Still patiently hand finishing the applique work on this dress so I can finally work on the bodice. Are any of you still working on finishing Quarantine dresses? I predict we’ll all emerge like butterflies. 🦋
In many respects, this dress style follows the lingerie dress style that was prevalent for warm weather daywear during the early 1900s, an area that Doucet excelled. This dress is constructed of layers of semi-sheer fabrics (probably batiste and/or organza) combined with lace and features a multi-layer train that alternates the fashion fabric with the lace. However, the centerpiece of this dress is the use of a decorative floral motif featuring bees. The bees themselves appear to be embroidered appliques and are artfully arranged running up the dress front to suggest bees buzzing about flying out of the vegetation. One can definitely see that vertical lines are emphasized, especially with the dress front designed as a front-opening robe; the swarm of bees run all the way up the dress front and around the neckline to the back. Compared to many lingerie dresses of the period, the use of lace is fairly restrained and is not allowed to detract from the bee decoration. Below is a rear view:
The rear is also interesting in that the bees are set along the hem of the our dress layer to suggest low-lying vegetation and when viewed together with the front, the effect is very three-dimensional. This is more than a simple static decorative motif being applied to a dress, this has been well thought out. The dress itself is fairly simple design, acting as a canvas for the decorative design. This dress is definitely an inspiration for future recreated designs. 🙂
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:
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:
Next, we have a circa 1905 evening dress:
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:
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.