Taking a morning twirl, shaking off winter, and finishing up some new Lily Absinthe gowns for Spring…taking bookings for Fall and Winter commissions. ♡
Fall colors traditionally focus on earth tones but for us here at Lily Absinthe, we take a broader view… Recently, jewel tones have caught our eye and especially in Sapphire as with this circa 1880s evening dress from Maison Worth: 🙂
The dress appears to be constructed from a sapphire-colored silk satin trimmed with metallic beading and black lace. This is very similar to a Worth evening dress in our collection and as such, the metal trim gives the dress significant weight. Here’s a close-up of the hem detail:
Unfortunately, there’s not much information on this dress since the pictures were derived from Pinterest and it was not possible to find the original website that they came from except for a note that this dress was originally on an auction website. Also, the staging is poor so without a physical examination, there’s no real way to tell narrow down the date. However, that said, judging from the dress silhouette, the odds are good that it’s from the early to mid 1880s.
Just for interest, below are pictures of some of the bodice interior:
As with most evening dress bodices from the era, it was boned (although some of the bones are now missing) and lined with what appears to be a white silk satin. The finishing work is amazing, even with the wear and tear and shattered silk. Inspiration comes to us from many sources and this one will definitely be at the top of our list. 🙂
Styles are defined by their silhouette and nowhere is this more evident in the styles of the 1870s and 1880s which were built upon skirts being draped towards the rear and supported by a supporting structure known as the bustle (also known as the tournure). As described previous in this previous posts and others, the size and positioning of the train might have varied but the overall effect was still the same. So how was this achieved? Simply, draping fabric and fastening to the rear only works with the lightest of fabrics, in almost all cases support is required and that’s where the bustle came into play. Bustles varied in styles and shapes and were made from various materials, ranging from ones constructed of elaborate steel cage structures to ones that were little more than a pillow.
Below is a selection of some of the bustle styles that were out there during the 1870s and 1880s:
The above examples show two of the more common bustle styles, the “lobster” and the pillow. The “lobster” style gets its name from its resemblance to a lobster shell and was held rigid by steel boning or reeds.
Here’s a semi-rigid example from the 1870s (probably more mid-1870s):
The above style employed a fabric shell, typically made of a tightly woven cotton fabric with steel boning or reeds. This style was also common during the 1880s:
The above example is interesting in that while it’s similar to the 1870s example, it differs at the top where a large pad has also been installed- no doubt to help create the more sharply defined silhouette characteristic of the Late Bustle Era dresses such as this one:
Here’s another typical example from 1885 that employs an open cage-like structure made from flexible steel bones secured by tape strips:
Steel or reed boning where not the only materials in use as demonstrated by this 1873 example utilizing horsehair padding:
The idea of the bustle creating the dress silhouette can especially be seen from this example:
The example below is especially fascinating in that its shape dates it: late 1870s, most likely circa 1878 – 1880 (although the museum has is labeled 1870 – 1888). Note that the silhouette is slender from the waist to mid-way down and then flares out in the demi-train style that was characteristic of the later 1870s such as with these examples:
The above bustle examples are on the complex side and could almost be considered works of art on their own. However, there were more simple designs out there such as various types of pads:
And there were some other interesting designs:
The above examples are only a small sampling of what was available and no matter what style a bustle came in, its primary job was to support the dress and help define its shape. When we reproduce 1870s and 1880s fashions, we are constantly mindful of the supporting structures that are necessary for wearing these fashions in the most optimal way and they are almost as important as the dresses themselves.
And today’s theme is: “Stripes and Plaids”…because Lily Absinthe bustle-y goodness can be found with stripey pleatastic pleats and a tailored plaid-matched bodice! 🙂
One of the most noteworthy features of Mid-Bustle Era (roughly 1876-1881), fashion was the advent of the princess line dress. Attributed to Charles Worth who supposedly created the style for Princess Alexandra’s wedding dress, the princess line style was characterized by the lack of the defined waist created by the conventional bodice/skirt combination as seen in these original photographs:
Now, here’s one interesting take on the style:
It’s difficult to make out the specific fabrics from the pictures but we assume that it’s silk. The color combination of pale green, chartreuse, brown and cobalt blue is interesting; not our first choice but it’s a bit different from what is normally seen from extant examples.
One of the most interesting features of this dress is the use of a capote; that’s not something we’ve seen utilized with a dress. With its upright mandarin collar and capote, it’s more suggestive of outerwear, along the lines of a redingote. Below are some more pictures:
As can be seen from this close-up of the capote, it’s been artfully cut in layers so that there is no interruption to the pattern of the fashion fabric.
The interior detail shown here is interesting in that it employs the same fashion fabric underneath that’s also the outside on the cuffs, train and back.
As can be seen here, what we think is “brown” fabric is actually close brown stripes.
The train is characteristic of Mid-Bustle Era style, lot and fanning out. Not as extreme as some examples with the “mermaid tail” but the pleating does create a pleasing profile.
Unfortunately, we know almost nothing about the dresse’s provenance or the construction details; all we can do is speculate from the available pictures. In terms of dating, it’s probably safe to say that it falls in the 1878 – 1881 period (although the picture that we obtained indicates 1878). We suspect that these pictures were part of some sort of auction listing although we were unable to find out anything specific. But, in spite of the lack of information, it’s still an interesting example of a style that had a fairly short lifespan. Hopefully, we’ll find out more in the future. 🙂