And Something From Maison Worth

Maison Worth has always been a source of inspiration for us and we’re always on the lookout for new (at least to us) designs. Recently, we came across this circa 1902 ball gown/evening dress (the boundary between dress types often seems to be a bit fluid). Unfortunately, not a lot of information is available on it (the Europeana website is a dysfunctional mess) so we’ll have to rely on the pictures themselves. We first start with back and front views:

Worth, Ball Gown, c. 1902; Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti via Europeana Fashion

A floral theme is definitely the focus of this dress style with the an ivory/cream silk satin embroidered with a gold floral pattern. The bottom third of the dress is covered in what appears to be a lace overlay decorated with gold-colored metallic spangles (no doubt these are probably stamped from steel). The bottom lace overlay is blended into the overall design motif and gives the appearance of the flowers and vines emerging from a forest ground cover. In terms of silhouette, this dress follows the graceful lines characteristic of Maison Worth during the late 1890s/early 1900s and the train is graceful but not overpowering. Below is a close-up of the skirt:

Below is a close-up of the lace overlay:

The bodice is an extension of the overall decorative effect, combining the floral and ground cover motifs. The shoulders are given some emphasis with blush-colored tulle and gold-colored lace on the sleeves creates a sleeve effect. Finally, we see sink silk satin running along the neckline and shouldered which combined with the pink sash, create a harmonious three-color combination of pink, gold, and ivory. Below is a close-up of the bodice:

This dress is another nice example of Maison Worth’s designs and follows a similar vein as some of their other works:

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

Worth, Evening Gown, c. 1895; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2003.288.1-2)

Stay tuned for more!



Evening Dress Styles From Maison Worth

For Maison Worth, 1900-1903 was an interesting period for evening dresses- while their silhouettes were pretty much the same, their was a great variety in fabrics and decorative elements. Design motifs varied but were drawn from the natural world and the multi-gored skirts gave great scope to this. We first start with this example from circa 1901:

Worth, Evening Dress, c. 1901; Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum

This example is fascinating both because of the color of the fashion fabric and the design as well as the design motif itself. First, the mint-green decoration set against a pale gray-green is a combination of analogous colors that harmonizes well. Second, the design itself is floral with a ribbon running through it and is suggestive of a vine. Unfortunately, there aren’t any other pictures so it’s hard to get a complete idea of the how the decorative design was created although we’d venture that it’s some sort of velvet applique. Also, we’re unable to view the dress from either the side or rear to get an idea of its reach but nevertheless, it’s an imaginative design that draws focus to the wearer.

Next, there’s this example from circa 1902:

Worth, Evening Dress, c. 1902; Museum of Fine Arts Boston (2003.289.1-2)

The side and rear profiles show the floral design very nicely and there’s complete symmetry between left and right sides.

With this design, there’s a lace-covered underskirt combined with a silk satin overskirt and bodice. What’s interesting here is that the overskirt is shorter than the underskirt and it decorated with embroidered floral appliques that provide pops of color to a peach-ivory background. The whole effect is suggestive of layers of vegetation, especially with the bottom flower appliques overhanging the hem of the overskirt.

Flowers were a key part in many of Maison Worth’s dress styles and here we see the flower them taken to more of an extreme with another circa 1902 evening dress:

Worth, Evening Dress, 1902; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.2009a, b)

As with the prior example, this dress consists of a lace-covered underskirt combined with a silk satin overskirt. However, unlike the prior example, the front of the overskirt opens up revealing the lace underskirt with the edges of the overskirt cut in the shape of two rows of flowers, one on each side, curling upwards. The floral design on the overskirt appears to have been painted on. The overall effect in the front is three-dimensional and the eye is drawn upwards towards the wearer’s face. The bodice is similarly cut, enhancing the whole effect. Here’s a close-up of the bodice:

The train below provides a large canvas for the floral design and almost looks as if the train was actually completely made of flowers… 🙂

This is just a small sample of Maison Worth’s output and what’s interesting to note is that in each example, the decorative floral design was either painted or applique. We hope to unearth some more stunning examples in future posts. 🙂



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.



Paul Poiret And Fashion Trends: 1907-1908

By 1907, a seismic shift was happening in the fashion world that saw a repudiation of the tightly controlled architectural styles defined by tight corseting to styles that were seemingly unstructured and free-flowing (although undergarments still played a key role, albeit more subdued) a more freer. One manifestation of this new fashion trend was a return to the Directoire and Neo-Classical styles of the early 1800s, styles that were incorporated by Paul Poiret in his couture collections such as with his iconic “Josephine” evening dress that he created in 1907:

Poiret, Evening Dress (aka “Josephine Dress”), c. 1907; Musee de les Arts Décoratifs (UF 70-38-10)

This dress was constructed from an ivory silk satin and cut in an empress silhouette, a silhouette characterized by a fitted bodice with a high waist that ended just below the bust line combined with a loosely fitted skirt that flowed over the body. The dress is trimmed with a fitted black net shawl, trimmed in gold braid along the edges and hem. Finally, on the bodice front is a large silk fabric rose that draws the eye. Here’s another view:

Here’s a comparison between the dress and concept illustration that was published in 1908:

And here’s a close-up of the dress front. Note the black net covering:

This dress definitely looks back to an earlier time and it could be argued that the style completely repudiates the tightly structured styles that had dominated fashion for over half a century. To draw a further parallel, the Directoire and Neo-Classical fashions of the late 18th Century and early 19th Century was also a repudiation of the earlier tightly structured styles that were characteristic of most of the 18th Century up until the 1790s. Just for comparison, here’s just two examples from the early 1800s that are very similar to Poiret’s design:

Merry-Joseph Blondel, Felicite-Louise-Julie-Constance de_Durfort, 1808

And here’s the concept illustration that appeared in Les Robes de Paul Poiret which was a design album illustrated by Paul Iribe that served to promote his fashion concepts1Les Robes de Paul Poiret was a limited edition book- only some 250 copies were printed and almost impossible to find on the used book market. But you can download an electronic version for free from https://archive.org/details/lesrobesdepaulpo00irib[/mfn]:

Poiret’s Josephine dress is a perfect illustration of the basic fashion cycle of action and reaction and it pointed the way forward for fashion into the 20th Century.