More From The FIDM Museum…

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e at Lily Absinthe make a point of often visiting the FIDM Museum. The exhibits are updated often and there’s always something that exquisite to see and rarely do we go away not being inspired. 🙂 As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, here’s a little more about what we saw there. First, we have a mantle, c. 1885, designed by Charles Worth:

Worth 1885

Worth 1885

This coat is constructed a silk velvet/brocade trimmed with sable. Although it’s not easy to make out, the brocade design is that of a pineapple (one could argue that the choice of pineapple was apt since it was considered an expensive luxury). Definitely intended for a cold climate (with temperatures running abound 103, the Californian in us shudders), the mantle was intended to provide total coverage and is shaped to accommodate the underlying bustled dress.

Next up, is this c. 1908 afternoon dress designed by Liberty & Company, Ltd.:

FIDM Liberty of London 1908

FIDM Liberty of London 1908

The dress silhouette is characteristic of the later 1900s and while it was no doubt work with an s-bend corset underneath, it’s fairly muted (although that can simply be the staging). The bodice and skirt are made from a gray silk/silk chiffon, trimmed with embroidered silk flowers along the lapels of the bodice, sleeves, and waist. The bodice is designed with a front opening to simulate a jacket with a lace/gauze waist underneath.

FIDM Liberty of London 1908

FIDM Liberty of London 1908

Close-up of the embroidery detail. Liberty of London was a high-end department store in London specializing in importing fabrics from the Orient and especially Japan.

In terms of style, this represents the more conventional path when compared to a designer like Paul Poiret who, at the same time, was pushing Nouveau Directoire:

Paul Iribe 1908 Poiret Noveau Directoire

Noveau Directoire 1908 Poiret Josephine Dress

Paul Poiret, Day Dress, 1908; Les Arts DĂ©coratifs

 It’s quite a contrast…

Well, that concludes our most recent trip to the FIDM Museum. Stay tuned for more posts in the future about this most remarkable place. 🙂

To Those Who Went Before Us…

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What’s so special about my gown? I made it originally as a personal project from notes taken from a few family portraits. I don’t physically resemble anyone in my family (mostly light hair/blue-eyed) except my Mother…and my Great Aunt Florence.

I was told that I met her as a young child, nothing specific (you know how family stories go- things are held back, forgotten, or whatever). Below is her graduation portrait taken in  1905, my favorite fashion year.

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Here are a few more of the dress, taken in front of No. 11 in Tombstone…which, by the way, was built in 1905. 🙂

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Lily Absinthe At The FIDM Museum

As part of the A Graceful Gift: Fans from the Mona Lee Nesseth Collection Exhibit that we viewed at the FIDM Museum last week, we were struck by some of the dresses that were used to accompany the exhibition. Of course, while the fans are works of beauty in their own right, it was the dresses that really stole the show (sorry 🙂 )

First, we start with a design from 1903 by Jeanne Paquin:

Paquin Bacchante Gown 1903

Afternoon Dress, Jeanne Paquin, 1903; FIDM Museum (2012.5.12AB)(Photo: Alex Berliner)

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Close-up view of the bodice (Photo: Alex Berliner)

In terms of style, this dress is very typical of the early 1900s with its s-bend/pigeon breast silhouette. The bodice and skirt are an ivory/cream silk satin overlaid with ivory/cream lave on the skirt and black chiffon on the bodice and sleeves. The bodice is further trimmed along the neckline with a double row of ivory/cream satin to include a line of flowers. The skirt is also trimmed in rows of ivory/cream satin ribbons and flowers over layers of black chiffon. Finally, at the waist is a wide belt of black satin ribbon. What is especially remarkable about this dress is the deft use of black- and this was NOT a mourning dress. During the 1890s and on into the 20th Century, there had been a trend taking black away from its traditional association with mourning and Paquin was one of those instrumental in this movement.

Below are some views that I was able to get. Unfortunately, because the dress was set far back from the railing, it was difficult to get good pictures so we had to rely on some from the FIDM Museum above in order to present a clear overview.

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Close-up of skirt trim.

The fan was also a nice addition but unfortunately it was impossible to get a good picture, especially since the right was reflecting off it it, making the image blurry. Also, at the same time, the fan was a bit of a hinderance in that it was so large that it tended to screen the dress, making it difficult to get good pictures. In terms of overall aesthetics, it’s our opinion that the fan is simply detracts detracts from the dress.

Finally, as an interesting follow-up, here is what is believed to be the original design sketch for this dress:

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Fashion Design Sketch Entitled “Bricette” For Paquin, c. 1903; V&A Museum (E.764-1967)

The relationship between the design sketch and the actual dress is discussed in the FIDM Museum blog and it’s an interesting account.

The next dress of interest was this circa 1904 design from the House of Pingat-Wallès (in 1896, Emile Pingat sold his fashion house to another house, A. Wallès who merged his name with Pingat’s and conducted business under that name). Here is the dress itself:

Pingat 1906

Day Dress, House of Pingat-Wallès, c. 1904; FIDM Museum

As with the Paquin design, style-wise this dress also reflects the s-bend/pigeon breast silhouette characteristic of the early 1900s (although it must be noted that the silhouette is nowhere as extreme as some others of the period that we have seen). Instead of chiffon and lace, Pingat-Wallès utilizes a black and white floral ivory silk satin skirt covered in larger black floral appliques. The bodice utilizes the same floral silk satin styled with wide lapels/revers with the same black floral appliques as the skirt. The upper bodice front is also trimmed with velvet lattice-work framing a sheer waist.

We had a chance to observe this dress up close and we noted the quality of the workmanship. For example, the spaces in the velvet lattice-work are cut out towards where they meet the waist- this sort of operation is very labor-intensive. Also, the floral appliques are neatly stitched to the skirt and bodice with dozens of tiny stitches. We shudder to think of the time that this must have taken but such is the nature of haute couture. 🙂

Below are some more views:

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And finally, here are some more detail views:

The next dress is by a lesser-known couturier by the name of Christoph von Drecoll who originally got his start in Vienna in 1896 and later opened a branch in Paris in 1902:

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Afternoon Dress, Drecoll, c. 1898; FIDM Museum

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Drecoll 1a

The circa 1898 date on the this dress places it a bit earlier than the previous two but its silhouette is similar (we would venture to guess that the date given by the museum might be a bit too early). The skirt and bodice are a matching ivory/cream silk satin with floral appliques. Although it’s hard to make out from the angle of the pictures and the the black ribbon covering the bodice front, the bodice is of a cutaway design that tapers back to reveal a pleated faux-waist, also in ivory/cream silk satin. The skirt hem consists of a row of contrasting dull and shiny silk strips that harmonizes with the floral designs on the skirt. At the waist is a wide black silk ribbon belt separating the skirt from the bodice and a silk chiffon ribbon tie in front.

We have purposely omitted any discussion of the collar/neck treatment until now…in a word, it’s dreadful. The collar is completely incongruous with the rest of the neck and strikes a discordant note in what would otherwise be a smart, elegant design. The collar is thick and reads like a cervical collar and tends to draw the eye away from the rest of the dress. In some respects it reminds us of the collar/ruff on the Lucy wedding dress in Dracula. Hideous, to be sure.

Just to be fair, here are some more views of the dress:

Three different dresses from three different couturiers, all in similar ivory/cream and black and all representing three different approaches to style in the early 1900s (if we ignore the date on the Drecoll dress). Although these dresses were intended as a backdrop for the fan exhibition, we would argue that it’s really the reverse: the fans were simply an accessory to the dresses. 🙂 To be honest, if the goal was to display fans, there should have been a greater focus on that elements, perhaps sans dresses. But that’s just our opinion and in any event, it was all a work of art and sheer beauty and to be able to see these dresses “in the flesh” was a treat. 🙂

Croquet Anyone?

To continue the First World War theme a bit, here’s a picture of us from a a couple of years ago at the annual Great War Historical Society party. Not to minimize the magnitude and tragic significance of the First World War but rather the celebrate some of the lighter moments. 🙂 This picture was taken by a good friend of ours and we think it captured the moment quite nicely…

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