Under Arizona Skies

A Lily Absinthe Shoot under sparkling Arizona Skies.♡ Because sometimes it’s the middle of nowhere where you can find yourself. 😃

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A Circa 1878 Wedding Gown

Today we present another interesting dress design from the Mid-Bustle/Natural Form Era with this circa 1878 wedding dress. Yes, you heard that right! This dress is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection and on their web site, the dress as identified as a “Wedding Ensemble.” Unfortunately, they don’t provide any information on how they arrived at that conclusion so this has to be taken with a grain of salt…

Wedding dress, c. 1878; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.18a, b)

Wedding dress, c. 1878; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.18a, b)

This dress is constructed of an embroidered wine colored stripped silk satin for the overskirt and bodice combined with a purple silk satin for the underskirt, bodice front and cuffs. Finally around the cuffs, there’s a think band of the purple silk sating that’s been pleated and finished off with white lace. In terms of silhouette, this one is cylindrical, characteristic of the Natural Form/Mid-Bustle Era and has no train. The bodice is a cuirass style, falling over the hips. The decorative effect on the underskirt hem is interesting, employing a combination of pleating, ruching, and use of the stripped fashion fabric in the form of vertical tabs running along the upper hem.

Side Profile

Now, as for the dress being a wedding dress, this is a very possible. Unfortunately, there’s no documentation posted online at the Met Museum website and we can only assume that there is documentation but that it didn’t make it online for reasons unknown. But nevertheless, this dress could have been used as a wedding dress in that during the late 19th Century, the use of white as THE wedding dress color was not a rigid convention; a wedding dress was often a bride’s best dress and was meant for wear long after the wedding. Moreover, the idea that one would have a specific dress to be worn only on the wedding day and then put away was also not the norm and in fact, was simply not feasible for most people, not to mention that it was viewed as wasteful. The idea of the one-use wedding dress would start to develop towards the end of the 19th Century but only by the very rich. For a more complete discussion of wedding dresses, check these posts HERE, HERE, and HERE. Ultimately, this dress presents a classic late 1870s/early 1880s day look and works for a variety of social occasions.😁

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Mid-Bustle Era/Natura Form – Asymmetrical Style

We’re on a roll when it comes to Mid-Bustle/Natural Form style! Today we feature this day dress that was made by Maison Cécile Laisne sometime around 1879 in Paris. What’s interesting about this dress is the use of asymmetrical design elements:

Maison Cécile Laisne, Day Dress, c. 1879; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.45.38.2a, b)

The skirt and bodice are made from a gold/champagne-colored silk jacquard with a silk satin knife-pleated hem made from the same color. The neck and upper bust are filled in with a gauze that’s also in the gold/champagne color. However, the most striking element are the wide jeweled/gold metallic braid trim stripes that run up both sides of the bodice front and decorate the cuffs. Below, a larger strip of trim with the same jeweled metallic braid runs along the lower bodice and skirt, starting at the center back of the bodice and then spiraling down and following the train on the left side.  Below is a close-up of the front upper bodice:

The trim definitely makes the front bodice stand out and it catches the eye, combined with the large center bow.

The view shows the dress silhouette nicely and one can make out the floral jacquard pattern. Two rows of pleating along the hem further serve to accentuate the train. Below is another view of the train:

In the above and below pictures, we see the trim to its fullest extent, running along the one side of the lower bodice and then down the left side of the demi-train.

Below is a close-up of the silk jacquard fashion fabric with it’s floral motif:

And the cuff accents:

And finally, a nice close-up view of the trim- this was, no doubt, all set by hand and represents hours of work.

The use of asymetrical design elements is one major style that’s common in late 19th Century dresses and the above dress is just one example. What makes this one so striking is the use of a wide, very elaborate stripe that immediately catches the eye, especially from behind and while it’s a bit jarring, it does succeed in capturing the viewer’s immediate attention. While this wasn’t a style for everyone, it was definitely one that was guaranteed to get attention- can you say Mrs. Bertha Russell, anyone? 😁

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More Mid-Bustle Style

Joseph Scheurenberg, Confidences, 1878

Today we take take our examination of Mid-Bustle Era/Natural style further with this circa 1879-1881 day dress:

Day Dress, c. 1879-1881; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.50.105.17)

This dress is constructed of old gold/champagne-colored silk taffeta for the skirt and and bodice body combined with black silk taffeta on the sleeves and parts of the bodice. The old gold/champagne color combined with neutral black make a harmonizing combination and especially on the bodice. The straight lines of the natural form/Mid-Bustle silhouette are given further emphasis with the vertical stripes of the bodice. The use of the same black silk taffeta to trim the skirt and hem finish the dress in a pleasing manner.

From the above picture, we can see that while there is some bustling, it’s pretty restrained and really only services to support the train at the bottom. Also, in the above picture, it’s interesting to see the use of a polonaise-style bodice that is long in front, tapering to waist level in the back and ending with a large bow.

As can be seen from the above two pictures, the train is more restrained than the dress featured yesterday. Looking at the rear, the use of black taffeta for the bodice back draw the viewer’s eye towards the waist with its bow and draping that lead the eye further down towards the train. This is contrast to the front where the viewer’s eye is drawn in the opposite direction towards the bodice top and neckline.

Although this dress consists of separate skirt and bodice, their lines emphasize the upright, cylindrical shape characteristic of this period.  About the only flaw we can find is with the rear train and box- it all appears very untidy BUT this may have more to do with the staging of the dress on the mannequin rather than any inherent flaw in the dress itself.  Stay tuned as we unearth more styles from this brief but interesting period.

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