Something Blue- A Reception Dress From the 70s…

Just when we thought we’d seen it all when it comes to 1870s style, there’s always something new to us that grabs our attention and in this case, an interesting circa 1876 reception dress from the Centraal Museum in Utrecht:

Reception Dress, c. 1876; Centraal Museum, Utrecht (4468/001-002

This dress features a dual solid/patterned fabric combination characteristic of 1870s style with the skirt and undertrain constructed of what appears to be a bright blue silk taffeta silk combined with a floral patterned silk brocade bodice and train. The bodice front features a narrow plastron of the same blue silk taffeta found in the dress and undertrain. The neckline is relatively modest, combined with a high Mandarin-like collar. The sleeves are three-quarter and are trimmed with ivory/champagne-colored lace.

The dress silhouette is interesting in that combines elements of both Early and Middle Bustle Eras. First, the bodice is suggestive of an early pannier polonaise style, a style that was to come into its own by 1880. However, note that the bodice is a separate entity from the pannier draping. At the same time, the bodice rear extends into a full train that style-wise is more characteristic of an earlier bustle era style.  Also, it’s interesting to note that while there’s a fully developed train going on, it’s more suggestive of later Mid-Bustle/Natural Form styles but nevertheless, some form of bustle was utilized and it’s especially a good candidate for a cage style bustle. Finally, we’d like to note the use of two horizontal rows of loose gathering on the dress front along with the loosely pleated hem serve to give the dress front more fullness.

The above picture provides a good view of the train and it’s clear that the bustle that would have been used with this dress would have emphasized the fullness of the train on the vertical plane. Now, let’s take a closer look at the bodice:

The high Mandarin collar and cut-out neckline are very angular and geometric and the theme is carried on further down the bodice front with the plastron that features a faux diamond cut-out below the neckline that reveals the pleated blue plaston.

The plastron’s vertical knife pleats draw the eye upwards towards the neckline, emphasizing the silhouette’s slender vertical lines, a style characteristic found in later Mid-Bustle/Natural Form styles. The overall effect is further emphasized with the minimal use of trim.

In the above picture, one can get a good idea of what the silk brocade looks like- note the bright blue velvet flowers outlined in gold on a background of striated blue and gold fabric. The excellent condition of the colors and the fabrics are simply amazing and it’s obvious that this dress was stored well, away from light. Below are some more close-ups from various parts of the dress:

 

Below is a nice view of one of the cuffs:

Finally, here’s a couple more full views of the dress from different angles:

The pictures above and below really give a good view of the dresse’s fullness in the front which nicely combines with the fullness of the train.

Below is a another nice view of the train.

For us, this is a very interesting dress in its transitional nature, combining earlier and later style elements and a fairly harmonious manner (although some could argue that the effect is somewhat clumsy but we beg to differ). It also shows that often, dresses are difficult to pigeon-hole in terms of style and only shows that fashion history is always full of unique surprises.



More On The Ensemble Dress

Here’s another ensemble dress from Maison Worth, also from circa 1893. Style-wise, it’s similar to the example that we presented in yesterday’s post but perhaps a little more restrained. Here are a few views:

Worth 1893 Day Reception Afternoon Dress

Worth, Ensemble Dress, c. 1893; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.620a–e)

To us, this bodice reads visiting/afternoon dress, more of a formal day-oriented garment. Below, the bodice reads more of a reception dress or possibly evening dress- although that’s probably stretching things a bit.

Worth 1893 Day Reception Afternoon Dress

The Alternate Bodice

Once again, we see a jacket style for the day bodice with a filler of tulle. The skirt and jacket bodice are a pea-green silk brocade with black lace trim and accents. The night bodice with its light cinnamon colored silk velvet provides a pleasant contrast to the pea green. Compared to yesterday’s example, this dress is a bit more restrained but it’s still a nice design. The silk brocade fabric is interesting and we only wish that there were some close-up pictures of the fabric detail. It’s evident that both the dress and the one in yesterday’s post used identical or fairly similar pattern pieces. Finally, here’s an interesting part of the ensemble- matching shoes:

Worth 1893 Shoes

Matching shoes to outfit.

Stay tuned for more posts on this subject. 🙂

 


An 1883-1884 Reception Dress/Ballgown Ensemble

Ensemble dresses have always been interesting to us and today we feature one that was made by a one Alice Mason1Although Alice Mason is long gone as a concern, a quick look-up of the address on GoogleMaps reveals that it was located a block east of Saville Row. It’s clear that this was concern with an upper class clientele. in London and dated c. 1883-1884 from the Metropolitan Museum of Art that features both reception dress and ballgown bodices; the skirt is common for both but the bodices differ. First is the reception bodice:

Evening Dress Ensemble- Evening Bodice, c. 1883-1884; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.54.5.1a–e)

The overall fashion fabric is a light pink/champagne silk satin with the skirt trimmed with vertical lace panels on the sides and front. Both bodices are also constructed from the same silk satin and are trimmed with ivory/champagne lace (most likely it’s yellowed a bit from age). The skirt sides are trimmed with long and wide strips of the same silk satin fashion fabric, finished with a simple demi train and some bustling towards the rear skirt top. The reception bodice features three-quarter sleeves with a square neckline lined with lace; wide lace strips matching the ones on the skirt form a “V” on the front, framing a ruched upper bodice front.  And here we see the ballgown bodice:

With The Ballgown Style Bodice

As characteristic with ballgown bodices, there’s no sleeves and shoulders are minimal, trimmed with lace. The fashion fabric on the bodice front has been shaped so as to give the effect of cross-swagging that creates a large “X” on the bodice front. The neckline is “V” shaped and also trimmed with more lace. Both bodices are high-waisted so as to facilitate the bustled/trained upper skirt. Below are some side profile views with the reception bodice:

Side View- Evening Bodice

Note the side bows and peplum on the rear of the bodice.

Three Quarter Rear View- Evening Bodice

Rear View- Evening Bodice

Here’s a rear view with the ballgown bodice. Note that the ballgown bodice back lacks any peplum and just curves down ending in a sharp point. Both rear views of the skirt give a good view of the train which is free of any sort of adornment or decoration.

Rear View- Ballgown Style Bodice

Below is a close-up view of one of the sleeves on the reception bodice:

Close-Up Reception Bodice Sleeve

And finally, a close-up of the reception bodice front:

Close-Up Reception Bodice Front

And finally, the shoes that were worn with the dress:

This ensemble is a relatively simple but elegant and practical ensemble that would have been useful for a wide variety of formal events and it reveals a practical side to fashion that one doesn’t normally associate with this period. Stay tuned for more as we delve further into 1880s fashion. 🙂


Some Late 1880s Style

Just to change things up, today we take a brief look at the other end of the spectrum with the late 1880s with specifically, this circa 1889 evening/reception dress from Kent State University Museum:

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

Here’s a better view (unfortunately most of the photos are lower resolution):

The dress is constructed of a mauve/cream-colored silk brocade covered with a cream-colored chiffon with white dots. The hem is relatively simple, consisting of a taupe-colored ruched silk band (it was probably more of an ivory color when initially constructed but has yellowed a bit with age). The bodice is also fairly plain with no sleeves and trimmed with lace around the neckline that matches the hem color. One interesting style detail is the use of taupe-colored silk ribbons on the shoulders that are shaped in a sort of rosette pattern with long tails. While it definitely provides a point of focus that attracts the viewer, it’s a bit distracting.

In terms of silhouette, the train is fairly restrained and we don’t see the more extreme style common to the 1885-1888 time frame. However, looking at the hem and how it curves downward towards the rear, there probably was a more pronounced bustle/padding effect going on so who knows? 🙂 Finally there’s the train which is made of a champagne/gold-colored silk satin with darker gold-colored vertical strips of silk faille with a jacquard floral pattern. Below are two views of the train (fortunately one is higher resolution):

One interesting detail is that the bodice back appears to match the train, creating the visual effect of a continuous flowing train running up the bodice, although the train and bodice are separate pieces.

And here’s a close-up of the silk jacquard faille ribbon strips. Note the horizontal ribs:

Overall, this is an interesting that places most of its style emphasis on the train and when looking at the back and front, it’s almost like we’re looking at two different dresses. The large ribbons at the shoulders are a bit of a distraction but ultimately that’s a matter of personal taste. This is an interesting late 1880s dress and in looking at it, there’s little hint of the style changes that were to occur in the 1890s.


The Bustle Dress- A Brief Overview, Part 2

By 1872 we begin to see the fully trained/bustle look that was to be trademark of the the First Bustle Era. Most notably, styles of the early 1870s places an emphasis on accentuating the bustle effect while at the same time minimizing any fullness on the front, often using vertical lines as an aid such as can be seen in the fashion plates below:

Day Dress, c. 1873

This 1874 reception dress by Emile Pingat also puts this design aesthetic into action:

Emile Pingat, Reception Dress, c. 1874; Philadelphia Museum of Art (1938-18-12a,b)

The striped outerskirt on the front with its vertical lines emphasizes flatness in front while at the same time, the stripped outerskirt in the rear serves to emphasize the bustle silhouette.  However, stripes wasn’t the only way of emphasizing the bustle and front flatness. This 1875 afternoon dress by Worth uses color to achieve a similar effect:

Worth, Afternoon Dress, c. 1875; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1100a, b)

This dress utilizes a green silk taffeta front skirt trimmed with a layer of swagged taffeta material in the same color with gold fringe. Paired up with the green taffeta is a dark blue and gold patterned silk bengaline-like (it’s hard to precisely say) fabric that’s used for the bodice and the train, serving to harmoniously contrast the green taffeta. Finally, the hem has three rows of knife pleating in the same green taffeta. The side profile pictured below shows the contrast:

Side Profile

The side profile shows how the train is emphasized with the blue and gold and provides  natural focal point that draws the eye upwards towards the bodice and then the neck/head. At the same time, the front is minimized to a degree by the gold fringe and the rows of knife pleating on the hem; the eye just isn’t drawn here in the same way as with the train. Below is a view of dress rear where one can see the blue/gold material used to the best advantage:

Rear View

Close-up of skirt detail.

The above dress examples give interesting insights into early Bustle Era styles in that the style details were all oriented towards emphasizing the trained/bustled silhouette- whether it be stripes, contrasting colors, draping, or a combination of one or more of these elements.

Auguste Renoir, La Parisienne, 1874

In the next installment, we’ll be moving into the Mid-Bustle Era as the bustle gives way to a different look…

(To be continued…)