And For Some More Originals…

LBD*, circa most likely 1898 with those smaller sleeve puffs at the shoulder and that interesting shirred silk brocade contrast arm gusset that matches the applied collar pieces. Someone tried to steal some of her inner boning before she came to live with us, but that assault allows us to politely inspect her insides. Don’t you love that pretty cotton print on the inside and those precise hand stitches for her Hong Kong finishes? She’s not a mourning bodice, she was somebody’s special gown that glittered with every graceful corseted turn. I like to think she’s seen a lot of happy occasions and deserves the love we can give her. She’s definitely on my “must pattern her” list! 🙂

*Little Black Dress- term made famous by Coco Chanel

The Princess Line, Redux

Our previous post on the Mid-Bustle Period, and the princess line dress in particular got such a favorable response that we decided to follow up on with some more examples.

Le Moniteur De La Mode, 1876

One of the dramatic and interesting styles is the one above utilizing an open redingote combined with an underskirt in two complementary colors and contrasting ruffles. The train also employs several layers of the same complementary colors. Also, the use of revers is taken to an extreme, especially towards the bottom when the revers open out to create the illusion of turn-backs. Overall, the effect is very reminiscent of the 1780s and 90s, an era something that often influences mid-1870s styles.

Le Moniteur De La Mode, 1878

This style is a bit more “conventional” in that it stays with one color, taking its decorative effect from the various ruffles, pleating, and trim. Also, while it’s impossible to tell just what the illustrator had in mind with the fashion fabric, one could easily imagine silk brocade or similar.  🙂

The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, June 1878

Here we see a couple variations with the trains with various degrees of pleating, bows, and contrast colors. In many respects, the only limits are one’s imagination. Also, it must be noted that the illustrator has used a bit of artistic license portraying two ladies’ dressed with trains that are clearly not optimal for trekking through the woods. 🙂

Looking past the sheer beauty of these designs (and making allowances for the fact that these are fashion plates), one can see that there’s a few different design options here when recreating this style. First is the train- trains varied in length ranging from a full train for the most formal of occasions to the demi-train which was pretty standard for the majority of formal occasions (and a lot more practical to maneuver in). For day wear, the train was either short or non-existent. Moreover, with the train, one could choose to leave it relatively unadorned, with maybe a small row of knife-pleating or one could go all out, adding rows of pleating, ribbons, and other lace trim.

Turning to the overall style, while upright sculpted silhouette set the basic shape, one  sees a variety of variations to include a straight skirt all the way to the feet or the skirt is draped and gathered towards the bottom. Also, the entire dress could be styled as an open redingote with revers that opens up to reveal an underskirt that could be in a complementary color with ruching or a similar style. This style could also be done in either a single color or with complementary colors. In short, there was a wide variety of style choices available and designers/dressmakers/individual sewers utilized them all. Below are a few original dresses that help illustrate this point:

Day Dress, Swiss, 1880; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.55.40.5)

With the above dress, we see a simple arrangement of shapes and lines in blue and ivory  combined with contrasts in the fabrics’ textures as well as the use of ruching.

Day Dress, Princess Line, c. 1878; National Museum, Prague (H2-193316)

With this dress, we see the fashion fabrics have similar textures but with contrasting steel gray and ivory. Pleating and trim are kept to a minimum and the style relies more on colors and fabrics to make its statement.

For this dress, while it utilizes complementary colors, it relies more on contrasts in textures: the ruching and pleating on the dress’s front panel are combined with a silk brocade covered by netting.

Afternoon Dress, c. 1878-1880; Manchester Art Gallery ( 1947.4118)

Rear View

This final example utilizes two fashion fabrics in complementary colors combined with contrasting fabric textures: a pale blue flat textured silk combined with a lighter blue silk satin. To further add interest, floral embroidery has been added to the bodice front and train. Also, while the bodice has a fairly simple shape, the lower skirt incorporates a series of ruffles and pleats to give a draped appearance.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief excursion through the the world of the Mid-Bustle Era princess line dress and we want to emphasize that while we may have deluged you with a wide a variety of style variations, our intent was to show that one has a wide range of choices when it comes to recreating this style and perhaps provide a bit of inspiration. 🙂