Inspiration From Art…

More pictures coming, this dress was inspired by my love of Monet’s water lily paintings. Hand painted and gilded flowers and leaves, dyed to match English net, silk taffeta, and one of my antique suites of bridal lace…the bayleuse ( under petticoat train ruffles) are all in a gorgeous vintage watery satin. A good day.♡



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.

It’s All About The Colors…

Two years already, and I still love this silk duchesse gown! This shade of green wasn’t that popular then, but it seems to have inspired a few copies out in the ether…the perils of being a trendsetter. This was Pantone 2018’s Color of the Year #15-0950, the 2020’s prediction is “Classic Blue”. Time for a deep blue gown! 🙂

The Princess Line Dress In The 1890s: One Example From Maison Worth

With its clean silhouette, the princess line dress was a very popular dress style during the late 19th Century, offering a wealth of fashion possibilities in terms of fabric and trim choices. Originally developed during the late 1870s, the princess line dress greatly influenced a shift in styles away from the bustle, instead focusing on a more slender, cylindrical silhouette.  While the princess line was more common during the 1877-1882 time frame, one still sees exampled well into the 1890s as with this one that was created by Maison Worth in circa 1896:

Worth, Bridesmaid Dress, c. 1896; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.41.14.2)

The above example is a good illustration of the perfect princess line style: the waist is completely de-emphasized with a smooth canary yellow silk panel combining skirt and bodice into one unit. At the same time, the gold colored silk brocade sleeves, collar, and front inset panels present a contrast that draws the eye to the upper body. Although this dress is described as a “bridesmaid” dress, it would have been perfectly suitable as a dress for everyday wear (in contrast to today’s interpretation of the bridesmaid dress). Here’s some close-up of some dress details:

Rear view of the collar and shoulders.

Close-up of the collar.

Shoulder detail.

The above picture illustrates the front inset panels with beaded trim.

In terms of style, this dress is relatively restrained to the point of blandness and while it pushed no fashion boundaries, it does illustrate the basic characteristics of the prince line style. What’s especially interesting is that although the princess line style is attributed to Worth, there are very few extant examples of princess line dresses that can be linked to Maison Worth such as this one:

Worth, Day Dress, c. 1880; Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti

We hope you’ve enjoyed this little excursion into the world of the princess line style. 🙂



Mid-1890s Style: Evening Gowns

For fashion, the 1890s was all about “going large” and that was especially true during the years 1895-1897 when fashion reached extreme levels with massively sized gigot or leg-of-mutton sleeves, narrow waists and large gored skirts. This trend was especially evident with evening gowns1The terms “evening gown” and “evening dress” are used somewhat interchangeably. For the purposes of consistency, we have chose to use the term “evening gown.” as can be seen below with these fashion illustrations:

Evening Gowns, 1895; Le Moniteur de la Mode

This style is interesting in that it utilizes a prince line combined with the hourglass “X” silhouette and gigot sleeves.

Illustrations are useful but nothing beats the real thing. Here’s some examples of extant evening gowns from the high 90s:

Evening Gown, c. 1895; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1979.346.59a, b)

Rear View

And for some close-ups of the shoulder/sleeve:

Close-Up Of Shoulder

Shoulder Detail

Why do these shoulders give off a Dynasty 1980s vibe? 🙂 Below is something a little different with a different sleeve color and fabric:

Evening Dress, c. 1895; Nordiska Museet

The black velvet sleeves offer an interesting contrast to the silk bodice and skirt not only in colors, but also in luster. The sleeves seems to suck up all the light around them while the silk skirt and bodice do just the opposite. The gown pictured below also does a similar thing although it’s a bit muted:

Worth, Evening Dress, c. 1896 – 1897; Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti via Europeanafashion

Here we have a contrast between the brown velvet bodice inserts and the gold silk bodice and skit. The eye is definitely drawn towards the bodice and by extension, the face. The circa 1893 gown design by Maison Worth below also offers an interesting contrast:

Worth, Evening Ensemble Dress, 1893; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.622a–c)

The silver gray and gold floral design skirt and outer bodice make an interesting contrast to the red silk inner bodice and skirt insert panels. Here the contrast is between colors rather than luster. Now for something a bit different, there’s this circa 1895 gown design by Maison Rouff:

Maison Rouff, Evening Dress, c. 1895; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.2339a, b)

Three-Quarter Rear View

And again, there’s contrast but this time between the ecru lace skirt and ivory silk bodice, also trimmed in ecru-colored lace- here the contrast is between textures. Also, the cut of the bodice is interesting, more reminiscent of an 18th Century design with its waistcoat silhouette. Finally, we see an inversion of the velvet/silk contrast theme in this circa 1887 gown, also from Maison Rouff:

Maison Rouff, Evening Dress c. 1897; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.332a, b)

Three-Quarter Rear View

With the above gown, the skirt and outer bodice is made from a salmon/peach silk velvet combined with a gold/champagne belt and under bodice. However, most of the gown is dominated by the salmon/peach silk velvet while the gold/champagne belt and under bodice give a pop of color. Also, the bodice is small in relation to the skirt with the skirt dominating. The above is only a small sampling of the variety of evening gowns that existed but it should give an idea of some of the period aesthetics. Stay tuned for more posts! 🙂