Today’s Fashion Feature

Today we travel back to 1896 for today’s fashion, a combination of cape and evening gown or reception dress.

Here’s a rough translation of the illustration’s description:

Silk brocade skirt with large knots; bodice neckline covered with silk muslin embroidered with pearls and sown with precious stones.

The first thing that catches the eye is the dress, and more specifically, the belt with its ornate front piece. The centerpiece of this dress is clearly the Swiss Waist or corselet belt1The terms “Swiss Waist,” Swiss Belt,” and “Corselet” were often used interchangeably. and essentially was a fitted belt/sash. The dress is constructed from a yellow silk brocade with a floral pattern with large repeats. The illustration only hints at the design and it’s unknown if there was a fabric with this specific pattern. The bodice neckline is covered in an embroidered silk muslin with jewels and pearls. Depending on the number and quality of the jewels and pearls, this part of the dress could cost substantially more than the rest of the dress. 🙂 Here’s are some examples of how elaborate the Swiss Waist or corselet style could get:

John Singer Sargent, Mrs. Wilton Phipps, 1884; Private Collection

Swiss Belt; from The Cutters’ Practical Guide to the Cutting of Ladies’ Garments by WDF Vincent.

And for an extant dress:

Day Dress, 1896-1899; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.833a, b)

And some closer views of the corselet:

59.40.3a-b_detail 0002

In terms of silhouette, this appears to be either a ball or evening gown, or possibly a reception dress, characteristic of the mid 1890s and the cape would make the perfect garment for wear over gigot sleeves. Unfortunately, there’s no commentary on the cape itself but it’s probable that it was constructed from a lavender/light purple silk velvet decorated in what appears to be some sort of floral trim. Color-wise the combination of yellow and lavender/purple are complementary and make for an aesthetically pleasing combination that fits in for almost any social occasion.

What’s On At The Atelier, Pour Mercredi…

As promised, here’s some progress pictures of the 1880s mantle we’re currently working on. This is based off a pattern that we drafted from an original garment dating from the late 1880s. This one features a crimson fashion fabric with a corded floral pattern with crimson silk velvet facings and a gold moire lining. In these pictures, all the major components have been put together and the only thing left to do is some handwork on the interior seams and adding trim and froggings. 🙂

1896 Cape Style…

Today’s look at 1890s fashion is this amazing cape that was featured in an 1896 issue of the French fashion publication Le Mode Pratique:

Here’s a somewhat loose translation of the description:

Visiting collar for young woman or middle-aged lady in velvet adorned with pearl heavy lace embroidery <guipure>1Guipure was a heavy lace consisting of embroidered motifs joined together by large connecting stitches.. Rain of pearls at the bottom of the sides front stole; satin ribbon bows, overhanging feathers at the neckline.

The above cape is a fascinating combination of the practical and the decorative. The front is essentially an elaborate tabard trimmed in lace. At the bottom, the lace has pearls worked into it (as best as we can make out from the description) and reads pure luxury. The side pieces forming the actual cape are a bit more practical, relatively speaking, with more subdued trim. The overall fabric is a green silk velvet with decorative silk satin ribbons. This is an interesting example of just how elaborate 1890s capes could be. We would have loved to have seen this in person. 🙂