Sometimes a random encounter can spark an idea and today’s post is no exception. In the course of looking for some pictures for another project, I came across a series of pictures of a circa 1874 day dress made by Charles Worth. While the design was fairly standard, it was colors that jumped out at me- they just screamed “1970s.” At the same time, we know that colors are a universal thing with various colors being emphasized during different eras.
Color has always played a role in defining the fashions of an era, whether it be the 19th Century or today and it’s one of the first things we notice. For some eras, color can exert a very powerful influence and one such era was the 1970s. When most people think about 1970s fashions, the reaction is almost invariably: “What were we thinking?” 🙂
As a generalization, the 1970s were characterized by many unfortunate fabric and style choices (as one of my fashion design textbooks described it) dominated by an earth tone color palette led, of course, by avocado and harvest gold:
And here’s that color palette in action:
Yes, Paul Poiret would probably not approve… 🙂
So, one would think that the above color palette was unique to the 1970s but in reality, the color palette has been around since the concept of fashion was first developed. In terms of the 1870s, the same “1970s color palette” was present as seen in this circa 1874 day dress attributed to Worth:
Worth, Day Dress, c. 1874; Rhode Island Institute of Design Museum ( 2005.89.12)
The silhouette and style of this dress definitely reads early 1870s and is fairly standard. However, what caught our eye was the color palette which just screamed “1970s” and to be honest, it’s not our favorite color combination but there it is… 🙂
Close-Up Side Profile
Iam pleased to announce that three of my class proposals have been accepted for the upcoming 2018 Costume College on July 26-30, 2018. 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. While Worth and Poiret make sense, given our primary areas of emphasis, Elsa Schiaparelli seems a bit of a stretch…well, not so! Here at Lily Absinthe, we are interested in all eras of fashion and 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! 🙂
Textiles are a major element in any fashion style and a good designer will always seek to utilize the right fabric so that a specific style looks its best. For Charles Worth, fabrics played a major role in the design process to the point where he would commission textile manufacturers to create textiles for his exclusive use. Drawing on his background as a draper, Worth created relationships with a number of textile manufacturers, most notably the silk weavers of Lyon, France.
Worth’s opinion of the role of textiles was neatly summarized in an interview quoted in the March 24, 1896 edition of the Los Angeles Herald:
When a manufacturer invents any special fabric or design, he sends me a pattern asking if I can use it. The fabric may require a severe style of dress, or if light and soft it is adapted for draperies and puffings. If the material pleases me, I order a large quantity to be mades specially for me, and design my dresses accordingly. A purchase by a large firm of a great quantity of material influences other firms, and that material, with the style it is suited to, becomes the fashion. All my models are first made in black and white muslin, then copied in the material and coloring which I select.
Worth notes that with enough yardage and the right design, one can create a popular fashion. In the above quote, Worth notes that the textile manufacturer would come to him in the hopes of an order. However, knowing Worth’s tendency to commission custom fabrics, it was a two-way process in that Worth’s designs often drove textile development. In future posts we’ll be covering this in more detail but it’s interesting to hear from one of the leading designers of the day.
Today, it’s often said that the fashion industry has way too much influence over dictating what people should wear and that people are far too willing to uncritically follow the dictates of big-name fashion designers. Commentators further advocate that the fashion consumer needs to liberate themselves from the chains created by the fashion industry and be free to follow their own minds as to what’s fashionable and what’s not as they see fit.
The idea of “pushing back” against the dictates of the fashion is actually not a new one as can be seen in this article in the December 19, 1897 edition of the Los Angeles Times entitled “The Triumph of the Crinoline”:
Sometimes, even in fashions, common sense has her own way and every women is chuckling with glee over the defeat of the great Parisians dressmakers dressmakers who wish to do away with crinolines [the term crinoline refers to stiffening the skirt itself rather than wearing an additional appliance]. Two months ago those great and gifted men, Worth, Doucet, Pingot [Pingat] and their ilk, cut a new skirt with with just four straight seams, actually sloped it in at the foot and left the bottom as limp as a wet moldering leaf. Right royally they ordered this to be worn and the secret leaked out that Greek draperies were to be our models for the coming half-dozen years. With one accord the women have flouted, scorned and rejected the new skirt, and until further notice crinoline, hair cloth, or what you please to use as stiffening, will be work to a depth of six inches at every skirt’s foot.
There is no denying, though, that French ruling as to the length of evening costumes is followed everywhere. Great Is the joy among small women over tho arrival of the train, and their stout sisters rejoice with them, for a train makes long lines and equally fervid self-congratulation should stout women express at the marked advance in favor of the black and white gown.
The outrage expressed above is relatively trivial in the scheme of fashion in general but it’s interesting that it sparked push-back. Could this be one of the dresses in question (or just bad staging)?
Worth, Ball Gown, c. 1896; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1982.299a, b)
Three-Quarter Rear View
The specific issue raises as many questions as it answers and it bears a little more research just to what the specifics are. But in any case, it still shows that consumers of fashion were not as passive as one would think. 🙂
There’s always something going on at the Atelier and December is no exception. 🙂 Drawing once again on the Mid-Bustle Era, another day dress design is in the works. One of my first steps was to determine what sort of a dress it would be- in this case, a day dress, or more precisely, a visiting dress. At the same time, I had to determine my color palette. After some thought (and looking at the vegetation in our back yard), I decided that it might be interesting work with the color green and in particular, olive. After some more thought, I worked out a preliminary color palette:
Of course, this is not set in stone, but rather, it’s just a starting place…
OK, at this point you’re probably wondering about the actual dress design…after all, don’t we need that in order to guide what fabrics we’re going to need? Well, yes…here’s what I have mind for the moment, starting with this inspiration from an 1879 fashion plate:
However, there’s going to be some details that I’m looking at changing, possibly on the bodice front and possibly the sleeves:
Now that we’ve established the general style idea, here’s some of the fabric I sourced:
Essentially, I’m looking at two silks in olive, one striped and one solid. I bought 10 yards of the striped and 5 yards of the solid. This should cover the majority of the dress although there’s a little more to do in this area. This is just the start on what should be an interesting and productive project. Stay tuned for more! 🙂