At The FIDM Museum…

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ne of the most overlooked museums in Los Angeles is the FIDM Museum. Located in Downtown Los Angeles, the FIDM Museum has maintains a small but excellent collection of fashion-related items (well, small when compared to the Met in New York 🙂 ). As noted in a previous post, we recently visited the museum to view the 11th Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design Exhibition. However, there was also an exhibit of historical garments from the Linda and Steven Plochocki Collection on display which, naturally, we had to also see.

On display were a number of examples from various eras to include our favorite, the 19th Century. First, is this stunning wedding dress designed in 1878 by Emile Pingat:

FIDM Pingat

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The upright silhouette is characteristic of the Mid-Bustle Era, and as such, the bustle/tornure is fairly minimal. At the same time, we see a full train outlined with a wide band of ruffled pleating. The dress is made from an ivory/champagne silk; the overskirt is smooth with  little adornment except for a band of ruffled net/silk band trim accented with strings of flowers and orange blossoms (a signature Victorian trim for wedding dresses). The underskirt has vertical pleats which presents a nice contrast to the plain overskirt. The bodice is a deep cuirass bodice with three-quarter sleeves, trimmed in silk ribbons and lace, especially around the neck.

Here’s a few more views:

FIDM Pingat

FIDM Pingat

FIDM Pingat

The orange blossoms and lace trim frame the front opening of the overskirt.

FIDM Pingat

Detail of sleeve treatment of lace and silk ribbon.

FIDM Pingat 1878

Detail of bustle.

FIDM Pingat

Here’s a close-up of the orange blossom trim. Originally utilized by Queen Victoria in her wedding dress in 1840, it rapidly became a fashion trend for wedding dressed throughout the mid to late 19th Century.

FIDM Pingat

 

The trim running along the skirt hem and the edges of the train is actually a netting that’s trimmed with silk tape on one edge. The wedding dress is a stunning example of Pingat’s work and it bears further study.

Next, is a bodice from c. 1898 designed by Jacques Doucet:

FIDM Doucet

FIDM Doucet

FIDM Doucet

FIDM Doucet

FIDM Doucet

This bodice contains the signature elements characteristic of Doucet’s designs- rich old gold silk fabric trimmed with lace and lace appliques, some incorporating metallic gold thread. From a silhouette perspective, the leg-of-mutton sleeves are restrained, characteristic of late 1890s styles. The bodice is shaped like a jacket, reminiscent of 18th Century styles with a shirred gauze waist with a silk satin wide belt. Overall, it’s a rich, powerful style. It’s a pity that the skirt has not survived- the total package was no doubt a complete knock-out.

Well, that’s all for today. We hope you’ve enjoyed this as much as we did going to the FIDM Museum. 🙂

 

 

Charles Frederick Worth & Early Haute Couture

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Costume College was busy for me this year. Besides delving into the world of Paul Poiret, I also delved into the world of haute couture during the later 19th and early 20th Centuries, an ambitious topic to say the least- one could easily go on for days and barely scratch the surface. 🙂 Fashion  history has always been fascinating and even more so when one makes little discoveries that link the world of the past with today and the research process never fails to disclose tiny nuggets of useful information.

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In many respects, the world of haute couture, as we know it today, got it’s start in Paris largely through the efforts of one man- Charles Frederick Worth. Moreover, he was able to capitalize on a series of trends that had been developing for quite some time. Specifically, going back to reign of Louis XIV, royal patronage driven by the consolidation of the monarchy as the supreme ruling power in France combined with France’s growth as an economic, military, and cultural power served as a catalyst for the development of the textile industry and the needle trades. All the right elements were in place and over the next 300 years a thriving garment began to develop, spurred by patronage both by the Crown and nobility (as they sought to remain in good graces with the King).

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By the mid-19th Century, industrialization served to further spur the growth of the textile and needle trades (can you say sewing machine?) and the ground was fertile for a man like Charles Worth. Worth transformed a relatively decentralized industry composed of many individual dressmakers working in small establishments into a large-scale industry employing hundreds, if not thousands. Worth consolidated fabric procurement with production (before this, it was customary for clients to bring their own fabrics to the dressmaker). Also, for marketing, he employed the technique of having his clients choose from a series of sample models, modeled by an army of pretty young women; the client would make a selection and a custom garment would be created. The model was intended to give the client an idea of the final product- often, the fabrics and trim would vary to the individual client.

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What also makes Worth unique is that in 1860 he was able to secure the patronage of the Empress Eugénie and this cemented his reputation; as the center of the French court, the Empress set the styles and naturally everyone of importance wanted to emulate her.

With the demise of the Napoleon III and the Second Empire, Worth was forced to seek expanded markets- no longer did he have a guaranteed client base founded on royal patronage- so he was forced to seek a wider client base. Worth was ultimately successful in this endeavor and by the time he died in 1895, he had clients on all seven continents.

In many ways, the demise of the Empress’s patronage was the best thing for both Worth and haute couture in general in that it pushed couture out to a wider audience and stimulated greater design/style creativity- styles were not determined by the whim of a few people but rather transferred the power to the designers (and ultimately their clients). It also helped couture to reach a wider audience and facilitate the diffusion of fashion.

Worth Ballgown 1898

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

 

Of course, Worth wasn’t the only couturier- there were many others. Some of Worth’s leading contemporaries were Jacques Doucet, Emile Pingat, John Redfern, and Jeanne Paquin- all fascinating as designers. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of information out there on many of these designers and they’ve become almost forgotten.

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Jacques Doucet

John Redfern

John Redfern

Emile  Pingat

An early portrait of Emile Pingat; Courtesy of Jacques Noel

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Jeanne Paquin

The above is only a very broad sketch of the topics that I covered in my presentation and I felt that it went pretty well. For the future, I may narrow my focus a bit but nevertheless, it wasn’t bad for a first outing. Stay tuned for more… 🙂

Almost Ready For Costume College…

Isincerely apologize for things being quiet here but I have been in hibernation for the past few weeks furiously working on a series of presentations that I will be giving at Costume College. Why the last minute rush? Well, unfortunately life has a habit of getting in the way and with our relocation and all, time has been at a premium. Costume College is an annual three-day costuming arts convention sponsored by the Costumer’s Guild West and it covers all periods and genres.

Adam 1918

Last year, I gave a presentation on American military uniforms entitled “US Army Uniforms, 1915 – 1918” and I had such a fun time with it that I decided to give an expanded version this year and this is scheduled for Friday July 28. But wait, there’s more…

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On Saturday July 29, I will also be giving presentations on Paul Poiret, entitled “The King of Fashion: The World of Paul Poiret” which will give an overview of his early career. Also, I will be presenting “Haute Couture: The Early Years” where I give an overview on the rise of haute couture during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries (1870 through roughly 1905) both in terms of designers and the various styles.

Stay tuned for more!

Emile Pingat, THE Artistic Dressmaker In Paris

Lately, Emile Pingat has been a major focus here at Lily Absinthe. To us, it seems that history has largely ignored Pingat while giving exclusive focus to Charles Frederick Worth. While by no means do we mean to denigrate Worth’s achievements, we also feel that it’s worthwhile to also call attention to some of the other couturiers who today are less well known.

Just to give an example of Pingat’s reach, we found this little reference in the December 3, 1885 edition of the Marin County Journal, a newspaper that was published in San Rafael, California:

Pingat is considered the artistic dress-maker in Paris fashionable circles, Worth now playing second scissors.

Ok, maybe we’re reaching here but it’s interesting seeing a reference to Pingat, albeit a brief humorous one, in a small newspaper (granted that San Rafael is relatively close to San Francisco).

Just a fluke? Maybe not..consider this extract from the “Fashion Notes” section of the November 3, 1883 edition of The Pacific Rural Press, a newspaper that was published in San Francisco from 1871 to 1894:

A leading feature of the fashions of the season, as shown at the October openings, is that of combination costumes. Scarcely a dress among all those made by the great French dressmakers Worth, Pingat, Felix, and the rest is of a single fabric, the rule being the combination of brocade or fancy dress goods with plain material to match. This is the case especially with the fine woolens, the use of which is constantly increasing, and which will this winter be worn for everything except elegant reception toilets.

And just to further show Pingat’s reach, below is an an advertisement from the September 22, 1895 edition of the Los Angeles Herald:

Ad_Los Angeles Herald Sept 22 1895

Los Angeles Herald, September 22, 1895

Of course, one does wonder if the advertised garments were actually manufactured by the designers as advertised or were knock-offs… 🙂

While the above has been focused on Pingat, it does indicate that Parisian designers like Worth and Pingat had cachet even on the West Coast of the United States in much the same way that the names Dior, Lagerfeld, and Dolce and Gabbana (to name a few) have cachet today among fashion consumers.

The above is only a small sampling and as we find more references, we will share them with you. 🙂

And Never Say Never…More On Emile Pingat

When it comes to fashion, the phrase “never say never” definitely applies. No sooner had I posted my commentary on Emile Pingat’s use of  relatively simple designs, minimal trim, and overall elegant simplicity, I immediately came across an afternoon dress made by him from circa 1896 that seems to be the opposite and in fact looks like a hot mess: 🙂

Emile Pingat Afternoon Dress 1896

Emile Pingat, Afternoon Dress, c. 1896; De Young Museum, San Francisco (1998.170a-b)

However, upon reflection, there is a certain logic to that “hot mess”…First, the dress has relatively clean lines and restrained sleeves place this more towards the late 1890s when the leg-of-mutton sleeve craze had passed its zenith. but what is remarkable is that skirt is a striped black and white striped cotton velveteen covered by an overlayer of purple wool flannel that had a cut out art nouveau design. In some ways, the effect is reminiscent of the slashing found on Renaissance doublets.

The bodice continues the purple flannel overlay and black and white striped cotton and the sleeves are also done in the underlying striped fabric. The bodice is structured to give the effect of a jacket with an inset faux waist of  aqua panné velvet. Overall, the silhouette is fairly conventional except for the purple overlay with the cutout design.

However, as with many of Pingat’s designs, the focus is on the fabrics themselves and this dress is no exception with Pingat’s dramatic use of the wool flannel overlay. I only wish that there were more pictures available of this dress- it bears close examination. So in the end, while it may seem to be a bit over-the-top, it does fall firmly in the Pingat “school of design” in that the style’s effect is solely based on the fabrics speaking for themselves. 🙂