Knife Pleating & Art

Knife pleating has been a subject of conversation here lately and by the early 1880s, it was a major feature of Mid-Bustle Era style. Often during the late 19th Century, fashion and art came together and one example is pictured below with In the Conservatory by Albert Bartholomé. Painted in 1881, the artist depicted his wife Prospérie de Fleury (nee Madame Bartholomé) who is wearing a cotton day dress with printed purple dots and stripes. On the skirt, the white and purple stripes have been integrated into knife pleating so as to create the illusion that there is a layered purple overskirt that has been slit in a series of strips to reveal a white underskirt. It is an interesting and unique effect.

Albert Bartholomé (French, 1848–1928) In the Conservatory (Madame Bartholomé), ca. 1881 Oil on canvas; 91 3/4 x 56 1/8 in. (233 x 142.5 cm) Musée d'Orsay, Paris, Gift of the Société des Amis du Musée d'Orsay, 1990

Albert Bartholomé (French, 1848–1928); In the Conservatory (Madame Bartholomé), ca. 1881; Oil on canvas; 91 3/4 x 56 1/8 in. (233 x 142.5 cm) Musée d’Orsay, Paris, Gift of the Société des Amis du Musée d’Orsay, 1990.

Sadly, Madame Bartholomé died in 1887 but her husband held onto the dress and it survives to this day, residing in the Musée d’Orsay and is pictured below:


Close-Up View

Rear View

This dress definitely reads Mid-Bustle Era with the cuirass bodice and relatively cylindrical profile; there is a train and bustle present but it’s relatively restrained with the train spreading out rather than flowing towards the rear. The combination of colors and the pleating effect are amazing and they are just as striking “live” as well as in the portrait. What is especially nice is that we have both the portrait and the subject’s dress so we can compare them; it’s rare that you get this situation.

I hope you have enjoyed this little excursion into the intersection between fashion and art. Stay tuned, there will be more! 😉

One thought on “Knife Pleating & Art

  1. I’ve always admired this dress, and the painting. Mind boggling that amount of pleating but I know not to you. 😉

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