Finding Inspiration In Paris, Part 2

Bienvenue au musée d'Orsay

Inspiration for us is not limited to water lilies… 🙂 We also too the opportunity to visit the Musee d’Orsay which is home to one of the finest art collections in the world and houses one of the largest collections of Impressionist paintings in the world (no surprise there!). Here’s just a few highlights, starting with Claude Monet:

Here’s a better view, courtesy of the web:

Claude Monet, Essai de figure en plein-air: Femme à l’ombrelle tournée vers la gauche, 1886

The artist’s technique, when combined with light and color gives the above figure an almost ethereal appearance- individual detail is not as an important as overall effect. What’s also interesting is that the sunlight is somewhat soft and diffuse rather than harsh. The above painting was one of a set of two with the figure facing both to the left and right:

And there’s the fabulous Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe by Manet:

This painting is a lot larger than what I was expecting. Here’s a better version, courtesy of the web:

Edouard Manet, Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe, 1863

Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe was considered somewhat risque in 1863, especially in terms of subject matter. One can read many interpretations into this art piece but for us, this represents a freedom of form that runs somewhat counter to the tightly corseted clothing forms characteristic of the period. It’s an interesting contrast.

Renoir’s Bal du moulin de la Galette provides another interesting study in the play of color and light:

And once again, a better version, courtesy of the Musee d’Orsay:

Renoir, Bal du moulin de la Galette, 1876

Now, while it can be argued that paintings only go so far when replicating the natural world, that really misses the point in that we’re not looking for strict realism, rather we’re looking at the artist’s interpretation of the natural world and it’s that interpretation that engages our interest and thus, inspires. The play of light and color is immensely fascinating to us and it often serves as a point of departure our design process. Impressionism is especially compelling because of its focus on light and color, especially when the color can change with the light due to factors such as shade, time of day, and distribution. Renoir’s Bal du moulin de Galette, pictured above, provides an especially good example of this.

And just because, below are some more examples, starting with one of our favorites, The Swing, by Renoir:

Auguste Renoir, La balançoire, 1876

The individual details of the objects and people are somewhat blurred but the colors go a long ways towards filling in the details. Also, we can tell that the woman’s dress is an princess line dress. 🙂 Monet’s A Bridge Over A Pond of Waterlilies is another favorite:

Claude Monet, Le bassin aux nymphéas, harmonie verte, 1899

The play of the various shades of green are striking and even more so viewing them up close and in person. Just for contrast is Monet’s Houses of Parliament depicts of London on a typically misty/foggy day where the sun is trying to burn through:

Claude Monet, Londres, le Parlement. Trouée de soleil dans le brouillard, 1904

Paris is the perfect place for fashion inspiration and during our short stay, we didn’t even scratch the surface of its amazing potential. However, we’ll be going back soon so we’ll have another opportunity to be inspired up close and personal. Au revoir!

Another Dress Off To A Good Home…

She’s “just a cotton frock”, but it was fun to see where I could take this design. This Lily Absinthe gown is off to her new home and will look even better with a little Old West dust on that pleated hem! n the mid 1880s, there was a fad for cottons with swirly, busy paisley and floral mixed prints for fancy day dresses. I finished this sweet little project and combined it with vintage plush silk ribbon and softened it with my client’s old taupe edged lace, patterned from one of our antique bodices…I miss her already!

Yes, She’s just a cotton frock, but the fun is in the finishing…three kinds of pleating in her skirt, bobbinette shirring and ruching, and pretty silk covered buttons just for some mid 1880s style. I’ve found this style in so many extant images, especially those from the American Old West, so I couldn’t resist making this for a client.

Purple Pleat Magic Redux

Some wisdom pearls need repeating… 🙂


Purple Dress Pleats1 Karin

Behold the power of a pleat! It’s not the fold itself, it’s…the understitching. When a pleated ruche is placed in directions that defy gravity, understitching is required. Invisible handwork like this requires me to use a darning needle for (long and thin) so I can sit on the floor with the hem closer to my eye level. For me, using this technique allows me to tack each pleated corner so it stays in place. Why so particular? These diagonal ones in the front will take the brunt of walking, but the piped longer ones on the skirt back and train will flutter, because their hem is free.  🙂

Modes Pour La Plage – 1870s Style

Seaside fashion has always been a theme in 19th Century fashion and a a standard feature in most fashion journals of the time. Much of what’s depicted in fashion plates of the late 19th Century that’s labeled “seaside” are really no more than conventional warm weather styles that could just as easily be used in a variety of settings and there’s nothing really uniquely “seaside” about them and in fact, some seem pretty elaborate for an outdoor setting by the beach. But, fashion is always interesting even if the context is a bit muddied:

Le Moniteur De La Mode, No. 32, August 1876

The above plate is interesting on a few levels- from the background, it appears that the two ladies are talking to a man in front of what can only be changing sheds, judging from all the clothes on the rail. We suspect that it’s more about the men changing into clothes more suitable for going in the water… Style-wise, we see the Mid-Bustle/Natural Form Era in full flower with the dress on the left wearing a Directoire style bodice/coat worn with a trained skirt. The use  of vertical lines on the coat/bodice and the horizontal trim stripes on the skirt are an interesting combination that’s not often seen. The dress on the right is a bit more conventional with a polonaise worn over a plain trained skirt. The Polonaise is combined with a matching apron/short overskirt, creating an interesting silhouette. Of course, we speculating here a little and we wonder if this was ever actually constructed.

Le Moniteur De La Mode, No. 27, July 1876

With the dress on the left, long pleats and outline trim accentuates the demi-train.  The cuirass bodice sweeps below the hips, further accentuating the overall silhouette. The dress on the right has a smaller train and instead places emphasis on vertical lines, especially the two revers running along the bodice front.

Le Moniteur De La Mode, No. 36, September 1876

In the above plate, the dress on the left seems to be a compromise style where the hip bustle and train have not been completely abandoned. Also, the elaborate tassel trim running along the overskirt give the dress a more busy appearance, distracting somewhat from the overall silhouette. The dress on the right follows a princess line, de-emphasizing the hip and waist and placing the focus on the front and lower skirt with a combination of large bows and pleating.

Of course, the above dress styles would work in a number of environments other than just the beach but it must be noted that these are fashion plates, which by their very definition are meant to depict idealized fashions in idealized locations. Basically, they’re more about fantasy and that fantasy in turn generates sales. But in spite of the fantasy element, these plates are an interesting illustration of Mid-Bustle style. One final note- efforts were made to devise more practical beach wear but it was going to be a lengthy process; for more on this, check here.