the decorative floral motifs covering the overskirt on the sides and rear:

Florals and wheat designs were a Maison Worth signature style and it’s especially evident with the floral design here which is HUGE, covering the overskirt from hem to waist. We wish there were more pictures of this dress, it looks stunning, especially with the floral design. We hoped that you’ve enjoyed this brief glimpse into Maison Worth.


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And Now For Some Bees…

And to continue the natural world theme in yesterday’s post, today we feature a lingerie dress that was created by Jacques Doucet around 1900-1905, only this time utilizing bees:

Doucet, Day Dress, c. 1900-1905; Les Arts Décoratifs

In many respects, this dress style follows the lingerie dress style that was prevalent for warm weather daywear during the early 1900s, an area that Doucet excelled. This dress is constructed of layers of semi-sheer fabrics (probably batiste and/or organza) combined with lace and features a multi-layer train that alternates the fashion fabric with the lace. However, the centerpiece of this dress is the use of a decorative floral motif featuring bees. The bees themselves appear to be embroidered appliques and are artfully arranged running up the dress front to suggest bees buzzing about flying out of the vegetation.  One can definitely see that vertical lines are emphasized, especially with the dress front designed as a front-opening robe; the swarm of bees run all the way up the dress front and around the neckline to the back. Compared to many lingerie dresses of the period, the use of lace is fairly restrained and is not allowed to detract from the bee decoration. Below is a rear view:


The rear is also interesting in that the bees are set along the hem of the our dress layer to suggest low-lying vegetation and when viewed together with the front, the effect is very three-dimensional. This is more than a simple static decorative motif being applied to a dress, this has been well thought out. The dress itself is fairly simple design, acting as a canvas for the decorative design. This dress is definitely an inspiration for future recreated designs. 🙂


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Butterflies, Ballgowns And Now Chrysanthemums

It’s a truism in fashion that the natural world has always been a source of inspiration for artists and fashion designers and the late 19th Century was no exception. Examples of natural inspiration in fashion abound and in particular have often been a source of inspiration for many of Maison Worth’s designs. In a previous post, we discussed two examples of Worth’s use of the natural world theme in the form of wheat stalks and butterflies. Today, we look at another example, this time Chrysanthemums with this circa 1895-1900 evening dress:

Worth, Evening Dress, c. 1898-1900; Metropolitan Museum of Art (976.258.5a–c)

With a multi-gored trained skirt and minimally sleeved bodice, the dress silhouette reads late 1890s and more specifically in the 1898-1900 time frame. This dress is constructed of a salmon-colored silk satin and features a Chrysanthemum floral motif pattern. With the exception of the upper bodice, there is no trim on this dress and the Chrysanthemum design speaks for itself. Below is a close-up of the bodice:

The bodice features a semi-wrap style and continues the Chrysanthemum floral pattern with a jeweled net backed with salmon-colored tulle at the bustline. The sleeves are minimal, consisting of two strips of silk satin, some white chiffon and trimmed with gold fringe. Below is a close-up of the design motif:

As it can be seen in the picture above, the decorative design is composed of embroidered appliques that give the appearance of a velvet. It’s an amazing contrast to the silk satin skirt and bodice. Finally, not only does this dress have the Worth label, but also a label with a unique dress number which was likely to have been to a specific client. It would be interesting to know more about this… :-).

What’s also striking about this dress is that the design is not a singular occurrence but rather as part of a family of ball/evening gowns Maison Worth produced around the same time:

Worth, Ball Gown, 1899; Metropolitan Museum of Art (26.381a-b_front 0004)

Worth, Ball Gown, c. 1895 – 1900; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1290a, b)

House of Worth, Ballgown, 1898; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1324a, b)

Worth, Ballgown, 1900; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1250a, b)

The above garments are all masterpieces in their own right, all featuring a large design with a natural theme. Also, judging from the silhouettes and styles, it’s clear that these garments share many of the same pattern blocks.1Although they produced haute couture, Maison Worth was still a business and early on adopted many mass production techniques although they’d never publicly admit it.  Ultimately, while each of these dresses was a unique work, they all had common characteristics that made them part of a collection. Either way, they’re all artworks to be enjoyed in their own right. 🙂


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An Early 1890s Design From Maison Felix

When it comes to late 19th Century couture, Maison Felix is often overlooked but it was a force the equal of Worth, Doucet, and Pingat. Here’s an afternoon dress from circa 1890-1891:

Felix, Afternoon Dress, c. 1890-1891; Albany Institute of History and Art (1946.56.2ab)

This afternoon dress is an interesting style, drawing on 18th Century elements, especially in the use of a garnet-colored silk with a gray floral pattern styled to read as a robe and combined with a large lace inset on the front and sleeves. The flowing robe-like lines also hint at a tea gown but the silhouette is far too sharply defined: it’s clear that this garment was meant for wear with a corset and accompanying underpinnings. However, there’s nothing to say that this dress couldn’t have served as an at-home dress… 😄

Below are side profile and rear views. Although it’s hard to tell with the museum staging, we do believe that this is definite a very late 1880s/early 1890s dress. There is definitely a train although it’s not that prominent while at the same time, the sleeve heads have some ease- a harbinger of styles to come. 😉

Below is a fashion plate from the August 1889 issue of Peterson’s Magazine that further illustrates this style, especially with the figure second from the left:

We hope you’ve enjoyed this little view of late 1880s/early 1890s style.


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Charles Worth – The Father of Haute Couture

Want to know more about Charles Worth? This is THE definitive biographical work the life and work of Charles Frederick Worth! Originally published in 1990, this book has been out of print for years and very hard to find. We’re fortunate to have been able to obtain a copy and we’re offering it for sale to some lucky person at our Etsy online store, Atelier Lily Absinthe. We’ve read this book many times over from cover to cover and we highly recommend it- the depth of information is simply amazing! Check it out at our Etsy store: 😁


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