Just In- Charles Worth: Father of Haute Couture

Just in time for Christmas! 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: 😁

And For Some More 1890s Outerwear

I‘s been especially cold lately in Southern California and once again, thoughts turn to outerwear…😄

Even in Southern California (and Southern Arizona, for that matter), December can get cold and when it does, our thoughts rapidly turn to outerwear.  🙂 Today we turn to the December 1890 issue of Demorest’s Family Magazine:

Decidedly the most popular outdoor garment this season is the jacket, which is worn by ladies of all ages, whether of petite or portly figure. All styles agree in having the fitted back, differing only in the use or omission of plaits or lap at the side-form and back seams, and the majority have tight-fitting fronts, either single or double-breasted, the loose fronted “Reefer,” and the open, rolling fronts displaying a vest, being the exceptions.

Here’s some examples of styles pictured in Demorest’s:

One of the more interesting and eminently practical is the “Reefer” Jacket:

Here’s another view of the jacket style as part of a complete outfit from the December issue of Peterson’s Magazine:

Finally, just to round things off here are some pictures of extant originals:

Jacket, c. 1891; Auction in AntiqueDress.com

Skirt Suit Jacket, c. 1895; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.173&A-1969)

Afternoon Jacket, Emile Pingat, c. 1885 – 1890; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.76)

Jackets were an integral part of any wardrobe of the period, ranging from the purely functional to the extremely fashionable, and there’s a wide range of possibilities for those recreating historical fashions.

An Evening Dress From Maison Worth

Today we feature yet another find from Maison Worth, in this case an evening dress from the mid-1890s from Drouot, a French antique auction website:

Worth, Evening Dress, c. Mid-1890s; Drouot Auction Website

This dress is constructed of a pink silk satin (possibly a duchesse) for both skirt and bodice. The skirt is relatively plain except for the ivory silk chiffon running along the hem. The bodice is another matter, decorated in front with a series of black bead and jeweled appliques on the front and on each sleeve cuff. Running along the bustline and the bodice back is ivory netting with spangles. To complete the design, the sleeves are three-quarter length with what appear to be pink chiffon sleeve extensions with spangles. It’s an interest effect, to say the least.

Looking at the sleeve heads, we would venture that this dress was made sometime in the 1893-1895 time frame- there’s a definite fullness but it’s not as expansive as was characteristic of the large gigot sleeves that developed as a style trend in 1895-1897; but of course, this is only conjecture on our part. Below are two close-ups of the bodice front:

The front applique panels create a very complex design. On close examination, it would appear that the base was composed of the same shade of pink netting as found on the sleeve extensions. And now for two rear views:

And a close-up of the sleeve detail:

The sleeve extensions (they see to be more than just “cuffs” to us) are quite elaborate, combining pink netting, spangles, and metallic fringe at the ends. This was probably not the most practical dinner for dining… Finally, just for completeness, here are two views of the bodice interior:

Note the distinctive petersham with the Worth logo. As with most formal bodices of the period, all the seams are boned and it’s interesting to note that the front has three bones sewn in side-by-side. All the seam edges have been finished by hand and overall, the interior appears fairly tidy.

The evening dress is fascinating in that it’s an example that hasn’t been well-documented since it’s been in private collections as opposed to a museum. We’d certainly be interested to know the provenance of the dress; it would be great to be able to find out more about but we suspect it will always remain somewhat of a question mark. We hope you’ve enjoyed most fascinating design from Maison Worth.

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And For Some More From Maison Worth

Today we feature another ball gown from Maison Worth, in this case one from circa 1895 from Drouot, a French antique auction website:

Worth Ball Gown c. 1895

Worth, Ball Gown, c. 1895; Drouot Auction Website

As noted in previous posts, late 1890s and early 1900s ball gowns designed by Worth featured simple silhouettes with the emphasis being placed on the fabric itself  with a minimum of trim.

The gown was made of a silk lampas brocade that was expressly woven for Worth by Tassinari & Chatel1Located in Lyon, France, Tassinari & Chatel still exists today. in a “Reine des fleurs” pattern taken from a drawing of the original decoration of the bedroom of Madame du Barry in Versailles. Here’s a view of the train:

And a close-up of the bodice:

As with many of Worth’s designs, ivory chiffon was often draped around the neckline and incorporated into the shoulders. Although this was no doubt done to frame the head/face and provide a little contrast to the fashion fabric, it looks a bit overdone to us. The fashion fabric is overly obscured and its effect diminished. Of course, we’re looking at chiffon that’s over 100 years old so who knows? 😉 And now for some close-ups of the fashion fabric:

The above pictures give a good view of the pattern and just how intricate it was. Silk lampas fabric in smiliary patterns can still be obtained today from Tassinari & Chatel but trust us, it’s not inexpensive. 😆 This dress is an amazing piece of art and is yet another stunning example of Maison Worth’s range of styles.

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And Now From Maison Worth 😉

When it came to haute couture, Maison Worth was a master not only noted for its imaginative designs, but also for the sheer output of product as demonstrated by the extensive collections of Worth gowns in many museum collections such as the Met in New York. Also, thanks to the internet and all manner of reference works, many of Worth’s creations are well documented and known so it’s always a treat when one comes across examples that aren’t in museums and thus less well documented- principally from auction websites. Below is one such example, a circa 1900 ball gown we came across on Drouot, a French antique auction website:

Worth, Ball Gown, c. 1900; Drouot Auction Website

In the above view, we get a closer look at the bodice front. What’s interesting is that the bodice pieces make no attempt to match up the pattern and thus it looks a bit jarring when view up close.

As with many of Maison Worth’s gowns of this period, the emphasis was on the fabric itself and thus there was a minimum of trim. The fabric appears to be an ivory silk brocade with a floral pattern (the lighting in the pictures can sometimes make fabric colors deceptive). Here’s a closer view of the fashion fabric starting with part of the skirt:

The floral design is beautiful and we would have liked to be have been able to view it in person. Also, unfortunately, there’s no information online as to the garment’s provenance- that would have been interesting to know. But that all said, this ball gown is a wonderful example of Maison Worth’s late 1890s/early 1900s designs. In future posts, we’ll have some more wonderful new (at least to us) examples to look at. 😉