And For A Little Color…

Dior has always been a source of inspiration for us, both in style and color. Today, we came across these views from Dior’s Fall 2018 Couture Collection:

The color palette is simply exquisite, consisting of a series of cool shapes of green, and here’s the requisite palette:

All of the above colors are appropriate for the late 19th Century and here’s just a few examples from extant dresses:

Ballgown, Worth, 1898; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1324a, b)

Felix, Day Dress, c. 1889; Albany Museum of History and Art (u1973.69ab)

Worth, Ballgown, 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.68.53.11a, b)

Worth, Day Dress, c. 1890 – 1893; Kerry Taylor Auctions

Tea Dress, Worth c. 1895; Palais Galliera (GAL1964.20.4)

Now that’s some color inspiration! 🙂

A Trip To The Fashion Museum Bath, Part I

We began our first full day in Bath with a trip to the Fashion Museum Bath for a special viewing some select items from the museum’s collection. First up, is this evening dress/day dress made by the House of Worth either in the early or late 1890s (the official date is 1890). We’ll start with some general views:

General view of the bodice and skirt front. It’s kind of hard to capture the magnitude of the dress because it was on a table and the room was small.

The front of the bodice and upper skirt.

The bodice back.

Close-up of the bodice.

For some basic details, the dress appears to be constructed from a black silk velvet with a lighter gray floral pattern created by burning out the velvet (or so it would seem). Supplementing the floral pattern decoration on the bodice are crystals (probably Swaroviski since they were a major supplier to Worth). The official date on this dress is 1890 but to us, there may be some play in the dating- it’s hard to determine the precise silhouette since this dress is not on a mannequin but our best estimate is either early or late 1890s since the sleeves are relatively restrained, lacking the gigot sleeves characteristic of the mid-1890s. Of course, we could be wrong and if so, we graciously concede. 🙂

So far, this dress seems fairly conventional within the range of Worth and we guess that this is either a better afternoon/receiving dress or even a reception dress (probably less likely). However, once we we were able to get a better view of the skirt, the beauty of the dress was revealed:

The front of the skirt is divided by a black silk velvet panel running down the front with a string of decorative flowers running down the center. Below is a close-up of the flowers:

The flowers themselves are created by long metallic beads combined with ribbon. If you look closely around the flowers, you will notice what appears to be white spots or collections of lint; but they’re not. Actually, these are discolored worn down spots in the velvet plush where the beads had pressed down hard into the velvet. It appears that this dress was stored folded up for a long time. Now, here’s a view of the back of the skirt which really shows off the decorative pattern. Notice how it grows as it gets towards the hem. The skirt, incidentally, appears to be either a five or seven-gored single skirt characteristic of the 1890s.

Here’s some more close-up views of the burnt velvet itself:

This picture is especially interesting in that is shows that the floral pattern had subtle outlines around the individual leaves and it was hard to tell if it was burnt-out velvet or if another process was at work. The backside of the skirt offered no clues since it was completely lined with a fairly sturdy cotton.

Although this is a bit blurred, note how it’s actually two pieces of fabric coming together in the middle. Also, it’s been sewn in on the bias since the floral pattern narrows as it moves towards the top. This is also illustrated below:

Turning to the bodice, here are some views:

Closures consist of hooks and eyes and the top of the bodice and neck were lined with lace. Below is a picture of the bodice back:

The bodice back is decorated in the same way as the skirt with the floral pattern completely covering the bodice back. Also, there’s a v-back with a plain black velvet fill and the a tail at the base of the bodice that provides a natural beginning for the pattern seen on the back of the skirt. The eye is naturally drawn up and down. 🙂 Next, here are close-up views of one of the sleeves:

 

Note the crystals that add to the overall effect. 🙂 And just to be complete, here are some interior views:

The bodice interior. It’s lined with what appears to be a black polished cotton. Note the three eyes- these attached corresponding hooks that are set in the back of the skirt to prevent any separation between the skirt and bodice. Here’s a view of the interior stitching:

The back and front of the bodice are lightly boned on top of the major seam lines to maintain their shape (a corset was worn underneath to maintain the basic silhouette (body contouring, if you will). Also, note that the seam allowances are all finished by overcast stitching, which was standard for the time, and tacked down to the lining. Compared to some Worth dresses we have examined, this is actually pretty tidy. Below are some more interior views:

In all the Worth dresses we’ve examined, the seam allowances are notched with gentle edges which allows the fabric to follow the bodice curves with no bunching or bubbles. Also, note that the bodice is NOT constructed as what’s referred to today as a “turn and flip.” Rather, the pattern pieces were flat-lined with each piece of fashion fabric stitched to it’s corresponding lining pattern piece BEFORE the pieces are sewn together.

And the iconic Worth label.

Overall, it’s a fantastic dress and is a good example of Worth’s later work and illustrates the construction techniques that were utilized during the period. The design is elegant and definitely catches the eye, leading it up and down the dress to admire the complete floral decorative effect. It’s simply brilliant. 🙂 We’re honored that we had the opportunity to view it in person- merci beaucoup to the museum staff!

(To be continued…)

Something Unique in Cycling Suits…

One finds the most unique things when doing fashion research and today is no exception. In my study of 1890s fashions, I came across this interesting extant example of a cycling suit:

Cycling Suit, 1890s; FIDM Museum

When I first viewed this, I thought I was looking at something from the late 1960s or early 1970s…the flower-pattern fabric just simply screams that era. 🙂 This is something that we’ve never seen before. We’ve examined quite a few 1890s era cycling suits, both in person and through photo research, but never have we seen this sort of a fabric used. As a rule, fabrics were usually solids or some sort of a pattern, similar to what one would have found in men’s sack suit It certainly makes you wonder- was this a one-off or simply a variant that never took off in popularity? We’d definitely would like to know more…It certainly makes a bold statement and must have turned heads when it was worn. Unfortunately, a online search of the FIDM Museum collection turned up nothing so we’ll have to employ other research methods. Stay tuned for more…this is certainly an interesting puzzle and we’d like to know more.

Some 1890s Bodice Styles

In the course of researching some 1890s dress designs, we came across some interesting bodices that stretch the limits of mid-1890s style. First up is this bodice that utilizes the silhouette to create a floral display:

Bodice, c. 1895-1897; Minnesota Historical Society (9520.11)

While it’s not easy to determine from the picture, this bodice is made from a silk floral brocade combined with inset silk satin insets on the bodice front. What is most striking is that the gigot sleeves have been utilized as a canvas to show off the floral design to its greatest effect. Next is this example that utilizes the bodice’s asymmetrical design to show off the embroidery pattern to it’s best advantage:

The embroidery pattern follows the line of the edge of the bodice’s front opening  along with accents on the bodice bottom and sleeves. The bodice’s black silk satin also serves as a neutral background that further shows up the bright colors of the embroidery. Here’s a close-up of the embroidery pattern:

Another interesting 1890s bodice style was the bodice jacket; this was essentially a bodice that was worn in combination with a waist. Here’s one example from Redfern:

Redfern, Bodice Jacket, 1892; National Gallery of Victoria- Melbourne (D187-1974)

This example is pretty spare, its only decoration is black floral embroidery running along the wide white-colored lapels. Definitely illustrates the idea of “less is more”. The next, example takes the wide lapel idea even further, combining it with an enlarged ivory silk faux waistcoat/vest that overshadows the bottle green velvet jacket. This is interesting in that we see an inversion where the inner garment is larger than the outer garment. Definitely an interesting effect although rarely seen.

Close-up of front.

Detail of front bottom corner of bodice.

The above examples are only a small illustration of the variety of bodice styles that were available during the 1890s and should certainly serve as a source of inspiration for those who desire to recreate the fashions of the 1890s.

1890s Style- It’s All About The Sleeves…

Gigot (aka leg-of-mutton) sleeves were a defining feature of mid-1890s style and as with all fashion trends, they could get somewhat excessive. Here is some commentary on this trend from the October 7, 1894 edition of the Los Angeles Times:

Today the big sleeve is declared possible in any material, its chief uses being to broaden the shoulders and give the waist that effect of a wasp-like slimness so much desired. Diaphanous textiles, too, have taken the place of tho stately gilt and sliver spun brocades, and the girl whose wardrobe docs not Include at least two bodices of transparent stuffs can safely be said to be outside the pale of fashion.

The foundations of a sleeve in any of the gauzy webs now fashionable, does not begin, as one would naturally think, with a simple silk lining. It Is a complicated and awe-Inspiring affair, and often calls for considerable thinking, no matter how accomplished the builder. First, there is a smallish lining in some soft, dainty silk: this covered by a huge one, puffed, folded and pleated in heavier silk or satin, which in turn, is interlined with stiff tarleton or crinoline, and perhaps padded at shoulders or bunched with
concealing looseness at the lower arm…

On this ballooned or mutton-legged structure, the chiffon or mousseline de sole ties in bows or knots or fall in graceful, drifting folds, or is, perhaps, cunningly captioned with hidden tackings to look for all tho world like a furniture covering!

It’s interesting that the trend is said to have started with using heavy silk brocade, often in metallic, but then expanded to using lighter fabrics, that utilized a complex construction process. Ultimately, sleeve styles were part of a greater whole, serving to help define an overall look which, in this case, was the wasp-waist:

In the course of creating our designs, we have drawn on a wide variety of period sources and especially ones that speak to us across the years such as in the case of commentary from those who were living in the era. As we come across more interesting items of this nature, we’ll be sharing them with you all here. 🙂