Evening Dress Styles From Maison Worth

For Maison Worth, 1900-1903 was an interesting period for evening dresses- while their silhouettes were pretty much the same, their was a great variety in fabrics and decorative elements. Design motifs varied but were drawn from the natural world and the multi-gored skirts gave great scope to this. We first start with this example from circa 1901:

Worth, Evening Dress, c. 1901; Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum

This example is fascinating both because of the color of the fashion fabric and the design as well as the design motif itself. First, the mint-green decoration set against a pale gray-green is a combination of analogous colors that harmonizes well. Second, the design itself is floral with a ribbon running through it and is suggestive of a vine. Unfortunately, there aren’t any other pictures so it’s hard to get a complete idea of the how the decorative design was created although we’d venture that it’s some sort of velvet applique. Also, we’re unable to view the dress from either the side or rear to get an idea of its reach but nevertheless, it’s an imaginative design that draws focus to the wearer.

Next, there’s this example from circa 1902:

Worth, Evening Dress, c. 1902; Museum of Fine Arts Boston (2003.289.1-2)

The side and rear profiles show the floral design very nicely and there’s complete symmetry between left and right sides.

With this design, there’s a lace-covered underskirt combined with a silk satin overskirt and bodice. What’s interesting here is that the overskirt is shorter than the underskirt and it decorated with embroidered floral appliques that provide pops of color to a peach-ivory background. The whole effect is suggestive of layers of vegetation, especially with the bottom flower appliques overhanging the hem of the overskirt.

Flowers were a key part in many of Maison Worth’s dress styles and here we see the flower them taken to more of an extreme with another circa 1902 evening dress:

Worth, Evening Dress, 1902; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.2009a, b)

As with the prior example, this dress consists of a lace-covered underskirt combined with a silk satin overskirt. However, unlike the prior example, the front of the overskirt opens up revealing the lace underskirt with the edges of the overskirt cut in the shape of two rows of flowers, one on each side, curling upwards. The floral design on the overskirt appears to have been painted on. The overall effect in the front is three-dimensional and the eye is drawn upwards towards the wearer’s face. The bodice is similarly cut, enhancing the whole effect. Here’s a close-up of the bodice:

The train below provides a large canvas for the floral design and almost looks as if the train was actually completely made of flowers… 🙂

This is just a small sample of Maison Worth’s output and what’s interesting to note is that in each example, the decorative floral design was either painted or applique. We hope to unearth some more stunning examples in future posts. 🙂



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