Some Late 1870s Wedding Gown Style

The Natural Form/Mid-Bustle Era only lasted a short five years but it provided an interesting counterpoint to the heavily bustled/trained styles of the early 1870s and mid to late 1880s and especially as it applied to wedding dresses. As noted in a previous post, the typical wedding dress came in a variety of styles and could pretty  much be any better quality dress. However, at the same time, styles that were more specific to the occasion were coming into fashion and would later be associated with the “traditional white wedding.” Below are just a few examples of specific wedding dresses from the late 1870s, starting with this circa 1877 wedding dress:

Wedding Dress, c. 1877; Whitaker Auctions

This dress has a distinct princess line with no waistband and from the limited pictures, it appears that it opened down the front about half-way. The fashion fabric appears to be an ivory silk taffeta trimmed with gold silk satin along the edges of the train and large strips running along the front of the dress. Along with the silk satin strips along the front, there are rows of knife pleating. The area around the neckline is interesting in that there’s a yoke made up of built-up alternating strips of silk satin and taffeta topped off by a ruched neckline. Here’s a closer view of the upper part of the dress:

Below is a close-up of the yoke front and back:

And finally, a close-up of the sleeve with a double-row of knife pleating:

This dress is interesting but one can’t help but think that it’s incredibly ill-fitting. However, we believe that this is due to poor staging than to ay inherent flaw of the dress. No doubt it was supported by well-fitted petticoats and perhaps padding but unfortunately, there’s little information about the dress online. In any event, it’s an interesting wedding dress style.

Next is a wedding dress from circa 1878-1880 that combines what appears to be a gold silk jacquard floral patterned one-piece bodice and long trained overskirt with a separate gold silk satin underskirt:

Wedding Dress, c. 1878-1880; Metropolitan Museum of Art ( C.I.39.111.3)

This  dress is similar to the first in that it has no defined waist band. Although not a “pure” princess line dress, it achieves a similar effect by combining a unified bodice and long trained overskirt of a gold jacquard floral pattern with a gold silk satin underskirt trimmed with a knife-pleated hem. The bodice is front-opening with a square neckline trimmed with a ruched silk satin neckband. Further accentuating the neckline are three narrow bands of silk satin. The dress is relatively unadorned with no lace and has a simplicity to it. Finally,  we have this circa 1878 wedding dress:

Wedding Dress, c. 1878; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.83.231.20a-b)

Compared to the first two examples, this one is more conventional, consisting of a  separate cuirass bodice and skirt, all made of a gold/ivory silk satin.  The bodice covers the hips and emphasizes vertical lines, aided by the use of style lines that place emphasis on the vertical plane. The skirt, on the other hand, emphasizes horizontal lines with circular ruching and pleating and ribbon bows. The hem consists of one row of deep knife pleating and with a line of  ruching running along the top edge. Unfortunately, there aren’t any other photos that give views from the side or back so we can only speculate but it no doubt has a long train, standard for wedding dresses of the period.

Finally, here’s an exquisite example of of a circa 1878-1879 wedding dress from the Met:

Wedding Dress, c. 1878 – 1879; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1979.339.2)

In terms of silhouette, this dress follows the late 1870s style and like the previous examples, it emphasizes vertical lines and minimizes the waist; in this case there’s no defined waist band. This press isn’t a “princess line” strictly speaking, the bodice and skirt were most likely attached to each other and masked by the swagging.  The fashion fabric on the bodice and main skirt appears to be an ivory silk taffeta, covered by asymmetric strips of gold silk satin with a floral pattern. Running on top of the gold silk satin strips are more narrow strips of a bengaline fabric with fringed ends. Finally, running along the entire hem are two rows of pleated ivory bengaline-like fabric. Below is a side profile:

The train skirt is square-cut at the end and continues the two rows of bengaline trim along with an added layer of fringed trim. Below is a close-up of the decorative trim:

This dress an interesting combination of vertical and horizontal lines with the bodice being relatively unadorned while the skirt is the complete opposite. The trim is asymmetrical, following a natural vertical spiral while at the same time filling the horizontal plane with detail.

The above four dresses are all from the same era but display different design elements. The silhouettes are similar but the individual details vary. However, the colors are pretty much the same- a gold/ivory (depending on the lighting in the photography and one’s particular computer monitor). What’s interesting about all three dresses is that even for their similarity, they still avoid the “white wedding” aesthetic that was to later dominate wedding dresses during the 20th Century.


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Another 1893 Ensemble Dress From Maison Worth

Here’s another ensemble dress from Maison Worth, also from circa 1893. Style-wise, it’s similar to the example that we presented in a previous post but perhaps a little more restrained. Here are a few views:

Worth 1893 Day Reception Afternoon Dress

Worth, Ensemble Dress, c. 1893; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.620a–e)

To us, this bodice reads visiting/afternoon dress, more of a formal day-oriented garment. Below, the bodice reads more of a reception dress or possibly evening dress- although that’s probably stretching things a bit.

Worth 1893 Day Reception Afternoon Dress

The Alternate Bodice

Once again, we see a jacket style for the day bodice with a filler of tulle. The skirt and jacket bodice are a pea-green silk brocade with black lace trim and accents. The night bodice with its light cinnamon colored silk velvet provides a pleasant contrast to the pea green. Compared to yesterday’s example, this dress is a bit more restrained but it’s still a nice design. The silk brocade fabric is interesting and we only wish that there were some close-up pictures of the fabric detail. It’s evident that both the dress and the one in yesterday’s post used identical or fairly similar pattern pieces. Finally, here’s an interesting part of the ensemble- matching shoes:

Worth 1893 Shoes

Matching shoes to outfit.

Stay tuned for more posts on this subject. 🙂

 


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An 1893 Evening Dress From Maison Worth

Ensemble Evening Reception Dress Worth 1893

One interesting aspect of Charles Worth’s designs was what was called the “Ensemble Dress.” This was a dress that had two bodices, typically one for day wear and one for evening wear so one could have a nice semi-formal dress for calling on friends, going into town, or attending some sort of day function. At the same time, with a change in bodices, one would have also be properly dressed for an evening function. Below is just one circa 1893 example from Worth:

Ensemble Evening Reception Dress Worth 1893

Worth, Evening Ensemble Dress, c. 1893; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.622a–c)

First, we have a day bodice that’s designed like a jacket; no doubt some wort of a waist was worn underneath even though it would have been covered by the lace strips running down the front. And then we have a night bodice that’s perhaps a little more formal:

Ensemble Evening Reception Dress Worth 1893

The Alternate Bodice

And here’s a rear view of the dress with the day bodice:

Ensemble Evening Reception Dress Worth 1893

Rear View

In terms of silhouette, this is characteristic for the early 1890s with it’s fairly restrained train arrangement- most likely a small bustle pad was worn but not much else. The fact there’s small train points to it being more of a formal dress (with day and night configurations). The fabric is a silver colored silk satin with a gold leaf pattern decoration woven in broken texture that services to provide a contrast both in texture and color. The red silk velvet lapels and sleeve trim on the day bodice and the red bodice front on the night bodice. The effect is exquisite with either bodice. Below is a close-up of the fabric.

Ensemble Evening Reception Dress Worth 1893

Detail of fabric- too bad it’s not in color.

In 1890s fashion, the skirt and bodice have a minimum of trim and Worth lets the contrasting fabrics, both in color and in texture, speak for themselves. Just one of many exquisite examples from Maison Worth.


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Fashion As A Business- The Early Years

Races at Longchamps, Manet, 1867

Races at Longchamps, Manet, 1867

Today we go to France to take a look at the start of the fashion industry. “Fashion,” as we know it today, began to take form during the late 19th Century. Essentially, fashion was something that was entering the public consciousness on a scale broader than anything ever seen before. The industrial revolution played a major role in the development of fashion in a rising standard of living combined with the development of new methods of manufacturing textile goods made clothing more affordable for more people. Along with this was the rise of the middle class who now had the money and the leisure time to be able follow fashion more closely.

Where once fashion was limited to a monarch and his court, now fashion was far more defuse. Also, just as important, fashion and clothing manufacturing were developing into larger business enterprises and business concerns often drove fashion. This is similar to what we see today but only on a more limited scale with a smaller clientele. Along with the commercialization of fashion by Couturiers such as Charles Worth, Jacques Doucet, Paul Poiret, and a host of others, was the need to more effectively market their fashions. Where word-or-mouth was sufficient, more direct methods of getting fashion styles (i.e., product) before the public were needed and thus developed advertising, fashion journals, fashion plates, and later, fashion photography. With the development of the fashion industry and marketing, those who followed fashion wanted to see these fashions “live”. The concept of the runway show as a public spectacle was still years off but other ways to show off the latest styles were employed.

If it's seen at Longchamps, then you're OK... :-)

If it’s seen at Longchamps, then you’re OK… As is the case today, being seen in a public place with the just the right outfit could make all the difference. 🙂

Once such method was dressing up models with the latest styles and sending them to various public social gathering such as the horse races at Longchamps and in particular, the Grand Prix de Paris which was held every year in July. More than just a horse race, it was a day-long affair that provided a venue for people to see and been seen and that of course meant what they were wearing. Naturally, the press covered these events and end was result was free publicity. Below are just a few of the examples of the styles worn at Longchamps during the period from 1900 to 1914.

Les Modes, 1904

Les Modes, July 1904

Longchamps1

Longchamps2

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The women in the above pictures are wearing versions of the lingerie dress and one can see the influence of the s-bend corset although the silhouette is somewhat muted by the fluffy layers of fabric on the dresses. These definitely fall in the 1900 – 1910 time frame, probably more towards 1902 – 1905. And sometimes, fashion at Longchamps could cause a sensation…below is a picture from 1908 of three models wearing designs by Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix (known simply as Margaine-Lacroix) and dubbed by the press “Les Nouvelles Merveilleuses”:

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c. 1908, “Les Nouvelles Merveilleuses” as dubbed by the press- these three models caused a furor at Longchamps when they arrived- these dresses, designed by Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix were considered scandalous at the time.

The above three dresses definitely got public attention, in part because they completely did away with the conventional corset while at the same time creating a skin-tight silhouette by utilizing stretch fabrics in the dresses themselves to create the form-fitting silhouette.  Susie Ralph, a fashion historian, described it in an introduction that opened an exhibit on Margaine-Lacroix in 2013:

In 1908 Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix sent three mannequins to the Longchamp race-course clad in her form-revealing robes-tanagréennes. These corsetless dresses caused a sensation among Paris’ fashionable crowd – a riot according to some newspaper reports. Worn without corsets and slit to the knee on one side over the most transparent of underskirts, their impact on the fashion world was instantaneous and resulted in major press coverage not only in Paris but around the world. In today’s parlance the style immediately “went viral”….It was Margaine-Lacroix’s daring vision that brought to an end the ideal of the rigidly corseted hour-glass figure, and ushered in the new, slim twentieth century silhouette.

Margaine-Lacroix is an interesting designer in her own right although she is relatively unknown today. Hopefully we’ll be writing more about her in the future. Here, is where the above picture originally was featured:

new-picture-7

Controversy is no stranger to the world of fashion then or now and the debate over what exactly is too “revealing” still rages on. Moving on, fashion photography becomes ever more pervasive during in the years from 1910 – 1914. Here are some more examples:

1912-at-the-races

1912, Watching the races standing on chairs. The lines on these two dresses reflect the moved towards a more sleek, upright silhouette. Goodbye s-bend!

1914

1914, Here is an interesting design incorporating a waistcoat and cutaway coat.

Public spaces like Longchamps provided a venue for people to see “fashion in action” and for us, it provides a fascinating archive of fashion history that helps us to see fashion that is alive. We can see just how garments were worn, how they fit, and even gain some insight into the people who wore them.


Postscript:

Originally I set out to write this blog post about the development of fashion and how it was publicized on public places. However, along the way I also discovered the Les Nouvelles Merveilleuses controversy and the work of the a relatively now forgotten designer Margaine-LaCroix. It just goes to show that you learn something new everyday!😄


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And For A Little Pingat

Emile Pingat’s designs have always been fascinating and especially since he tends to overshadowed by Worth (and Doucet, to a lesser extent). Today, Pingat was mostly noted for his outerwear, but he also designed dresses. Below is an interesting day dress from 1897:

Pingat, Day Dress, 1897; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.2012.95.123a-b)

This dress consists of a multi-gored skirt combined with an under-bodice all of a patterned woven silk fabric. The over-bodice simulates a capelet and along with the sleeves is constructed from a red silk velvet. The same color silk velvet can also be seen in the chevrons running along the skirt and the belt. The gigot sleeves are relatively subdued for an 1897 style; what is especially interesting about the sleeves is that the sleeve caps open up to reveal insets of woven silk fabric that’s similar to the skirt and under-bodice. Here’s a close-up of the left shoulder:

Here’s a close-up of the fabric used in the inset on the sleeves. The intricate floral cord border is an interesting decorative touch:

And here’s the fabric used on the skirt and under-bodice:

When you look at the overall dress, the eye is immediately drawn to the shoulders and the two insets provide some interesting color pops to the red outer-bodice. On the flip side, one could also argue that the dress is too busy from a design perspective and that the somewhat dramatic design elements should have been scaled back: one or to works well but not everything. But nevertheless, Pingat’s design is imaginative and the upper sleeve inserts is something that’s not normally seen in 1890s style. Stay tuned for more in our never-ending quest for the unique and different in late Nineteenth Century style.