At The Ball!

And finally we made it! In spite of all the last-minute adjustments, snafus, and general craziness, it was all worth it!  Of, course no ball is complete without last-minute adjustments to the ballgown…

Arriving at the Assembly Rooms…

Overall, it was a marvelous experience and the pictures don’t do justice to the event- we’ll definitely be back. 😄


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Butterflies, Ballgowns And Now Chrysanthemums

It’s a truism in fashion that the natural world has always been a source of inspiration for artists and fashion designers and the late 19th Century was no exception. Examples of natural inspiration in fashion abound and in particular have often been a source of inspiration for many of Maison Worth’s designs. In a previous post, we discussed two examples of Worth’s use of the natural world theme in the form of wheat stalks and butterflies. Today, we look at another example, this time Chrysanthemums with this circa 1895-1900 evening dress:

Worth, Evening Dress, c. 1898-1900; Metropolitan Museum of Art (976.258.5a–c)

With a multi-gored trained skirt and minimally sleeved bodice, the dress silhouette reads late 1890s and more specifically in the 1898-1900 time frame. This dress is constructed of a salmon-colored silk satin and features a Chrysanthemum floral motif pattern. With the exception of the upper bodice, there is no trim on this dress and the Chrysanthemum design speaks for itself. Below is a close-up of the bodice:

The bodice features a semi-wrap style and continues the Chrysanthemum floral pattern with a jeweled net backed with salmon-colored tulle at the bustline. The sleeves are minimal, consisting of two strips of silk satin, some white chiffon and trimmed with gold fringe. Below is a close-up of the design motif:

As it can be seen in the picture above, the decorative design is composed of embroidered appliques that give the appearance of a velvet. It’s an amazing contrast to the silk satin skirt and bodice. Finally, not only does this dress have the Worth label, but also a label with a unique dress number which was likely to have been to a specific client. It would be interesting to know more about this… :-).

What’s also striking about this dress is that the design is not a singular occurrence but rather as part of a family of ball/evening gowns Maison Worth produced around the same time:

Worth, Ball Gown, 1899; Metropolitan Museum of Art (26.381a-b_front 0004)

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

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

Worth, Ballgown, 1900; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1250a, b)

The above garments are all masterpieces in their own right, all featuring a large design with a natural theme. Also, judging from the silhouettes and styles, it’s clear that these garments share many of the same pattern blocks.1Although they produced haute couture, Maison Worth was still a business and early on adopted many mass production techniques although they’d never publicly admit it.  Ultimately, while each of these dresses was a unique work, they all had common characteristics that made them part of a collection. Either way, they’re all artworks to be enjoyed in their own right. 🙂


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And Trending From Maison Worth For March 1894

When it came to the media, Charles Worth was very reticent about discussing the details of his highly successful couture business. However, with his sons Gaston and Jean increasingly taking over the daily operations of Maison Worth, this attitude began to change and during the 1890s, one increasingly sees Worth designs being featured in the fashion press. One example of this can be found with the March 17, 1894 issue of Harper’s Bazar where a Worth evening dress is featured:

This dress is described in Harper’s thusly:

This superb gown is of very light ciel-blue satin bordered with black fur. It is further enriched with bead embroidery in iris dc~igns. The pointed waist is draped across the bust. and has a jabot falling between branches of embroidery done on the satin. Fur shoulder-straps complete the square décolleté. Short puffed sleeves of dotted mousseline de soie are under a ruffle of beaded satin. The graceful skirt falls in godet pleats, and is trimmed with embroidery and fur. The coiffure is without any ornament, a looped tress at the back extending above the top of the head giving a pretty profile. The fan is of black lace figures appliqued on tulle.

The silhouette is standard mid-1890s and interesting enough, the skirt gores are referred to as godets.1In modern usage, godets refer to triangular panels set into a skirt to make the skirt flare out more. The only different is that these panels are more inset into the skirt as opposed to being full panels.  In terms of skirt style, they are very similar to other Worth dresses of the the 1890s and early 1900s- all employed a graceful train and were constructed of solid silk satin with some sort of long flowing decorative motif, often floral or “sheaf of wheat.” Here’s a few well-known examples that follow in the same vein:

Worth, Ball Gown, 1893 – 1894; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.68.53.10a–c)

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

Worth, Ball Gown, 1899; Metropolitan Museum of Art (26.381a-b_front 0004)

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

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

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

While the skirts are similar, the bodices exhibit a wide range of variation different trim, fabrics, and decorative effects. Also, sleeves for the most part tend to be minimal except for examples from the mid 1890s, which comes as no surprise. 😉 As for the color, ciel blue, here’s an approximation:

The one interesting, and subtle, twist with this dress design is the use of fur as trimming on the skirt hem and shoulders. We wonder if this design was ever actually made or simply was a concept that Jean Worth fed to the fashion press. Someday, we may know the answer.


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Out of the Gilded Age – Edith Kingdon Gould

With the debut of the new series The Gilded Age, it seems that fashions of the 1880s have undergone a renewed interest and of course, nothing could please us more. 😁 However, you’ll note that the ball gown depicted below is actually from the 1890s BUT it does project many of the characteristics in fashion during the late 19th Century in that there was a constant back-and-forth struggle between simple and complex designs- dresses that employed a lot of trim and decoration and those that relied more on the silhouette lines and the basic fashion fabric. This dress is just one example of this yin and yang of style. But it’s interesting to note that by the 1890s, this had calmed down some and that much of 1890s style focused on letting the silhouette and fabric speak for itself (helped along by skillful corsetry, no doubt). Anyway, enjoy and we’ll have more commentary on the Gilded Age in the near future. 😉


Today the theme is burgundy velvet and what better way to show it off than in an evening dress by Worth. 🙂 Better yet, we have both the dress AND a portrait of the individual that it was made for! The itself was made by Maison Worth around 1898 and belonged to Edith Kingdon Gould, the wife of railroad tycoon George Jay Gould and is on display at Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, New York; Lyndhurst had belonged to the Goulds at one time and is now a museum belonging to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Worth, Evening Dress, c. 1898; Lyndhurst Mansion, Tarrytown NY

The evening dress is interesting in that it’s a relatively simple style, unadorned by any trim or decoration (if you don’t count the fur stole she wears with the dress in her portrait). The fashion fabric is a ruby red silk velvet that creates a clear jewel tone. Overall, the effect is very restrained, reflecting Ms. Kingdon-Gould’s status married to a wealthy railroad tycoon (she had been an actress prior to marrying Gould). And now for the portrait itself:

Théobald Chartran, Portrait of Edith Kingdon Gould, c. 1898

Unfortunately there’s not a lot of information available in regard to the dress or the portrait- they were part of an exhibition at Lyndhurst that’s ended. This dress provides a fascinating snapshot into a bygone era made more interesting in that the dress style is very restrained when compared with some  of the more over-the-top designs of the era.


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