Moving Forward Into Spring

Marie Bracquemond, “Woman with Parasol,” 1880

The Natural Form or Mid-Bustle Era often features in Impressionist art, often evoking images of springtime. Today we feature an interesting late 1870s/early 1880s day dress from the Fashion Museum Bath:

Day Dress, c. 1878-1881; Fashion Museum Bath

This dress is constructed of a light blue and ivory striped silk brocade with a floral motif. The fashion fabric has been artfully cut so as the bodice features an ivory inset framed by the outer layer in blue. At the same time, the skirt features horizontal stripes of the ivory and blue fashion fabric, all artfully arranged so that the stripes are in the form of swags accented with bows in the front. The bodice sleeves and hem are a solid-colored silk moire that matches the blue of the fashion fabric. The train, from what we can discern, appears to be a darker shade of blue that harmonizes with the lighter blue and ivory. It also appears to be a silk moire. Finally, the neckline and cuffs are trimmed in an ivory lace. Below is a close-up of the bodice front:

As common with many bodices of the era, it was designed so as to give the look of a semi-open robe. From this view, it would appear that the dress is perhaps of one-piece construction with the bodice section being front-opening, which was often found with dresses of this era. However, without a more thorough examination, it’s hard to tell for sure.  Perhaps one day we’ll have an opportunity to view this dress in person, there’s so many questions… 🙂



Outerwear Style c. 1870

Today we feature an interesting circa 1870 visite from the Musée des Arts Décoratifs:

Visite, c. 1870; Musee de Arts Decoratifs (Inv. 49228), © MAD, Paris / photo : Jean Tholance

This visite is constructed from a combination of a silk jacquard in green, red, black, and gold and a what appears to be a black silk velvet with a raised floral design- it’s very hard to make out from the pictures. The multi-color jacquard runs along the front and it used in the sleeves and lower back; again, it’s difficult to make out the precise construction. Finally, the edges are trimmed with gold knot-work fringe. In many respects, this style is very reminiscent of 1860s mantles.

Below is a close-up of the sleeve:

In the above picture, one can see the elaborate silk jacquard pattern that’s very reminiscent of a tapestry and edged with knot-work fringe. Overall, the combination of a multicolor jacquard combined with black creates a very dramatic style effect and especially when it comes to the front and sleeves. It’s too bad that there are no pictures detailing the construction and especially on the back where the jacquard and the black velvet meet. This is an excellent example of early 1870s outerwear style and definitely would be a good candidate for recreating.

Mid-1870s Afternoon Dress Style

Yesterday we took a look at a mid-1870s afternoon dress from Worth. Today we take a look at another afternoon dress from circa 1874-1875 that offers a bit of a contrast:

Afternoon Dress, c. 1874-1875; Metropolitan museum of Art (1979.367.1a, b)

The bodice and skirt are  constructed of what appears to be a light brown silk taffeta combined with a jacquard (more on that below). Turning to the bodice, the body is made of the brocade while the sleeves are made of the light brown taffeta. The rear of the bodice also features jacquard tails that extend over the top of the train/bustle. The cuffs are trimmed with the jacquard and ivory lace (the lace is missing from the left cuff).  The fabrics on the front of the skirt have been shaped so as to create two layers consisting of the jacquard on top of the light brown taffeta, scalloped at the bottom and lying over a base layer of the same light brown taffeta. Decorating the center of the front opening are a series of knots trimmed with the jacquard  and the hem has a row of knife pleating.

As can be seen from the profile view above, the skirt is made of two layers, the inner one extending to the ground with the train consisting of the brocade and the front consisting of jacquard panels covering the light brown taffeta. The outer layer extends down from the waist and over the hips, extending down about one third of the way down consisting primarily of the light brown fabric trimmed with large knots.

In terms of silhouette, this dress reads mid-1870s. Compared to the the 1870-1872 time frame, the train is more tidy and restrained.  Below is a close-up of the cuffs:

The slashing is an interesting decorative touch. Below is are three-quarter and direct rear views of the dress with the bodice and its tails draped over the skirt.

And for a close-up of the jacquard…

By this time you must be wondering just what the jacquard fashion fabric looks like up close- well, you’re in luck:

From the picture, it would appear that the patterned fashion fabric is jacquard- possibly a cotton or cotton/silk blend- and it certainly reads like a tapestry. What’s interesting is that from a distance, the brocade almost appears to be dark gold and gives the dress a richness that contrasts with the light brown taffeta. Compared to the design from Worth we looked at yesterday, this is far more dramatic yet it’s also clumsy, at least in the way the decorative knots are used- they appear to have been somewhat of an afterthought and especially on the sides. But, no matter what we may think, this is still an interesting example of mid-1870s style and especially in the way two contrasting fabrics are manipulated to create something that’s more than the sum of its parts.

Back To The 70s At Maison Worth

Today we take a trip back to the 70s…the 1870s, that is, and more specifically circa 1874 with this afternoon dress from Worth:

Worth, Afternoon Dress, c. 1874; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1975.259.2a, b)

This afternoon dress utilizes the two-color combination style that was typical of early to mid-1870s dresses, consisting of black silk taffeta bodice and outer skirt combined with a pale green/mint green silk taffeta underskirt. What is interesting here is that the bodice and skirts have been cut so as to give the effect of a long robe that opens wide to dramatically reveal the green underskirt. Also, while it’s not easy to make out, the bodice is designed with an underlayer of the same green color- it’s hard to say if it’s a faux vest or simply an inset underlayer. Finally, the neck and front outer bodice edges and cuffs are trimmed with ivory lace. Below is a close-up of the bodice:

The silhouette is fairly standard for the early to mid-1870s and its lines are pretty clean, especially when compared to many 1870s day/afternoon dresses. Note that both sides of the outer skirt are piped with the light green fabric.

The bodice back has a set of carefully sculpted tails that serve to emphasize the train and each tail is emphasized with an outline of the green fabric (which also appears to be the lining color for the tails). Below is a close-up:

Below are some more detailed views of the skirts. It’s interesting that the “outer” and “inner” skirts are really one unit:

Finally, below is a view of the detail where the outer and inner skirts meet:

Compared to many of Worth’s designs, this one is relatively simple emphasizing clean lines with a minimum of trim. In many respects it almost reads “tea gown” although it’s far more substantial and was clearly intended for wear out in public. We’ll have some more interesting 1870s dress styles to show you in the near future so stay tuned! 🙂

Taking A Look Back At The 70s

The 1870s, that is! 🙂 Below is one extremely interesting example of  Early Bustle Era style from circa 1872-1875 that epitomizes many of the style elements of early 1870s style:

Day Dress c. 1872 - 1875

Day Dress, c. 1872 – 1875; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1986.304a, b)

Day Dress c. 1872 - 1875

Side Profile

Daydress c. 1872 - 1875

Day Dress c. 1872 - 1875

Three-quarter rear profile.

This dress is an interesting combination of a lavender silk brocade combined with silk satin gold stripe panels edged in red that run along the lower underskirt and hem as well as an edging for the overskirt; the same treatment is also found on the bodice and sleeve cuffs. What’s also interesting is that the gold striping acts to frame the overskirt and the bodice making for a bright contrast with the more subdued lavender fashion fabric. Here are some close-ups of the various fabrics:

Day Dress c. 1872 - 1875

Detail of the fashion fabric.

Looking closer at the fashion fabric, one can see a pattern of white dots with red/green/white floral(?) elements in between. At a distance, the floral elements appear to be gold, an effect no doubt influenced by the higher luster gold striping. Also, it’s interesting that on the lower underskirt, the fashion fabric has been cut on the bias, presenting the white dot stripes on the diagonal.

Day Dress c. 1872 - 1875

Detail of hem.

Next, let’s take a look at one of the sleeve cuffs which gives us some more detail about the gold stripes. It would appear that the gold silk satin stripes are overlaid on an orange/red fabric (appears to also be silk satin). Style-wise, the turn-back cuffs are 18th Century inspired with the rows of buttons and exaggerated button holes and nicely complement the rest of the dress.

Day Dress c. 1872 - 1875

Detail of sleeve cuff.

Finally, here’s a view of the dress in a more natural display:

Day Dress c. 1872 - 1875

From this view, one can see the bottom of the bodice whose lines are more angular along the bottom than the usual smooth curves which was more the norm. What is also striking is the long line of buttons and associated detail running along the edge of the overskirt, serving to draw the eye. Here’s a closer view:

Daydress c. 1872 - 1875

Finally, here’s a view of the upper skirt and waistband:

Day Dress c. 1872 - 1875

Detail of upper skirt/waistband.

Here we see that part of the trained/bustled effect was achieved through artfully contrived loops and buttons. It’s hard to tell but from this angle, it appears that this is the underskirt. Overall, this is a nice example of the early 1870s style and is actually a bit restrained in terms of yardage and the train/bustle effect- many dresses of this era seemed to have been designed with the idea of cramming as much yardage as possible into the train, thus making the wearer look like they’re overstuffed couch. The one that we especially like is it’s pristine condition (well, it IS the Met Museum, after all!) and clean lines. This one is certainly an inspiration, both in terms of colors and fabrics and style.