Inspiration of the Day…

Image result for canada northern lights

Fall colors have always been a favorite with us but we also like winter colors- colors that suggest a time of year when the weather gets cold and crisp. Having recently returned from our neighbor to the North, we’re been inspired by a more color palette more commonly associated with the Arctic Circle (OK, we’re reaching here) rather than Southern California and when it comes to styles, we found this c. 1900 – 1901 evening dress to be the embodiment of that:

Evening Dress 1900 - 1901

Madame Memot, Evening Dress, 1900 – 1901; Norsk Folkemuseum (NF.1962-0398A)

Evening Dress 1900 - 1901

Rear View

In terms of silhouette, this dress is consistent with c. 1900 styles with its slender, upright profile. However, it’s hard to determine if it was worn with the newly-emerging s-bend style corset or with the earlier style. The fashion fabric is a light turquoise/blue brocade with a floral pattern and trimmed with black embroidered and jeweled netting and a matching turquoise chiffon. Here’s a close-up of the bodice:

Evening Dress 1900 - 1901

Close-up of bodice

The above close-up gives a better idea of the color palette at work; here’s another way to look at it:

Color Palette_Northern Lights

It’s interesting that what we’d consider “turquoise” is termed “steel blue”…but in the end what counts is the color itself. We’ll close with a few more pictures just to stir the imagination:

Image result for canada arctic ice cave

Image result for canada arctic colors


And For Some Style From Maison Rouff

Maison Rouff Card 1910.

Recently, we came across this interesting evening dress style that was offered by Maison Rouff from circa 1895:

Rouff Evening Dress c. 1895

Maison Rouff, Evening Dress, c. 1895; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.2339a, b)

Rouff Evening Dress c. 1895

Three-Quarter Rear View

The interesting thing about this style is incorporation of a short sleeve jacket/vest into the bodice, reminiscent of an 18th Century waist coat. This is a feature that’s not usually encountered in evening dress styles of the 1890s (at least what we’ve come across so far). Here’s a close-up of the back of the bodice:

Rouff Evening Dress c. 1895

Close-up detail of bodice back.

The dress and under-bodice look like a fairly conventional silk chiffon with a silk underskirt but where the jacket/vest definitely gives this a unique look. We would love to know more about this imaginative dress. 🙂


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:


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


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.


Rear View


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




And here it is in action, so to say:


Advertisement, c. 1905

And more fully clothed:


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:




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


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)


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


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. 🙂