Fashion In Transition: The Early 1900s- Part 1

The Edwardian era of the early 1900s was a time of transition and change in the fashion world. The bustle era was long past and the fashion silhouette was now upright. By 1900, the s-bend corset with the distinct “pigeon-breast” (aka Pouter Pigeon) set the basic style and it was reflected in both formal and informal day and evening styles. But as the “early aughts” (i.e. 1900s) progressed, the extreme pigeon-breast silhouette began to soften, gradually transitioning to a looser, flowing style such as that created in 1908 by Paul Poiret with his Directoire collection.

Corset Before and After Poiret

The transition from s-bend corset to…

The distinct “pigeon-breast” (or Pouter Pigeon because the resulting bust looked like the puffed out chest of the pouter pigeon) was created by the mechanics of the s-bend corset which created a rounded, forward leaning torso with the hips pushed back. Compared to corsets of the 1880s and 90s, the s-bend corset had a straight front that started relatively low on the bustline. Often padding and corset covers were worn to achieve the perfect bust silhouette. Here are some examples for visual reference of the basic silhouette:

S-bend corset patent -Original- Pre 1929 Historical Pattern Collection

Patent documentation for a patent for an s-bend corset.

1903 s-bend corset

S-Bend Corset_2

S-Bend Corset

S-Bend Corset

And the final product:

Les Modes Sept 1901 Maison Rouff

S-Bend Corset_3

And here are a couple of examples of the s-bend corset:

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Corset, c. 1904; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.3123a–e); Made for the parisian department store Bon Marché.

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Side Profile

From the above picture of the side profile, it’s easy to see the distinctive “s” bend. In comparison with other extant examples, this one is somewhat restrained in the curve.

corset_1904_5

Rear View

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Corset, c. 1904 – 1905; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.40.141.3a, b)

CI40.141.3ab_TQL

 

 

And here it is in action, so to say:

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Advertisement, c. 1905

And more fully clothed:

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Although not as extreme as some examples, one can still make out the distinct silhouette created by the s-bend corset.

[De Gracieuse] Wedren-toilet van blauw zijden batist (July 1903)

Here are some examples of extant dresses:

Doucet Afternoon Dress 1900 1903_1jpg

Doucet, Afternoon Dress, c. 1900 – 1903; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.579a, b)

Doucet Afternoon Dress 1900 1903_2jpg

Rear View

Ball Gown Evening Dress Worth c. 1902 Lady Mary Curzon

Worth, Evening Dress, c. 1902; Fashion Museum Bath

Day Dress 1902 - 1904

Day Dress, c. 1902 – 1904; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1994.192.18a–c)

Day Dress 1902 - 1904

Day Dress 1905

Day Dress, c. 1905; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.21 to C-1960)

Day Dress 1903 1905

Day Dress, c. 1903 – 1905; Galleria del Costume di Palazzo.

Here’s a similar type of dress on a live models:

 

Robe_d'après-midi_par_Redfern_1905_cropped

Robe_tailleur_par_Redfern_1905_cropped

Interestingly enough, while the s-bend corset reshaped the bosom, the bosom itself was de-emphasized and the bust was often softened by additional fabric and trim. By the end of the 1900s, one can see the shift towards a more upright silhouette. Designers such as Paul Poiret sought to create a new silhouette that more “natural,” unconstrained by severe corsetry such as the s-bent corset. Here are a few examples:

Noveau Directoire2 Poiret

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Day Dress Designed By Paul Poiret, 1910

Paul Iribe 1908 Poiret Noveau Directoire

Noveau Directoire 1908 Poiret Josephine Dress

Paul Poiret, Day Dress, 1908; Les Arts Décoratifs

But Poiret was not the only designer working towards a more upright, cylindrical silhouette. There was also the designs of Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix:

1909 Margaine Lacroix

Robe de courses, Margaine Lacroix, 1909

Margaine Lacroix

Dress for the races by Margaine-Lacroix, photo by Félix, Les Modes July 1910.

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Margaine-Lacroix c. 1908 - 1910  Evening Dress

Margaine-Lacroix, Evening Dress, c. 1908 – 1910; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1979.346.32)

Paquin Walking Suit 1910 Front 2

Jeanne Paquin, Walking Suit, Spring/Summer 1910; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.474a–d)

1910

Evening Gown, c. 1910; Kerry Taylor Auctions

Finally, even the House of Worth was moving in the same direction but there’s still some structure in this dress…

Worth Afternoon Dress 1907

House of Worth, Afternoon Dress, 1907; Manchester City Galleries (1947.4254)

Worth Afternoon Dress 1907

Close-Up Of Front

The preceding examples give a pretty good overview of the changes that were occuring in the basic fashion silhouette in the course of the first decade of the 20th Century. In the next installment, we’ll take a look at changes that occurred in the 1910 – 1914 timeframe.

(To be continued…)

On To Bath…

After four exciting days in London, it was now time to head west to the town of Bath, or more properly, Bath Spa, located in the west of England. After a somewhat challenging 1 1/2 hour train trip and a cab ride, we finally arrived at our accommodations at the Aquae Sulis Guest House, a lovely B&B located about five miles west of the town proper (unfortunately, it turned out that it was a little too far out of town for our purposes and in the future, we’ll be seeking something a bit closer in).

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The view from our room.

After hauling our baggage to the third floor, we decided to rest up and wait until the next day to take in some of the local sites in town.

After a wonderful English breakfast, we were off to the Fashion Museum Bath.  Located in the center of Bath, the museum is also the site of the Assembly Rooms, the site for the Prior Attire Ball that we would be attending later. The collection at the Fashion Museum is small but it has some amazing examples. Here, in no particular order, are a few that we found to be especially striking (we also have supplemented our pictures with some of the museum’s for greater clarity):

First up are some 18th Century dresses- here’s a Robe à la française, c. 1760s:

Fashion Museum Bath

Fashion Museum Bath robe à la française, 1760s

Robe à la française, c. 1760s; Fashion Museum Bath

And for a Robe à l’anglaise, c. 1740′s:

Fashion Museum Bath Robe à l’anglaise, 1740′s

Fashion Museum Bath Robe à l’anglaise, 1740′s

Robe à l’anglaise, c. 1740′s; Fashion Museum Bath

And then moving up a little further in time to the 1860s is this cotton muslin day dress:

Fashion Museum Bath

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And from 1874, a light cotton day dress:

Fashion Museum Bath

Fashion Museum Bath

This is day dress is a made from a striped cotton print (most likely). Here’s a better picture:

Day Dress 1874 Bath Fashion Museum

Day Dress, 1874; Fashion Museum Bath

And then there’s this interesting dress from circa 1890:

Fashion Museum Bath Day Dress c. 1890

 

Day Dress c. 1890 Fashion Museum Bath

Day Dress, c. 1890; Fashion Museum Bath

And here’s a portrait of a one Mary Endicott posing for a portrait wearing the dress:

Bath Fashion Museum Day Dress c. 1890

Mary Endicott (nee Chamberlain) by John Everett Millais, 1890 – 1891; Birmingham Museums (1989P60)

Moving forward in time, here are a few more contemporary designs that caught our eye:

 

The above minidress was designed by Yves Saint Laurent in 1965 as part of the Mondrian Collection, which was inspired by the artist Piet Mondrian whose abstract art works emphasized lines and the use of primary colors. Compared to other dresses in the collection, the one above is relatively non-descript yet still represents a time when fashion was moving towards more simple, pared-down looks that emphasized basic design elements. Here’s the more iconic dress from the collection that always appears in design books:

Yves Saint Laurent (French 1936). Dress, fall/winter 1965-66. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gift of Mrs. William Rand, 1969 (C.I. 69.23)

Finally, here’s an example from Dior’s “New Look” collection from 1947:

New Look Dior 1947 Fashion Museum Bath

New Look Suit – originally designed by Dior in 1947

These were made both in a cream white as well as in black and were both one-piece and two-piece. Although it might not be so obvious in the picture, they emphasized an hourglass design with an extremely narrow waist that required a cincher. The jacket was made with both a shawl collar and a more conventional collar with lapels.

Overall, the Fashion Museum Bath is worth a visit and although their collection seems a bit small, it’s got some excellent examples. My only criticism would be that it really needs a larger display area to do justice to their collection. We look forward to returning to the museum in the future. 🙂

Trending For 1909…

Early films can sometimes tell us a lot about earlier fashions. Below is some newsreel footage taken in 1909- although it’s labeled “Paris Fashion Week 1909,” I suspect that it was simply filmed in the Spring. In this footage, you see a mix of older and newer fashions to include the Nouveau Directoire and “Delphos”/Classical Grecian styles that were coming into vogue then; designs pioneered by couturiers such as Paul Poiret and Jeanne Paquin. Enjoy!

Maison Rouff- September 1901

Maison Rouff

When it comes to couture houses of the late 19th/early 20th Centuries, Maison Rouff was one of the more obscure and in many ways is an enigma. Today, except for the occasional reference (at least in English), Maison Rouff has pretty much been lost to history except for the fact that Jeanne Paquin got her start there before venturing out on her own in 1891. Complicating matters is that it’s often confused with the designer Maggy Rouff who was originally born Marguerite de Wagner in 1896 and ultimately bought Maison Rouff in 1929 and subsequently adopted the pseudonym of “Maggy Rouff.”

Maison Rouff Card 1910.

From what little information we do have, Maison Rouff was founded in 1884 by a one L. Rouff. Originally located in Vienna, the house at some point moved to Paris (Interestingly enough, Maison Rouff is noted as having participated in the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago). Unfortunately, it’s going to take some real digging into non-internet sources to find out the total story but in the meantime, below are a few images of some styles for Fall 1901 that were featured in the September 1901 issue of Les Modes:

First we start with a visiting dress:

Les Modes Sept 1901 Maison Rouff

Afternoon dress:

Les Modes Sept 1901 Maison Rouff

And here’s two images of a dinner dress (it appears to be the same dress from two different angles):

Pages from Les_Modes___Sept 1901_Plate3

Les Modes Sept 1901 Maison Rouff

In all the above styles, the s-bend corset definitely creates the foundation and in all instances, the skirts have a train. Naturally, the train on in the dinner dress depicted above is the most elaborate of all and it’s quite impressive, enhanced by two very large ribbons extending down from a bow. Otherwise, the styles are fairly typical of the early 1900s. The history of Maison Rouff certainly bears more study and we hope that in future posts that we’ll have more to reveal.

The Czarina Of Dress – A Look At Jeanne Paquin, Part II

Maison Paquin

Beraud, Jean (1849-1935), Workers Leaving Maison Paquin, c. 1900; Musee de la Ville de Paris, Musee Carnavalet.

In our last post, we discussed Mme. Paquin’s early years as a couturiere in the 1890s. However, it was not until the early 1900s that she began to come into her own and in this post, we’ll be taking a look at this period. During the early 1900s, Paquin’s fashion house grew in stature, aided by her husband’s business acumen, she proved to be an expert marketer, frequently utilizing publicity stunts to attract public attention. More importantly, Paquin made an extra effort to cater to her clients’ needs, taking into account their personalities and preferences; this was in contrast to the aloof approach taken by some of the other fashion houses such as Worth and Poiret who tended to operate on the “we know what’s best for you and you’ll like it” principle.

Paquin’s working style was noted at least as early as 1896 as detailed in the March 22, 1896 issue of the Los Angeles Herald:

Ask Paquin to make you a dress, and say “What shall I have?” Does this clever artist recall a gown worn by Empress this or Queen that, or Actress So-and-So, and say such and such a thing “would be pretty.” Not at all. Your figure is taken into consideration in selecting rough or smooth, large pattern or plain goods. Your eyes, hair and skin are considered In selecting the chief color. Then with a roll of the warp printed silk for a cue, Paquin will coil a twist of one color about it. and then another, and the harmony and contrast are decided upon, end when you are clothed in the result of this cogitation you go forth In the nearest degree to a right mind on the subject of dress that you have ever had likely.

In terms of design, Paquin was also solidly grounded, using a combination of color, light, and texture to create dazzling effects. Many of her designs were inspired by Oriental influences or by previous historical eras and many of her designs were novel that combined various fabrics and trim in unexpected ways. At the same time, Paquin was also practical, incorporating elements in her designs to give women greater mobility such as the use of hidden gussets in hobble skirts to allow greater leg movement.

Paquin’s stature was such that in 1900 she was elected as the President of the fashion section for the 1900 Exposition Universelle and later was honored by the French Government with the Legion of Honor in 1913.

Paquin_Worlds Fair_1900_1

Paquin Display, 1900 Exposition Universelle(© Léon et Lévy / Roger-Viollet)

Paquin_Design_1900

Fashion Sketch For A Ball Gown, Paquin, 1900; V&A Museum (E.334-1957). This was one of a number of designs created by Paquin for the 1900 Exposition Universelle

Below are some representative examples of Paquin’s designs during the early 1900s. First we start with some day wear:

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Day Dress, Paquin, . 1905 – 1907; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1979.346.27a, b)

1979.346.27ab_B

Three-Quarter Rear View

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Afternoon Suit, Paquin, c. 1906 – 1908; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1350a–c)

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Rear View

69.149.11a-b 0002

View without the jacket.

And now for some formal styles such as these two 1895 vintage ball gowns:

Paquin Ballgown 1895

Jeanne Paquin, Ballgown, 1895; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.2115a, b)

Paquin Three Quarter Rear View

Three Quarter Rear View

Paquin 1895

Jeannie Paquin, Ballgown, c. 1895; Staatliche Museen Berlin (2003,KR 424 a-c)

Looking at the above two examples, they’re essentially the same design only with different fabrics and trims. In terms of design, both are relatively simple although the second one is more elaborate with a beaded pattern continuously running on both the skirt front and the rear skirt/train.

Moving forward to 1900, we see another of Paquin’s designs:

Paquin Ballgown 1901

Jeanne Paquin, Ballgown, 1901; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.53.32.3a, b)

Paquin- Skirt

Close-Up Of Skirt

Design-wise, we see a continuation of the earlier 1890s style. The skirt and bodice are constructed of an ivory silk satin covered with a beaded floral motif and supplemented by yellow silk velvet ribbons and white lace which all combine to create a three-dimensional effect.

And in 1904, we see a drastic reduction of the train in this evening dress:

Jeanne Paquin 1904

Jeanne Paquin, Evening Dress, 1904; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.39.112.2)

Jeanne Paquin 1904

Side Profile

Unfortunately, examples of Paquin’s earlier work are not abundant to it’s hard to get a complete picture of where she was going design-wise. Compared to Worth or the other leading designers, her designs are relatively simple (and I use this term loosely) but nevertheless betray a certain elegance. In future posts, we’ll be showing examples from later years which reveal some amazing details that set her apart from other designers.

(To be continued…)