The Fashion Show…

A few years ago, a good friend of our invited us to participated in a fashion show at Clockwork Alchemy, a steampunk-themed convention annually held in the Bay Area. Participating in a fashion show has got to be one of the most stressful, yet exhilarating experiences in the fashion world and this show was no exception. 🙂


After much hard work, staying up late many nights, and otherwise working out a host of logistical details both big and small, we’re happy to say that it’s all done and we are extremely happy! We presented two dresses, an evening dress and a day dress, both following an amethyst/violet color palette. Below are just a few pictures to whet the appetite, we’ll be providing a more detailed overview in future posts:

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The evening dress on the left is our latest design, the “Lucy”, named after Lucy Westenra, the ill-fated companion of Mina Harker in Bram Stoker’s book Dracula and the subsequent Dracula movies. The dress on the right, the “Camille” is a lavender day dress in shades of lavender with amethyst accents. Both dresses are executed in the Mid-Bustle Era style (late 1870s/early 1880s) and represent some our most recent creations. In future posts, we’ll be providing more details so stay tuned. 🙂

Here are a couple of pictures taken post-show against a very interesting backdrop… 😉

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And here are a couple of post-show views of the Lucy dress showing the train in all its glory:

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And for a little post-show silliness…it’s been a long weekend. 🙂

Afterwards

We look forward to being able do this in the future! 🙂



And Now For Some 1888 Court Style…

In a previous post, we discussed the ensemble sub-style that was popularized by Charles Worth and consisted of a combination day and evening dress composed of a base skirt and two separate bodices for day and night wear. To continue this theme, we feature another ensemble dress but this time, it’s a combination court presentation/reception dress. Let’s start with this court presentation dress from circa 1888:

And here’s a close-up of the bodice:

Being presented at court marked a young woman’s introduction to society.1And signifying that they were now suitable for marriage. No matter which royal court in Europe, was an extremely ceremonial occasion and the presentation was governed by a strict set of protocols covering everything about the ceremony itself as well as what sort of dress was to be worn; all the major couturiers including Worth were knowledgeable in every nuance of court dress protocols which in turn guided their designs.2Most of what we know (at least in English) about presentation at court protocol derives from English practice. As part of the court dress protocol, feathers were an important element (at least in the English court) and below are the feathers that accompanied the dress:

In the case of the English court, the court protocol decreed that women were to wear three feathers in the style of the Prince of Wales crest with the center feather higher than the other two:

The Prince of Wales's feathers (With images) | Welsh tattoo, Welsh ...

Here’s how the feathers looked being worn. This picture is circa 1900:

So, now that one has been presented at court, what was next for the dress? Well, conceivably the dress could be worn again in a return visit to court, but this time the wearer would have been accompanying someone else who was being presented. Otherwise, one now had a dress that was pretty unusable anywhere else, in much the same way as a modern wedding dress.3While the idea of the “one-shot” dress was not unknown during the late 19th Century, it was still considered a bit wasteful and extravagant. A practical solution was to be able to convert the dress to a reception dress or ballgown by substituting some key elements. First we see more of a reception dress created by removing the train and replacing the bodice:

Worth, Court Dress Ensemble, c. 1888; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2007.385a–l)

Or a ballgown with a sleeveless bodice:

In each instance above, the pink silk satin skirt and train remains the same. For the court presentation version, there’s a matching silk floral pattern bodice and full train (per court protocol). Below are some close-ups of the bodices:

The reception or day bodice. Constructed of pink silk satin, this was front lacing and trimmed with silk chiffon/netting with what appear to be metal spangles.

The ballgown bodice, also constructed of pink silk satin and trimmed in white silk chiffon/netting with metal spangles. Below are views of the back bow/upper train, also in pink silk satin:

Finally, below are the bodice laces and bows:

The above dress is fascinating from the perspective of utility that it can transform into three different outfits for a variety of social occasions. Worth is usually associated with sheer extravagance, catering for a wealthy clientele with seemingly endless amounts of money who could afford separate dresses for each function. However, there was also a practical side to Worth his ensemble outfits.4We seriously doubt if anyone got much of a price break by buying an ensemble dress but it fit the ideal of Victorian practicality very elegantly. In future posts, we’ll be posting some more interesting ensemble dresses for your enjoyment. 🙂



 

It’s All About The Colors…

Two years already, and I still love this silk duchesse gown! This shade of green wasn’t that popular then, but it seems to have inspired a few copies out in the ether…the perils of being a trendsetter. This was Pantone 2018’s Color of the Year #15-0950, the 2020’s prediction is “Classic Blue”. Time for a deep blue gown! 🙂

Mid-1890s Style: Evening Gowns

For fashion, the 1890s was all about “going large” and that was especially true during the years 1895-1897 when fashion reached extreme levels with massively sized gigot or leg-of-mutton sleeves, narrow waists and large gored skirts. This trend was especially evident with evening gowns1The terms “evening gown” and “evening dress” are used somewhat interchangeably. For the purposes of consistency, we have chose to use the term “evening gown.” as can be seen below with these fashion illustrations:

Evening Gowns, 1895; Le Moniteur de la Mode

This style is interesting in that it utilizes a prince line combined with the hourglass “X” silhouette and gigot sleeves.

Illustrations are useful but nothing beats the real thing. Here’s some examples of extant evening gowns from the high 90s:

Evening Gown, c. 1895; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1979.346.59a, b)

Rear View

And for some close-ups of the shoulder/sleeve:

Close-Up Of Shoulder

Shoulder Detail

Why do these shoulders give off a Dynasty 1980s vibe? 🙂 Below is something a little different with a different sleeve color and fabric:

Evening Dress, c. 1895; Nordiska Museet

The black velvet sleeves offer an interesting contrast to the silk bodice and skirt not only in colors, but also in luster. The sleeves seems to suck up all the light around them while the silk skirt and bodice do just the opposite. The gown pictured below also does a similar thing although it’s a bit muted:

Worth, Evening Dress, c. 1896 – 1897; Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti via Europeanafashion

Here we have a contrast between the brown velvet bodice inserts and the gold silk bodice and skit. The eye is definitely drawn towards the bodice and by extension, the face. The circa 1893 gown design by Maison Worth below also offers an interesting contrast:

Worth, Evening Ensemble Dress, 1893; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.622a–c)

The silver gray and gold floral design skirt and outer bodice make an interesting contrast to the red silk inner bodice and skirt insert panels. Here the contrast is between colors rather than luster. Now for something a bit different, there’s this circa 1895 gown design by Maison Rouff:

Maison Rouff, Evening Dress, c. 1895; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.2339a, b)

Three-Quarter Rear View

And again, there’s contrast but this time between the ecru lace skirt and ivory silk bodice, also trimmed in ecru-colored lace- here the contrast is between textures. Also, the cut of the bodice is interesting, more reminiscent of an 18th Century design with its waistcoat silhouette. Finally, we see an inversion of the velvet/silk contrast theme in this circa 1887 gown, also from Maison Rouff:

Maison Rouff, Evening Dress c. 1897; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.332a, b)

Three-Quarter Rear View

With the above gown, the skirt and outer bodice is made from a salmon/peach silk velvet combined with a gold/champagne belt and under bodice. However, most of the gown is dominated by the salmon/peach silk velvet while the gold/champagne belt and under bodice give a pop of color. Also, the bodice is small in relation to the skirt with the skirt dominating. The above is only a small sampling of the variety of evening gowns that existed but it should give an idea of some of the period aesthetics. Stay tuned for more posts! 🙂