Sapphire…

Image result for sapphire color

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: 🙂

Whittaker Auctions1 Evening Gown c. 1880s

Front Three-Quarter View

Whittaker Auctions1 Evening Gown c. 1880s

Rear View

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:

Whittaker Auctions1 Evening Gown c. 1880s

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:

Whittaker Auctions1 Evening Gown c. 1880sWhittaker Auctions1 Evening Gown c. 1880s

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. 🙂

 

Achieving The Look – The Underlying Structure…

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.

Bustle_Phases

A somewhat simplified chart depicting the three major Bustle Era styles.

Below is a selection of some of the bustle styles that were out there during the 1870s and 1880s:

Bustles The Galliera Museum – the Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris

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):

Bustle c. 1870s

Bustle, c. 1870s; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2008.89)

Bustle c. 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:

Bustle 1883

Bustle, 1883; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1985.23.3)

Bustle 1883

Side Profile

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:

Evening Dress c. 1884 -1886

Evening Dress, American or European, c. 1884 – 1886, silk; The Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.63.23.3a, b)

Here’s another typical example from 1885 that employs an open cage-like structure made from flexible steel bones secured by tape strips:

Bustle 1885

Bustle, 1885; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.3095)

Bustle 1885

Side Profile

Bustle 1885

Interior

Steel or reed boning where not the only materials in use as demonstrated by this 1873 example utilizing horsehair padding:

Bustle 1873

Bustle, 1873; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2002.251)

Bustle 1873

The idea of the bustle creating the dress silhouette can especially be seen from this example:

Bustle 1870 - 1888

Bustle, c. 1870 – 1888; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1972.209.48)

Bustle 1870 - 1888

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:

Day Dress 1878

Side Profile

Day Dress 1880

Side Profile

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:

Bustle c. 1895 - 1905

Bustle, c. 1895 – 1905; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.44.48.8)

Bustle Pad 1875

Bustle Pad, made from linen and stuffed with horse hair. Victoria & Albert Museum (T.57-1980)

Bustle Pad c. 1885

Bustle Pad, French, c. 1885 Glazed calico trimmed with silk cord and stuffed with what appears to be straw; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.337-1978)

And there were some other interesting designs:

Bustle 1884

Bustle, Steel Frame, c. 1884; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.131C-1919).

Bustle 1880s

Bustle, 1880s

Bustle 1871

British, c. 1871. Metropolitan Museum of Art (1985.27.4)

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.

The Princess Line Dress- One Interesting Example

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:

Portrait Princess Line Day Dress c. 1878 - 1881

Portrait Princess Line Day Dress c. 1878 - 1881

Now, here’s one interesting take on the style:

Princess Line Day Dress c. 1878

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.

Princess Line Day Dress c. 1878

Side Profile

Princess Line Day Dress c. 1878

Rear View

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:

Princess Line Day Dress c. 1878

Upper Front with capote.

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.

Princess Line Day Dress c. 1878

Back view with capote.

Princess Line Day Dress c. 1878

Close-up of the front.

Princess Line Day Dress c. 1878

Dress unbuttoned to show interior detail.

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.

Princess Line Day Dress c. 1878

Close-Up of the front.

As can be seen here, what we think is “brown” fabric is actually close brown stripes.

Princess Line Day Dress c. 1878

View of the train.

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. 🙂

1877: A New Trend In Tournures…

The fashion press can be a useful source for documenting fashion transitions and changes in styles although the search can sometime resemble searching for a needle in a haystack. However, one can find some interesting nuggets of information and especially in documenting the transition from the First Bustle Era to the Mid-Bustle (aka “natural form”) Era. Below is an interesting item that appeared in the August 1877 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:

We also give the latest novelty in Parisian tournure. It is made of muslin, the top laid in a deep double box-plait, perfectly tight-fitting, to which is added two flounces, very full and stiffly starched. This is simply to keep the train out at the bottom. No tournure is worn near the waist, perfect flatness is the present prevailing style.

Tournure_Aug 1877 Petersons Magazine

From the August 1877 issue of Peterson’s Magazine.

While not particularly earth-shattering in terms of the evolution of Bustle Era fashions, it does help to roughly date when a new trend began to emerge. Stay tuned for more! 🙂