More 1870s Style

Just when we thought we’d seen it all when it comes to 1870s style, there’s always something new to us that grabs our attention and in this case, an interesting circa 1876 reception dress from the Centraal Museum in Utrecht:

Reception Dress, c. 1876; Centraal Museum, Utrecht (4468/001-002

This dress features a dual solid/patterned fabric combination characteristic of 1870s style with the skirt and undertrain constructed of what appears to be a bright blue silk taffeta silk combined with a floral patterned silk brocade bodice and train. The bodice front features a narrow plastron of the same blue silk taffeta found in the dress and undertrain. The neckline is relatively modest, combined with a high Mandarin-like collar. The sleeves are three-quarter and are trimmed with ivory/champagne-colored lace.

The dress silhouette is interesting in that combines elements of both Early and Middle Bustle Eras. First, the bodice is suggestive of an early pannier polonaise style, a style that was to come into its own by 1880. However, note that the bodice is a separate entity from the pannier draping. At the same time, the bodice rear extends into a full train that style-wise is more characteristic of an earlier bustle era style.  Also, it’s interesting to note that while there’s a fully developed train going on, it’s more suggestive of later Mid-Bustle/Natural Form styles but nevertheless, some form of bustle was utilized and it’s especially a good candidate for a cage style bustle. Finally, we’d like to note the use of two horizontal rows of loose gathering on the dress front along with the loosely pleated hem serve to give the dress front more fullness.

The above picture provides a good view of the train and it’s clear that the bustle that would have been used with this dress would have emphasized the fullness of the train on the vertical plane. Now, let’s take a closer look at the bodice:

The high Mandarin collar and cut-out neckline are very angular and geometric and the theme is carried on further down the bodice front with the plastron that features a faux diamond cut-out below the neckline that reveals the pleated blue plaston.

The plastron’s vertical knife pleats draw the eye upwards towards the neckline, emphasizing the silhouette’s slender vertical lines, a style characteristic found in later Mid-Bustle/Natural Form styles. The overall effect is further emphasized with the minimal use of trim.

In the above picture, one can get a good idea of what the silk brocade looks like- note the bright blue velvet flowers outlined in gold on a background of striated blue and gold fabric. The excellent condition of the colors and the fabrics are simply amazing and it’s obvious that this dress was stored well, away from light. Below are some more close-ups from various parts of the dress:

Below is a nice view of one of the cuffs:

Finally, here’s a couple more full views of the dress from different angles:

The pictures above and below really give a good view of the dresse’s fullness in the front which nicely combines with the fullness of the train.

Below is a another nice view of the train.

For us, this is a very interesting dress in its transitional nature, combining earlier and later style elements and a fairly harmonious manner (although some could argue that the effect is somewhat clumsy but we beg to differ). It also shows that often, dresses are difficult to pigeon-hole in terms of style and only shows that fashion history is always full of unique surprises.


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And Now For Some Mid-1890s Style

1890s style is definitely a thing with us and today we present you this circa 1895 evening dress:

Rouff, Evening Dress; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.6477a, b)

The color and texture combination of this dress are a very harmonious combination of an olive velvet bodice combined with a black silk satin skirt and bodice front panels. To finish the style, there’s gold embroidery and fringe which serve to offset the black skirt and front bodice.  Although there’s only one picture of the dress, it does appear that there’s a separate bodice and skirt and the skirt appears to be have been made from the black silk satin fabric; the gold embroidery is a floral design that’s rectangular, running down each side of the front part of the skirt and then running along the skirt bottom, above the hem. It’s too bad that there’s no pictures of the dress from the back or sides.

Close-up of trim detail.

Above is a close-up view of the bottom skirt front and the gold embroidery can be clearly seen. Also, one can also see that black beaded appliques were also used as part of the floral pattern design. In terms of style, the wide neck line and low shoulders  suggest an evening dress style but this style would also work as a reception dress. It’s a fascinating dress and we only wish that there were some more pictures available- there’s a lot of details that are obscured. But, nevertheless, this is another source of dress inspiration, especially with the large leg-of-mutton sleeves.


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Some Mid-1890s Dress Style

Today we feature a circa 1894 day dress from the Metropolitan Museum of Art that in many ways encompasses late 19th Century design aesthetics.

Day Dress, c. 1894; Metropolitan Museum of Art ( 35.134.13a, b)

This dress consists of a celedon-colored silk satin underskirt combined with a striped celedon overskirt with olive-colored wavy stripes. The overskirt continues past the waist, creating the effect of an open robe that opens to reveal a brown velvet under bodice trimmed in ivory-colored lace. This same velvet fabric is used in the leg-of-mutton upper sleeves which give way to lower sleeves made from the same striped silk satin as the overskirt. It’s an amazing combination of textures and fabrics: soft and non-luminous silk velvet giving way to very luminous silk satin. Also, the color combination is also harmonious and reveals that some care went into their selection. Finally, we see the use of a lot of dark old gold-colored trim and especially on the bodice front.

In terms of silhouette, although the bustle and trains had largely disappeared by the 1890s, there’s definitely a train with the dress and no doubt an appropriate understructure was employed; this dress doesn’t quite let go of late 1880s skirt style.

The above picture gives a good view of the rear and especially illustrates the color and fabric combinations very well. Below are some close-up views:

Here’s a closer view of the bodice front with it’s silk velvet/silk satin combination. The velvet color could be a brown or perhaps a dark chartreuse- it’s hard to tell.  The lace jabot was probably a lighter shade of ivory or off-white back when the dress was made; in our experience lace tends to yellow with age.

This picture nicely illustrates the outer fashion fabric and the trim. The outer fabric appears to be a combination of a lighter celedon-colored base fabric combined with a darker olive, or even steel-colored, striped ribbon-like fabric that’s been attached to the base fabric (as far as we can tell from the pictures).  Overall, it’s a fascinating combination of fabric and we’d love to be able to view this live. We hope you’ve enjoyed this view of mid 1890s style.


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More Late 1890s Evening Dress Style From Maison Worth

Today we take a look at a circa 1897 evening gown from Maison Worth by way of the Olive Matthews Collection at the Chertsey Museum!

Worth, Evening Dress, 1897; The Olive Matthews Collection, Chertsey Museum (M.2017.013a–c)(Image 1897

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of information online about the dress but style-wise, it’s consistent with what the Maison was producing during the late 1890s and early 1900s. The most striking aspect is this dress are the decorative floral motifs covering the overskirt on the sides and rear:

Florals and wheat designs were a Maison Worth signature style and it’s especially evident with the floral design here which is HUGE, covering the overskirt from hem to waist. We wish there were more pictures of this dress, it looks stunning, especially with the floral design. We hoped that you’ve enjoyed this brief glimpse into Maison Worth.


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