Modernless March

Day One of #modernlessmarch hosted by @pinsent_tailoring is: “What am I?”
I’ve been an Artist all my life, after I retired from being LA City Calligrapher, we jumped into Lily Absinthe full time. Our time is divided between our Woodland Hills house and our Victorian house in Tombstone, Arizona…and always with Angus and Fiona, our two fur peeps. Bringing old things to life is how I approach projects, old houses, old lace, old hats, old gowns, old sewing machines…they all need some love and a little magic. 🙂

 

 



The Walking Suit Circa 1912

The Teens Era was a time of fashion transition as styles moved away from the tightly sculpted silhouettes of the 1890s and early 1900s. Corsetry was shifting, placing a greater emphasis on creating a smooth, slender upright profile and flattening the breast line- the “pouter pigeon” look was definitely out- and whether it was daytime or evening, the general silhouette remained the same. 🙂


Teens Era fashion wasn’t just about evening wear so today we present some daytime styles starting with the walking suit. The walking suit represented a major step in the evolution of women’s wear during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Starting in the early 1890s, the walking suit was considered an essential part of a woman’s wardrobe and by the Teens, it occupied a prominent place in fashion. Style details, construction, and fabric varied depending on price point but the objective was always the same- a outfit that a woman could wear out in public that was practical yet stylish. In response to the growing popularity of walking suits, clothing manufacturers produced walking suits in a variety of fabrics, colors and styles. Walking suits became to widespread that even the major couturiers couldn’t ignore it.  We start first with this this circa 1912 walking suit from Paquin:

Paquin, Walking Suit, 1912; National Gallery of Victoria (2015.670.a-b)

Now, we have to admit that this is bordering more on a dress than a walking suit but it illustrates one of the distinctive styles of the era- the faux kimono/robe jacket style. Constructed of ivory and salmon-striped silk chiffon and trimmed with black velvet, this dress gives a practical yet dressed up look and it was a very popular style. Here’s a similar style, circa 1913, from Maison Worth:

Worth, Walking Suit, c. 1913; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1980.16.3a, b)

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to determine just what the precise fashion fabric is but it’s mostly likely a tropical weight wool. The jacket silhouette is more of a robe held together by an elaborate waistband/belt.

Side Profile

Rear View

Here’s a more detailed view of the jacket back:

Close-up of the back.

The above walking suit is Jackets cold also follow a more conventional style such as with this circa 1910 Paquin walking suit:

Jeanne Paquin, Walking Suit, Spring/Summer 1910; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.474a–d)

The suit follows a fairly conventional silhouette and as with many of Paquin’s designs, it was very practical, especially with the skirt. Although the “hobble style” was coming into being during this period, this dress is open and allows for complete mobility. The fabric appears to be a gray tropical weight wool with excellent drapability- it simply “flows.”

Three- Quarter Rear View

Close-Up Of Sleeve/Back

The cuffs have been artfully cut so as to give the illusion of lace cuffs underneath. Here’s what was actually worn underneath the jacket and note that the half-sleeves. 😉

Close-up of the front without the jacket.

We conclude with a more conventional walking suit style with this circa 1910 suit:

Walking Suit, c. 1912; McCord Museum (M976.35.2.1-2)

This suit embodies functionality with a minimum of trim except for decorative buttons and the double-layer collar. The skirt is also practical, allowing for full mobility. Unfortunately, there’s no indication what the fashion fabric is- it cold be linen, cotton, or even a tropical weight wool.

Walking suits came in a variety of styles with varying amounts of trim and decorative elements but no matter what, the emphasis was on practicality. In future posts, we’ll be exploring Teens Era walking suits further so stay tuned. 🙂



And For Another Take On Circa 1912 Formal Wear

We haven’t done a lot with the Teens Era lately but it doesn’t mean that we don’t like it. 🙂 Recently, we came across two circa 1912 formal dresses what we thought were spectacular, especially with their use of the color gold combined with gold metallic embroidery to create their effect. Both are dazzling and definitely caught our eye. Enjoy! 🙂


In yesterday’s post, we showed a circa 1912 presentation gown. Just for some variation, today we’re showing a very similar dress style from 1912-1913 by Gustave Beer:

Gustave Beer, Evening Gown, c. 1912 -1913; FIDM Museum

We were fortunately able to view this dress in person and get up fairly close to it. The silhouette follows a slender form created by flat (relatively speaking in comparison to the earlier s-bend corset) corsetry. However, at the same time, the geometric lines created by corsetry were offset by draping on the outer garments which was especially evident with more formal styles such as this one. The upper dress combines empire and kimono style elements, especially with the high waist combined with the loose drape-like shoulders.

This dress is constructed from a gold charmeuse trimmed with gold floral-patterned embroidery. Combined with the main dress is a short overskirt of black silk netting with jeweling, artfully cut so as to end at the high waist, giving emphasis to this area. The arrowhead curves of the outerskirt also points the viewer’s eye upwards; this dress is a masterful example of the use of vertical lines in fashion design. Below are closer views of the netted outerskirt:

Note the v-shaped gold plastron that is placed over the the silk net overskirt that gives further emphasis to the waistline.

Finally, this is a view of the train. It’s been cut in a diamond shape that gives full emphasis to the embroidery design:

In comparison with the dress in the previous post, we believe that this is a more dramatic dress yet both deliver a serious impact that only differs in the cut of the fabrics and the use of trim. Also, while both employ embroidery, this dress does so in a more tidy and controlled manner culminating with the diamond-shaped trim.



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A 1912 Presentation Dress

Just for a change of pace, today we feature this circa 1912 presentation dress:

Presentation Dress, c. 1912; Augusta Auctions

In terms of general silhouette, the dress definitely follows the convention of the time with its emphasis on a more slender, upright figure. This dress is constructed from a gold silk satin and trimmed with gold lace and embroidery. On the skirt is an asymmetrical fantastical embroidered floral design that curves around the dress front and places major emphasis on the right side.  The dress appears to consist of a skirt that’s been constructed so as to give the effect of a double skirt on the side and has a long train. While the auction house description calls this a “presentation dress,” this could easily be a reception or evening dress of some type. Without more information on the provenance, it’s hard to tell. As with the skirt, the bodice is also asymmetrical with the emphasis placed on the left shoulder to balance the style effect.

Here’s a view of the dress back along with the train:

Here’s some close-up views of the dress that give a good view of the embroidery:

This dress is a good example of a gown meant for wear at the most formal of occasions and definitely displays the early teens design aesthetic. In future posts, we’ll be featuring more examples so stay tuned. 🙂



The State Of Fashion- Spring 1889

The 1880s were drawing to a close and with it the Late Bustle Era. While the fashion press hinted at new trends for the 1890s, older styles still prevailed as revealed by this commentary in the April 1889 issue of Peterson’s Magazine when it discussed Parisian fashions:

The fashions of the present spring show but little positive change, so far, from the styles, of the past winter. This was to be expected, after the thorough revolution in the make of dresses which has taken place during the past six months. The .adoption of flat-plaited skirts, of short demi-trains, and of modified leg-of-mutton sleeves, together with the revival of dresses with corsage and skirt or over-skirt cut in one piece, such as the redingote, and the polonaise, and the princess dress, are sufficient to mark the* inauguration of a new era in feminine toilette. Hooped skirts are abolished, to the great misery of the dressmakers who have discovered, after years of disuse, that it is much harder to make a gracefully cut skirt falling in straight plain folds, than one that admitted of being looped up here and bunched up there whenever any irregularity presented itself.

It’s interesting that the writer notes that dressmakers used loops and folds characteristic of 1880s dresses to conceal their mistakes. What’s also interesting is that reference of made to the leg-of-mutton sleeve although its manifestation was no doubt a lot more muted that what was to come in the Mid-1890s. 🙂 The writer further notes that:

The polonaise and princess-cut dresses are very advantageous for spring wear, as they can be worn for promenading without a wrap as soon as the mild weather definitely makes its appearance. A very elegant form of the latter style of costume is to have the dress in cashmere, with underskirt, plaited vest, and corsage-revers in satin. The satin underskirt is made in flat square plaits in front, the perfectly plain princess-cut dress in cashmere falling over it in straight loose folds…

The redingote is universally adopted for the more elegant form of demi-toilette, such as is in vogue for small dinners, soirees musicales, and such like informal entertainments. It is made in brocade, usually in a solid color, and opens from the throat downward over an underdress that may be in lace, or in satin, or embroidered gauze, or in crepe de Chine, being about a quarter of a yard shorter than the round underskirt. Very often the sleeves are made with high puffed epaulettes. When the underdress is in crape or gauze, a wide belt in some soft silken material is often added with good effect. The whole dress should be in one color, every portion of it matching in shade..

So what this might have looked like? Well, to begin, here’s one fashion plate from the same issue of Peterson’s:

Peterson’s Magazine, April 1889

The redingote style is further illustrated in this plate:

The left dress above is interesting in that the redingote takes on the appearance of a elongated tail coat and the overall effect is distinctly neo-directoire.

The above plates illustrate a number of variations on the redingote with an princess line underneath and what’s interesting is that the line between outerwear and garments worn inside is blurred. And just to be complete, here’s a couple of extant dresses that captures many of the elements described above. First, this dress from 1888 embodies the whole idea of the redingote combined with a princess line dress:

Mme. Uoll Gross, Day Dress, 1888; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.618a, b)

From all appearances, both the outer redingote and the inner princess line dress both appear to be continuous and in fact, appear to be of one piece. Of course, these are only photos so without the benefit of examining closer, they may be in two pieces but we seriously doubt it. Style-wise, we see a large vertical sweep that draws the eye up towards the center bodice.  The patterned “interior” fabric really stands out when combined with a solid dark outer fabric. Finally, it’s interesting that the rear silhouette has been softened, lacking the sharply defined bustle silhouette characteristic of earlier 1880s dresses. Next, there’s this day dress that was made in 1889:

Mme. Uoll Gross, Day Dress; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.619)

Although hidden by the netting, the bodice features a faux vest underneath:

While it appears that the bodice and skirt are two separate pieces, the overall effect is still vertical with an emphasis on the large vertical paisley design motif in skirt.  While we acknowledge that some of our conclusions may be stretching a bit, it’s interesting to note the various micro style trends that were going on towards the end of the bustle era. Here you can see the beginnings of the transition to 1890s style and to us, the transition is fascinating to watch.