Today’s Fashion Feature- The House Dress

For today’s fashion feature, we switch gears just a bit and present a very unique circa 1879 house dress1We do admit that you could also possibly consider this to be a tea gown but to us it read more like a house dress. Purely subjective on our part to be sure.. Even more interesting is that this dress has an accompanying picture of the dress’s original owner, something that one rarely sees:

House Dress, c. 1879; Antiquedress.com website

The dress is a princess line style and the silhouette is somewhat loose, a style that was characteristic of house dresses of the late 1870s and 1880s and in the dress has a closed front. The dress is constructed from a red wool with a gold embroidery floral design that runs down the dress front and continues along the hem.  Unfortunately, the pictures aren’t that large so it’s hard to make out details, Here’s some close-up views:

Here’s a nice view of the floral design motif at the bottom front and the corner provides a perfect opportunity to expand on the design and make it stand out. The leaves are ferns that are reminiscent of neo-classical floral motifs found in France during the Napoleonic era. Here’s another view of the lower dress front:

The sleeves are pretty simple and unadorned except on the cuffs:

Below is a good close-up view of the cuff treatment; a large gold embroidered flower and white lace at the bottom:

And here’s a close of the embroidered flower from the cuff:

And the pocket:

The back is also very interesting with it’s seam treatment running down the entire length of the back, flaring into pleats towards the bottom:

To make this dress complete here’s a picture of it being worn back around circa 1879:

This dress is definitely a finer, more upscale version of the utilitarian house dress and was clearly meant for wear when visitors came calling. This is also reinforced by that fact that the dress’ owner felt it was respectable enough to have their photograph taken while wearing it. It’s amazing, to say the least and it would be interesting to know more about the lady in the above pictures but unfortunately, the auction website that we got this from was a bit sparse on details. Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating glimpse into the past.

Today’s Fashion Feature

Today we travel back to 1896 for today’s fashion, a combination of cape and evening gown or reception dress.

Here’s a rough translation of the illustration’s description:

Silk brocade skirt with large knots; bodice neckline covered with silk muslin embroidered with pearls and sown with precious stones.

The first thing that catches the eye is the dress, and more specifically, the belt with its ornate front piece. The centerpiece of this dress is clearly the Swiss Waist or corselet belt1The terms “Swiss Waist,” Swiss Belt,” and “Corselet” were often used interchangeably. and essentially was a fitted belt/sash. The dress is constructed from a yellow silk brocade with a floral pattern with large repeats. The illustration only hints at the design and it’s unknown if there was a fabric with this specific pattern. The bodice neckline is covered in an embroidered silk muslin with jewels and pearls. Depending on the number and quality of the jewels and pearls, this part of the dress could cost substantially more than the rest of the dress. 🙂 Here’s are some examples of how elaborate the Swiss Waist or corselet style could get:

John Singer Sargent, Mrs. Wilton Phipps, 1884; Private Collection

Swiss Belt; from The Cutters’ Practical Guide to the Cutting of Ladies’ Garments by WDF Vincent.

And for an extant dress:

Day Dress, 1896-1899; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.833a, b)

And some closer views of the corselet:

59.40.3a-b_detail 0002

In terms of silhouette, this appears to be either a ball or evening gown, or possibly a reception dress, characteristic of the mid 1890s and the cape would make the perfect garment for wear over gigot sleeves. Unfortunately, there’s no commentary on the cape itself but it’s probable that it was constructed from a lavender/light purple silk velvet decorated in what appears to be some sort of floral trim. Color-wise the combination of yellow and lavender/purple are complementary and make for an aesthetically pleasing combination that fits in for almost any social occasion.

What’s On At The Atelier, Pour Mercredi…

As promised, here’s some progress pictures of the 1880s mantle we’re currently working on. This is based off a pattern that we drafted from an original garment dating from the late 1880s. This one features a crimson fashion fabric with a corded floral pattern with crimson silk velvet facings and a gold moire lining. In these pictures, all the major components have been put together and the only thing left to do is some handwork on the interior seams and adding trim and froggings. 🙂

And For A Little Princess Line Style…

Princess line dresses have always been a source of fascination for us, especially since they represented a dramatic break from the previous style characteristic of the early 1870s. Here’s one interesting example, circa 1874-1879 from the National Museum of Scotland that we recently came across while searching for something completely different:

Day Dress, c. 1874-1879; National Museum of Scotland (H.TM 30)

This dress is made from a combination of violet silk taffeta and a dark blue silk velvet. The dress and bodice back and front are made from the lighter violet silk taffeta while the dark blue velvet sleeves, collar, and bodice front panel provide a contrast in both luster and texture. Wide bands of the same velvet also run across the dress front in swags and along the hem and the top of the demi-train. In terms of silhouette, the dress is firmly in the Mid Bustle Era with its cylindrical style and moderate train at the top widening out into a demi-train at the bottom. Finishing the look is a row of cut steel buttons running down the front. And now for some side profile views:

In the above picture, there’s a better view of the demi-train and one can see the row of knife pleating running along the hem of the train as well as the cuffs. On the dress itself, the pleating is larger and wider. In terms of function, this was a more formal train with its demi-train and was probably an afternoon or reception dress meant for daytime wear.

This dress is a wonderful example of various design elements characteristic of the era to include contrasting textures and luster in fabric selection and the use of analogous colors, combined with draping and pleating. This dress hits all the high points and is definitely a source of inspiration for any recreation efforts.



And Now For Some More Directoire Style…

One of the more interesting styles of the late 1880s/early 1890s was the Directoire. In an earlier post, we gave some details about this fascinating style so today, we’re going to add a bit more. 🙂 The key elements of the Directoire style, as applied to the late Nineteenth Century, were jackets with wide lapels combined with simple, mostly un-trained skirts. Also, closely aligned was the redingote style and both were often combined as seen with this example:

One of the most eye-catching features of Directoire style were the lapels/revers. Here’s a few more interesting examples that we’ve recently come across:

In the above example from the October 1892 issue of La Revue de la Mode, we see a set of very wide, pointed lapels on a jacket with a diagonally cut front that calls away to reveal a white waist or pseudo-waist. The striped skirt offers an interesting contrast and the whole effect is a geometrical collection of straight lines going in a variety of directions. Along the same lines is this style on the left illustrated in an 1892 fashion plate from La Mode Française:

In terms of style, with its long revers and overall length, this one leans more towards a Louis XVI style but still overlaps somewhat in that the jacket is clearly mean to be worn open, displaying an ornately trimmed waistcoat (or pseudo waistcoat), complemented by the embroidered trim on both revers. Elaborate decorative designs were a characteristic of Directoire style, especially with the larger lapels that provided the perfect “canvas” as with this illustration from the March 1899 issue of The Delineator:

Both of these outfits are amazing and a bit over-the-top. The left dress features an elegant coat with elaborate decorative patterns that were no doubt, done in silver and jet beading (or some combination thereof). Although the fabric is not specified here, we envision a black silk velvet . The pale blue skirt offers an interesting color contrast with its white floral applique pattern running along the hem. The perfect outfit for Spring. The outfit on the right is a bit more dramatic with its burnt orange jacket combined with a green skirt with a vertical soutache pattern running down the front. The contrast colors make for a harmonious package that sets the stage for the dramatic striped patterns on the lapels and collar; these definitely catch the eye and direct focus towards the wearer’s face. We hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into one of the more interesting styles of the 1890s and we’ll be featuring more in future posts. 🙂