And For Some Gustave Beer…

Gustave Beer was a successful Parisian couturier who operated during the later 19th and early 20th Centuries. Although not a lot is known about him, it is known that he was born in Germany sometime in 1855 and was residing in Paris by 1876. Originally established in the artificial flower business, he branched out into clothing, first establishing a lingerie shop in in 1886 and later expanding into a complete couture establishment by 1893. Although Beer himself died sometime between 1910 to 1915, Maison Beer continued in operation until 1930 when it merged with Maison Drecoll.1The only book-length study of Gustave Beer is in French by Mathilde Héliot, La maison de couture Beer, 2 tomes, thèse en Sorbonne, 2016. Beer was noted for a middle-of-the road style with an emphasis on “classical elegance” that attracted a conservative clientele. Below are a few examples of Beer’s designs, starting with this circa 1898 ballgown:

Gustave Beer, Ball Gown, c. 1898; Whittaker Auctions

Side Profile

The staging of this dress is not at its best but one can see the classic late 1890s silhouette, especially with the skirt and train. Construction is an ivory-colored silk satin with minimal chiffon trim around the neck and shoulders. The entire dress is decorated with crystals and metallic spangles arranged in a floral motif pattern which is shown to its best advantage on the skirt and bodice. It could be said that the bodice and skirt are just a canvas for the floral design-work. Below are some detail pictures of the design:

Close-uo of bodice.

Close-up of hem.

Close-up of decorative motif.

Label

Next, we have a circa 1905 evening dress:

Gustave Beer, Evening Dress, 1905; The Frick, Pittsburgh (1985.523)

This garment reads as the evening version of a lingerie dress and is constructed from ivory-colored silk chiffon with an ivory-colored silk satin underlayer and is decorated with a gold metallic floral motif both on the bodice and the skirt. The bodice is styled so it resembles the waist/jacket combination that was popular at this time and emphasizes the silhouette created by the S-bend corset. The metallic trim pattern on the skirt is artfully arranged so as to mimic vines climbing up a tree. The front of skirt opens up to reveal a chiffon underskirt, framed by the metallic decorative motif running up the edges of the open overskirt. This dress is definitely in keeping with Beer’s emphasis on classical elegance and it’s too bad that there are no close-up pictures of the metallic decorative design.

To carry the lingerie dress style further, we conclude with this afternoon dress:

Gustave Beer, Afternoon Dress, c. 1900; Drexel University Historic Costume Collection

This dress is constructed black lace and chiffon over a green-colored silk velvet underlayer and represents a highly refined take on the lingerie dress idea. What’s interesting here is that the lace panels are not only arranged in circular rows, but the middle ones criss-cross as they move about the dress. On the bodice, we also see the lace panels shaped so that they form a large eye. The arrangement of the lace panels definitely sets this dress apart from many of its peers. We hope you’ve enjoyed this little excursion through the dress designs of Maison Beer and we hope to be able to have more to show in the future.



Fashion In Transition: The Early 1900s

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_1904_3

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

corset_1904_4

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

CI40.141.3ab_F

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

poiret_1910

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 in the basic fashion silhouette in the first decade of the 20th Century. In the next installment, we’ll take a look at changes that occurred in the 1910 – 1914 time frame.

(To be continued…)