More Late 1890s Evening Dress Style From Maison Worth

Today we take a look at a circa 1897 evening gown from Maison Worth by way of the Olive Matthews Collection at the Chertsey Museum!

Worth, Evening Dress, 1897; The Olive Matthews Collection, Chertsey Museum (M.2017.013a–c)(Image 1897

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of information online about the dress but style-wise, it’s consistent with what the Maison was producing during the late 1890s and early 1900s. The most striking aspect is this dress are the decorative floral motifs covering the overskirt on the sides and rear:

Florals and wheat designs were a Maison Worth signature style and it’s especially evident with the floral design here which is HUGE, covering the overskirt from hem to waist. We wish there were more pictures of this dress, it looks stunning, especially with the floral design. We hoped that you’ve enjoyed this brief glimpse into Maison Worth.


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1880s Evening Dress Style

Recently we came across an exquisite circa 1885 evening dress on the Augusta Auction website.

Evening Dress, c. 1885; August Auctions

The fashion fabric consists of a Prussian blue colored silk Ottoman fabric combined with a floral patterned gold on blue silk jacquard; the blue appears to be a shade different than the solid Ottoman. Silhouette-wise, it’s firmly in the mid-1880s and has a train, suggestive of a more formal dress.

The bodice is primarily made from the solid Ottoman fabric with a yolk made from the jacquard and all combined with a Medici collar trimmed in ivory (probably yellowed with age). The sleeves are three-quarter and trimmed with lace similar to the collar. This bodice is definitely reminiscent of Renaissance Era styles.

As with many dresses of the era, it’s got an overskirt that essentially is a train, combined with an apron that wraps around the waist area, below the bodice. Also, the jacquard underskirt has inset panels in the Ottoman. The side profile picture below gives an excellent view of this:

And with this rear view, one can definitely see that there’s a high back…

Below are close-ups of the upper front and back bodice:

And here are two views of the jacquard fabric:

And here’s a close-up of part of the bodice that gives a better view of the Prussian Blue fashion fabric as well as the corded trim. Note the horizontal weave pattern characteristic of an Ottoman fabric:

This is a really exquisite example of 1880s evening dress style and especially with the use of an Ottoman fabric- the Prussian blue Ottoman fabric provides a rich background for the floral pattern jacquard fabric which attracts the eye, leading it upwards to the wearer’s face (helped along with the yoke made from the same fabric). Overall, an exquisite example and perhaps a good style for recreating some day.  😄


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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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1880s Style – It Wasn’t All Parisian Couturiers

When looking at historical fashions, it’s quite easy to be attracted to the more elaborate and flashy styles of Worth, Pingat, Felix, or Doucet. However, there was a lot more than that and one often finds interesting designs from lesser known (or completely unknown) designers and especially here in the United States. Also, while the Parisian couturiers were acknowledged as fashion leaders, their designs were aimed at a limited market and far too costly for most. But, as always, the market attempted to fill in the gap in a variety of ways to include sewing patterns based on Parisian designs (licensed or not) as well as local dressmakers creating knock-offs. Department stores also created designs for customers of more modest means (comparatively speaking to the clientele that frequented Worth et al.). Below is an evening dress that was made for Wechsler & Abraham of Brooklyn, New York sometime during the 1880s (more on the date later):

Evening Dress, c. 1880s; Metropolitan Museum of Art ( 2009.300.654)

This is an interesting design in that it combines bodice and train in a gold silk brocade with, what appears to be, a pink blush taffeta. The color combination is an interesting one and not one that we’d readily expect, they’re definitely not complementary colors as defined in color theory but nevertheless, the pink blush does provide a neutral background for the bodice and train and it leads the eye  to follow the dress upward from train to bodice to the wearer’s face. Now what’s even more interesting is that the train wraps around the upper part of the pink blush skirt and is swagged.

With the side profile picture above and the rear picture below, one can also better see the designer’s use of draping to create a visual flow that leads the eye. It would seem that there was definitely some thought put into this design.

Here we get a better view of the gold brocade silk fabric with its floral design. The bustle/train has been artfully shaped (or maybe it’s just the museum staging… 😁). Now, in terms of dating, we would venture that this is from the 1883-1886 time frame- we’ve definitely moved beyond the “natural form” era with the train and to be honest, this could probably work all the way towards the end of the 1880s although the look might be looked a little dated by then. Finally, one other detail in that the majority of evening dresses/gowns of the period either had no sleeves or three-quarter sleeves. In all honesty, this dress is more suggestive of a dinner or reception dress but it could have easily done double duty. Ultimately, this is somewhat subjective but we’re just putting it out there. 😁

Mme.Ludinart, 129 Boul. St.-Honoré, Paris, Reception Dress, c. 1889; Kent State University Museum (1983.001.0202 ab)

And just for comparision, above is a similar design made by a Parisian dressmaker dating from about 1889. The color combination is very similar although the bodices are different and this one has no sleeves. Now here’s a dinner dress from the early 1880s- well, perhaps 1882-84 or so, judging from the train:

Dinner Dress, c. 1880-1882; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.63.23.2)

In terms of general style, this is almost identical to our gold brocade & blush pink dress shown above and it only shows that the dividing line between “evening dress” and “dinner dress” or “reception dress” is pretty thin. Of course, the dress could have simply been mis-labeled (it happens more than one would think) but still…in the end, it can be pretty subjective and we by no means profess to have the answers, it is though-provoking.


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