And For Some Dress Inspiration From c. 1903

Looking for early 1900s day dresses but not the lingerie dress style? Well, here’s an interesting alternative from circa 1903:

Day Dress, c. 1903; FIDM Museum (79.25.12A-C)

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of detail on specific dress materials, except to say that silk is one of the materials, so short of a physical inspection, it’s somewhat speculation on our part but it’s probable that the fashion fabric is either a silk print or has woven stripes. Velvet is also indicated as another material and more likely present in the trim running along the bottom and middle hems, bodice front, and collar. Finally, lace is also indicated and that’s pretty obvious looking at the middle hem, shoulders, and collar.  Stripes have often been used as a dramatic style element and when used judiciously, they can take an otherwise average dress and make it into something fantastic as with the day dress.

The side profile really shows up the “pouter pigeon” look created by the S-Bend corset.

The train nicely shows off the vertical stiped effect. Daywear styles in the 1900-1905 time frame were dominated by lingerie/lingerie style dresses and this is what tends to stick in people’s minds when considering this period. The above dress stands out as a major exception and certainly provides some food for thought. Stay tuned for more! 🙂

And For Some Artistic Inspiration…

Today we offer a little artistic inspiration by way of this portrait of the Princesse de Broglie that was painted by James Tissot in 1895:

James Tissot, The Princesse de Broglie, 1895

The first thing that caught our eye was Tissot’s use of analogous colors with shades of green on the cape and shades of yellow on the dress. The green colors on the cape are especially interesting in that we see shades of color accentuated by various textures: light green feathers for trim, slightly darker green on the pleated silk collar, and a variegated fashion fabric of gold and green. The overall effect is amazing. The evening dress the sitter is wearing definitely takes second place with a yellow fashion fabric trimmed with a darker yellow on the hem, collar, and belt.  Finally, to tie it all together, there’s a choker collar of dark blue with gold that immediately draws the eye to the sitter’s face. Tissot has done a brilliant job here and one can almost feel a visual harmony of coolness, evoking a sense of spring and summer and some reason our minds are drawn to Monet’s home at Giverny…

 

In terms of garments, greens have always been a favorite with us and many of our designs have incorporated similar colors:

We have by no means exhausted the design possibilities using these colors and anticipate creating more designs in the future. 🙂



1870s Design

When designing an 1870s dress, one is often faced with an overwhelming number of choices. While the basic 1870s style was characterized by the all-encompassing bustle silhouette, all of the other details were far from uniform and there were a bewildering variety of choices available in selecting the fabrics and trims. Moreover, there were many available choices in bodice, skirt, sleeve, and train design to include the princess line that came into vogue in the late 1870s. Moreover, compared to earlier eras, there is also a variety of color choices, all made possible by the development of aniline dyes.

With all these choices, where does one begin? One of the most effective methods that we have successfully employed throughout the years is through the use of contrasting colors. Below are some examples of the possibilities:

The Englishwomen’s Domestic Magazine, June 1876

The color contrast could come in the form of a striped fashion fabric with one basic color and the stripes with the other color as shown on the above left figure. On the right, the contrast comes from the trim, in this case large bows and ribbons.

1876

With the above plate, the contrast comes from the fabrics themselves. The dress on each figure consists of two sets of fashion fabric and in some instances, one of the fabrics could be patterned. Below is another example of this:

In the above plate, we see a base fashion fabric combined with a second fabric that’s been draped over the first. The large scale use of fringe enhances the contrast and in the case of the left figure, the second fabric looks like it’s ready for slide off. Of course this is fashion plate and a bit of artistic licence is to be expected. 🙂

Fashion Plate c. 1876

Wide stripes could also be used for a more dramatic effect as demonstrated with the above two figures. The cuirass bodice offered a wider “canvas” for these effects because of its larger continuous surface era. The princess line dress offered even greater scope for dramatic effect as seen below:

Le Moniteur de la Mode, 1876

In the above plate, the dress on the left uses contrast to its fullest extent by unifying the contrasting colors in a continuous flow of fabric and especially with the train. The dress on the right is a little different in that contract color is limited to stripes and edge trimming and with the embroidered back panel on the bodice enhancing the overall effect.

The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine, July 1877

The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, July 1877

In the above plate, the contrast effect is achieved through the use of striped trims to “outline” the dress in key areas. Once again, the princess line allows for this technique to be used to its greatest effect, Now let’s look at some examples of extant garments:

Day Dress, American, 1876; Philadelphia Museum of Art (1969-147-1a,b).

A color contrast can be achieved through a variety of methods. One of the easiest, as shown above, is to utilize two solid colors with one color acting as the base fashion fabric that covers the largest expanse while the other plays a secondary role with the contrast color. Note that the backside of the fashion fabric that has been turned out as shown along the bottom of the skirt while on the bodice there are revers and a faux waist coat. Below is another example of the solid color method:

With the above example, the secondary contrast fabric has been used to create a series of stripes running in a up the skirt on a diagonal angle to create a spiral effect. On the front of the bodice is a large panel in the same color along with two large sleeve cuffs.

Another creative way to approach contrast colors are to use two different colors in two different fabrics as with the silk velvet combined with a silk faille in the dress below:

Day Dress, French, 1875; Philadelphia Museum of Art (1976-120-1a--c)

Day Dress, French, 1875; Philadelphia Museum of Art (1976-120-1a–c).

But why stop there? 🙂 Contrast can be also achieved by having one of the fabrics be a stripe or other type of pattern as with the dress below:

Day Dress, Emile Pingat, French, c. 1874; Philadelphia Museum of Art (1938-18-12a,b)

Day Dress, Emile Pingat, French, c. 1874; Philadelphia Museum of Art (1938-18-12a,b)

In the above example, the two contrast fabrics are nearly equal in volume with the striped fabric being employed as an overskirt on the bottom and as trim on the bodice. Plaids and checks were also employed as with this dress:

Day Dress, c. 1873; McCord Museum (M20277.1-2)

Day Dress, c. 1873; McCord Museum (M20277.1-2)

Note how the striped fabric is dominant in the above dress, comprising most of the bodice, overskirt, and train. The solid color fabric shows up in the sleeves and underskirt and it’s the same color as the stripes in the patterned fabric with the ecru providing the contrast. This is just one possibility of many.

The princess line dress also offers many possibilities. While is maintains the bustle silhouette, the fact that there is no separate bodice and skirt creates a unified whole that runs smooth and uninterrupted as with this dress:

Czech Dress1

Day Dress, 1870s; National Museum, Prague (H2-193316)

Czech Dress2

Czech Dress3

Czech Dress4

All right, so we went a bit overboard with the last dress but it’s an interesting color combination of light pink and steel grey (although it’s hard to detect with the lighting- it shows up best on the rear). In the front is a wide panel of light pink that’s offset by the steel grey on the remainder of the dress (with the exception of some detail on the rear). The above examples are just a small sampling of the color possibilities that are available. Combinations could simply be a matter of varying color shades such as dark and light blue or they could involve a combination of two different colors.

In choosing an effective color combination, keep in mind that while Victorians loved combining different colors, they also sought to have those colors harmonize at the same time, acting as complementary colors. Below is an illustration of a Victorian era color wheel developed in 1867 by Charles Blanc:

In the above illustration, the complementary colors are directly opposite of each other (e.g., yellow-purple, green-red, blue-orange). Naturally there are various shades in between and the complementary pairs will shift. The above is admittedly an over-simplification but it does give an idea of what designers were aiming for during the late 19th Century.

Just to complicate matters further is the idea of saturation. Saturation refers to the intensity/vividness of a color. Colors that are highly saturated are bold and rich, while those that are desaturated lack in vibrancy.

color_saturation

An effective color combination could employ the principle of using two colors that are the same except for the difference in saturation. This is somewhat related to juxtaposing fabrics of two fabrics of different color shades as mentioned above:

The above is by no means a comprehensive overview and admittedly a lot of this is subjective. The best suggestion we can give is to look and pictures of original fashion plates and extant garments, making allowances for fading and deterioration. Certain combinations are going to look “right”, others not so much (and some could be downright ghastly- no different than today).

We hope that this has provided some ideas to help you get started. 🙂



And Something For The Bridal Line…

I‘ve been slowly building a dress sample based on the styles of tea gowns and lingerie dresses from the 1899-1905 era for our Bridal line. This one is all fine sheer cottons, mostly pearl white worn over buttercream yellow, antique lace front panels and insertion, and dyed to match silk ribbon. Our original idea was to make this from white over blue…and then a friend gifted me with a bolt of vintage white and yellow dotted Swiss, and everything changed!  🙂

 



Finished…

Just a hint of pink, with that blush petticoat and corset cover underneath…just imagine, a dress with no train! Perfect for walking Angus and Fiona to town, don’t think I won’t! 🙂