It’s official! I’m pleased to announce that I will be once again teaching at Costume College for 2019. Held annually in late July, Costume College is an event devoted to costuming in its many forms, whether historical, fantasy, or somewhere in between. Classes and presentations consist of both lecture and hands-on workshop formats and are all taught by volunteers. For the past several years, I’ve been giving presentations on various aspects of costume to include American Army uniforms of the WWI Era, Paul Poiret, and Couture of the 19th and early 20th Century.
This year I will be reprising my Paul Poiret presentation (revised and expanded) as well as presentations on designers Charles Frederick Worth and Elsa Schiaparelli. When I presented the class on Schiaparelli last year, it was definitely outside our comfort zone but in it was well received and one of the attendees had even recreated Schiaparelli’s iconic Lobster Dress 🙂 :
One of the fundamentals of our design philosophy is that here at Lily Absinthe, we are interested in all eras of fashion and as such, we draw inspiration for all eras when it fits the particular design objective we may have in mind and especially when it comes to designers who came after the Belle Epoch.
Schiaparelli in particular has always been a source of fascination for both Karin and I in that she combined the shocking and outrageous with the practical and down-to-earth ranging from surrealist-inspired shoe-hats and immaculately tailored suits and elegant evening dresses. Moreover, we’re fans of her widespread use of pink- she even has a distinct shade of pink she named “shocking pink.” 🙂
July is a ways away but I’ll be busily preparing my presentations and it promises to be an exciting time. More to follow! 🙂
In the course of researching some 1890s dress designs, we came across some interesting bodices that stretch the limits of mid-1890s style. First up is this bodice that utilizes the silhouette to create a floral display:
Bodice, c. 1895-1897; Minnesota Historical Society (9520.11)
While it’s not easy to determine from the picture, this bodice is made from a silk floral brocade combined with inset silk satin insets on the bodice front. What is most striking is that the gigot sleeves have been utilized as a canvas to show off the floral design to its greatest effect. Next is this example that utilizes the bodice’s asymmetrical design to show off the embroidery pattern to it’s best advantage:
The embroidery pattern follows the line of the edge of the bodice’s front opening along with accents on the bodice bottom and sleeves. The bodice’s black silk satin also serves as a neutral background that further shows up the bright colors of the embroidery. Here’s a close-up of the embroidery pattern:
Another interesting 1890s bodice style was the bodice jacket; this was essentially a bodice that was worn in combination with a waist. Here’s one example from Redfern:
Redfern, Bodice Jacket, 1892; National Gallery of Victoria- Melbourne (D187-1974)
This example is pretty spare, its only decoration is black floral embroidery running along the wide white-colored lapels. Definitely illustrates the idea of “less is more”. The next, example takes the wide lapel idea even further, combining it with an enlarged ivory silk faux waistcoat/vest that overshadows the bottle green velvet jacket. This is interesting in that we see an inversion where the inner garment is larger than the outer garment. Definitely an interesting effect although rarely seen.
Close-up of front.
Detail of front bottom corner of bodice.
The above examples are only a small illustration of the variety of bodice styles that were available during the 1890s and should certainly serve as a source of inspiration for those who desire to recreate the fashions of the 1890s.
One of our major goals on our Paris trip was to pay our respects to Paul Poiret so a trip to Cimètiere Montmarte was definitely in order. Commonly acknowledged as the King of Fashion, Paul Poiret enjoyed a colorful career as a couturier in the early 20th Century and is credited with both paradoxically eliminating the confines of the corset while at the same time introducing the hobble skirt. Unfortunately, while Poiret was a fashion innovator, he was unable to adapt to the profound social and economic changes that were brought about by the First World War and gradually his fashion designs fell out of favor. Combined with an inability to management money, Poiret’s fashion business ultimately failed while at the same time going through a nasty divorce. As the years went buy, Poiret faded into obscurity, only kept financially afloat by his various friends including the designer Elsa Schiaparelli, ultimately dying on April 30, 1944.
We were able to locate the cemetery where Poiret was interred and it seemed like a fairly easy task to locate his final resting place. However, in reality, it was a lot more difficult and as things turned out, he’s interred in a family tomb bearing the name “Boivin.” We’re not sure of the exact family connection but its location was consistent with what we had researched online and with some close examination of the tomb’s inside (not easy since it was dark inside), we located his gravestone/commemorative marker. It wasn’t easy getting a picture of the marker because of the grill covering the tomb’s window:
I have to say, it was quite a moving and sad experience visiting Paul Poiret’s tomb- it’s obvious that it does not get many visitors and it’s located in an obscure part of the cemetery far from the entrance. It’s sad to consider that for being one of the most influential couturiers in France that he died in obscurity, almost forgotten, the product of a long-dead age. Well, we like to think that at we remember. 🙂 Next time when we visit, we’ll be sure to bring flowers.
As an aside, Cimètiere Montmarte is a fascinating cemetery located in Montmarte in the 18e Arrondisement of Paris and it’s the final resting place for many famous individuals including military figures, authors, actors, artists, and musicians, as well as regular people, and it’s a quiet oasis in what is normally a very busy and noisy city. Also, for some reason, it’s also the home of a large number of black cats and crows- go figure. 🙂 If you ever get to Paris, the cemetery is definitely worth a visit.
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)
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.
Recently, we acquired for our collection a circa early 1880s bodice from an evening gown that was made by Maison Worth. Constructed of an ivory/mushroom-colored cut silk velvet, we believe that this bodice dates from the early 1880s and it’s in fairly good condition even though the piping and trim were removed from the edges somewhere along the line. Unfortunately, we have only the bodice but it must have been an elegant dress back in the day. Here are a few pictures:
Essentially, the bodice laced up in the front and it has tiny, hand-stitched eyelets. We can’t imagine the time it would take having to sew those in by hand… 🙂 Here’s some views of one of the sleeves:
The sleeves are three-quarter in length and what’s interesting is that they’re shaped at the elbow so that they’re set at an angle. It’s hard to make out but when you handle them in person, it’s very obvious. And now for some interior views:
As with all of Worth’s gowns, the construction and seam finishes are first rate and with this bodice, each of the seams are also boned, probably with thin baleen. Overall, this is a fascinating example and it’s going to provide us with many hours of study. 🙂