Looking Underneath The Dress- The House Of Worth

Haut couture has always been an extremely personal experience for the client and this was especially true during the late 19th Century. Garments were designed to precisely fit the individual and constructed of the finest fabrics and trim; one could not help think that the garment in question had been exclusively designed for the client from the ground up. However, the reality was quite different: underneath all the exquisite fabrics and glittery trim were the garment’s basic structure- a structure that gave a particular garment its shape and that structure was based on common pattern pieces. The fabrics and trim might change from garment to garment but their basic structure utilized the same slopers or basic pattern blocks that could be modified as needed for a particular client and style (De Marly, Diana. Worth: The Father of Haute Couture. Holmes & Meier, 1990).

The House of Worth was generally acknowledged as the leading couture houses in Paris (and by extension, the world) and as such, its designs reflected this. However, underneath all the exquisite fabrics and trims, the dresses made by Charles Worth often used the same basic pattern blocks (albeit modified for the individual client). It’s often all too easy to get lost in all the exquisite details found on Worth dresses and especially with ball and evening gowns. For example, let’s take a look at these two ball gowns:

Ball Gown Worth c. 1895 - 1900

Worth, Ball Gown, c. 1895 – 1900; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1290a, b)

Worth Ballgown 1898

House of Worth, Ballgown, 1898; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1324a, b)

Both of the above gowns were made during the late 1890s and both have the same silhouette and share identical lines. Only the fabrics and trim change. Here’s another pair of evening dresses made during the mid 1890s:

Worth Evening Dress Ball Gown

Worth, Ballgown, c. 1894; Kyoto Costume Institute (AC4799 84-9-2AB)

Evening Dress Worth c. 1895 - 1896

Worth, Evening Dress, c. 1895 – 1896; Metropolitan Museum of Art (35.134.2a, b)

Similarities could also be found in a variety of dress styles:

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Worth, Dinner Dress, 1897; Costume Museum of Canada

Worth Evening Dress c. 1897

Worth, Evening Dress, c. 1897; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.638a, b)

Day Dress Worth c. 1875

Worth Day Dress, c. 1875; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1100a, b)

Day Dress Worth c. 1875

Side Profile

Worth Dinner Dress c. 1877

Worth, Dinner Dress, c. 1877; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.69.33.3a, b)

Worth Dinner Dress c. 1877

Side Profile

Surface treatments might differ (i.e. smooth fabric versus ruched fabric) and trains an sleeve lengths and trim can vary but at the root, these dresses share many of the same internal structural components. When one thinks about it, it only makes sense- while haute couture may have only been worn by a narrow segment of the market, within that specific market segment there was a heavy demand and it could only be met by utilizing various industrial production practices. Of course, the client was blissfully unaware of this, their only concern was getting the desired garment. In short, one could term it “mass production luxury goods” which is almost a contradiction in terms.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this little insight into what was going on underneath the dress, so to say, and we hope to be making more posts about this in the future.

The Prior Attire Ball In Bath

And finally we reach the high point of our trip to the UK- the Prior Attire Ball! 🙂 Held in the historic Bath Assembly Rooms, the ball lasts for four and a half hours and features various historic set dances as well as waltzes and polkas. In between, a buffet supper is served and there’s a bar. The Assembly Rooms were designed in 1769 and opened in 1771 and were intended as a social center for Bath’s upper crust visitors (to include royalty) who would descend on the town in droves (today, the Fashion Museum Bath is located in the basement of the Assembly Rooms). There are actually a series of rooms of which only one was used for the dancing and the others for the attendees to eat and socialize.

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Here I am upon arrival…

After making the usual last-minute preparations, we folded ourselves in a way-too-small taxi and made our way to the Assembly Rooms…but first, there’s the obligatory selfies… 🙂

Prior Attire Ball Bath Karin

Prior Attire Ball Bath Karin

And finally, we made our entrance:

Prior Attire Ball Bath Karin Adam

And the ballgown in all its chartreuse glory…the light blue walls definitely made for an interesting color contrast.

Prior Attire Ball Bath Karin

The ball was attended by a wide variety of people from various parts of the world to include Finland, Germany, France, and the United States, among others. It was a delight meeting like-minded people from all over and everyone was dressed their best- there was a delightful array of ball gowns to be seen. 🙂

Finally, here’s our official portrait that was graciously provided by our hosts:

Adam Karin Bath

It was truly one of the most exciting period dances we’ve ever attended and it far exceeded our expectations. It was a lot of work getting there but it was definitely worth it and we have definite plans to attend in 2019. 🙂

 

The Water Lily Dress – The Color Story In Motion

NOTE: 2017 has been a very hectic year for me, both personally and professionally, and I apologize for the lateness of this post. However, I think you’ll agree that it was worth the wait. 🙂 Here’s a little insight into the inspiration behind one of the dress designs that I unveiled back in May at Clockwork Alchemy 2017. Enjoy!

Water Lily1 Karin Clockwork Alchemy 2017


 

Water Lilies-Japanese Bridge-(1897-1899) Monet

With the end of Clockwork Alchemy 2017, we’ve now have some time to regroup so I thought I’d go into some of the details of The Water Lily Dress along with a little of what inspired us. Since the theme of the fashion show at Clockwork Alchemy was the elements, we decided to focus on water and in particular, the varying colors that occur depending on the play of light, shadow, and the colors of surrounding objects. When it comes to color, water is somewhat tricky in that when viewed close up as with a glass of water, it is clear in appearance (or close). However, when viewed at a distance it usually takes on shades of blue and green, depending on the water’s depth, nature of the bottom, vegetation et al.

For us, the starting point was inspiration from Claude Monet’s various water lily-themed paintings which were based on the garden at his home in Giverny. Here are just a few:

Monet Water Lilies 1916

Monet Water Lilies 1915

Monet Water Lily 1900

And the actual garden itself is also an inspiration by itself… 🙂

Giverny Monet

Giverny Today

As you can see, there’s quite a variation in color in the blue and green ranges with a some grays mixed in…

Color Pallette

This is the color palette that I started with with for the dress. I then narrowed things down a fit to focus on several shades of blue with the ultimate goal of capturing the movement of water translated into fabric:

From this:

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To this:

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Here’s the entire dress laid out. It’s actually more blue than what this picture would suggest- vagaries of lighting and digital photography. 🙂 Here you can see the flowers in their full form.

Water Lily2 Clockwork Alchemy 2017 Karin

And here’s a close-up of the flowers being added to the dress:

Water Lily3 Clockwork Alchemy 2017 Karin

And then it was time to get ready for the fashion show:

Getting Ready1 Clockwork Alchemy 2017 Karin water lily dress

Getting Ready2 Clockwork Alchemy 2017 Karin water lily dress

Getting Ready3 Clockwork Alchemy 2017 Karin water lily dress

Yes, I had to get some selfies! 🙂 And now on to the show!

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And a close-up of the flowers under ultra-violet light:

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And here are a few from afterwards:

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The dress was a complete success and I am very happy with how the inspiration translated itself into a final dress. Inspiration can sometimes send one in a number of directions simultaneously and be overwhelming but by keeping to my initial vision, I believe that I achieved my goal and I’m more than happy with the results. 🙂