Parisian Color Trends For Fall 1889

Georges Garen, Embrasement de la Tour Eiffel, 1889; Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Color is a major element in fashion styles and, as with style in general, it’s constantly in a state of flux. The situation was no different during the Nineteenth Century and while there was no entity like Pantone to constantly monitor the color trends, they were still noted. In the October 1889 issue of Peterson’s Magazine, it was noted that:

The newest color of the season is a rich deep shade of chaudron-red, which has been christened Eiffel-color, after the famous tower of the Exhibition. It is supposed to be of the same hue as the red-painted iron-work of that stupendous edifice, since its tint has been mellowed and modified by the weather. Green, except in the dark-emerald shade, has gone entirely out of vogue. Yellow, in the warm golden tones, will be a good deal used for trimmings,

Probably the most interesting comment is about “chaudron-red” which is a mash-up of French and English for “cauldron red” (or Eiffel Red) and it describes the original color that the Eiffel Tower was painted when it was first erected for the Paris Exhibition of 1889. The original paint was meant as a protective coating and had a copper-red color because of its active ingredient, iron oxide, which gives the paint its protective quality, preventing rust to the steel that made up the Eiffel Tower’s construction (even to this day, iron oxide paint is used for treating steel beams). So what did this look like? Probably something like this:

Interestingly enough, recently, when it’s time to repaint the Eiffel Tower in 2021, it has been suggested that it be repainted in the original chaudron-red, similar to the shade depicted above. So far, the French Ministry of Culture has not made a decision…

Besides “Eiffel Red,” it’s noted that green is completely out except in a dark emerald shade, perhaps along these lines:

And for yellow something like these:

And now well things together with some examples of the above colors at work, starting with this evening dress from Maison Worth:

Worth, Evening Dress, c. 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.59.20)

James McCreary & Co., Visiting Dress, c. 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art

Detail of Cuff

Both of the above dress examples incorporate many of the colors noted in Peterson’s although we must note that there are also plenty of examples where other colors were used; in fashion there’s never any absolutes, just broad generalizations. We hoped you have enjoyed this brief excursion into trending colors of 1889 and stay tuned for more in the future. 🙂



The Ensemble Dress

Ensemble Evening Reception Dress Worth 1893

One interesting aspect of Charles Worth’s designs was what was called the “Ensemble Dress.” This was a dress that had two bodices, typically one for day wear and one for evening wear so one could have a nice semi-formal dress for calling on friends, going into town, or attending some sort of day function. At the same time, with a change in bodices, one would have also be properly dressed for an evening function. Below is just one circa 1893 example from Worth:

Ensemble Evening Reception Dress Worth 1893

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

First, we have a day bodice that’s designed like a jacket; no doubt some wort of a waist was worn underneath even though it would have been covered by the lace strips running down the front. And then we have a night bodice that’s perhaps a little more formal:

Ensemble Evening Reception Dress Worth 1893

The Alternate Bodice

And here’s a rear view of the dress with the day bodice:

Ensemble Evening Reception Dress Worth 1893

Rear View

In terms of silhouette, this is characteristic for the early 1890s with it’s fairly restrained train arrangement- most likely a small bustle pad was worn but not much else. The fact there’s small train points to it being more of a formal dress (with day and night configurations). The fabric is a silver colored silk satin with a gold leaf pattern decoration woven in broken texture that services to provide a contrast both in texture and color. The red silk velvet lapels and sleeve trim on the day bodice and the red bodice front on the night bodice. The effect is exquisite with either bodice. Below is a close-up of the fabric.

Ensemble Evening Reception Dress Worth 1893

Detail of fabric- too bad it’s not in color.

In 1890s fashion, the skirt and bodice have a minimum of trim and Worth lets the contrasting fabrics, both in color and in texture, speak for themselves. Just one of many exquisite examples from Maison Worth.

 


The Princess Line Dress- One Unique 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. 🙂


And A Little Something From Maison Worth

And for a extra little color, today we feature this Natural Form/Mid-Bustle Era day dress from Charles Worth in shades of orange:

Worth, Day Dress, c. 1878-1883; Augusta Auctions

The silhouette is quintessential late 1870s/early 1880s consisting of a long cuirass bodice with three-quarter sleeves that covers the hips along with an over/underskirt combination. Judging from the long train, it suggests that this dress was meant for more formal day occasions, whether at home or in public. The base fashion fabric for the bodice, overskirt, and train appear to be a wine-colored striped silk taffeta (perhaps?) overlaid with a burnt orange floral pattern. The colors are analogous, providing a palette of warm colors. The underskirt and front bodice insert appear to be a champagne-colored silk satin, trimmed with lace and ribbons on the skirt. The champagne color provides a cool color contrast that only serves to emphasize the bodice and outerskirt.

Here’s a nice view of the train and while it’s substantial, it’s still a demi-train (it’s fairly subjective here). Below is a close-up view of the fashion fabric. From the vertical ribs, it appears to be silk gold flower appliques laid over a silk burgundy stripe fabric. The fabric is fascinating and we would definitely want to study it up close in person.

The red-orange fashion fabric is definitely the centerpiece of this dress and gives it a special, unique appearance. While it’s tempting to classify this as “Fall colors”, it would be a mistake to do so in that Victorians were somewhat flexible when it came to associating colors with specific seasons. But, nevertheless, this is an excellent example of using color to define a dress style and it definitely carries a great impact.  🙂

 



Designs From Maison Worth

charles-frederick-worth-english-fashion-designer-active-in-paris

The Master Himself

Today we take you across the ocean to Paris, the capital of fashion in the late 19th Century for a brief look at one (of many) creation by Frederick Charles Worth. Worth was one of the first “name” fashion designers who pioneered what ultimately was to become the Haute Couture system that ruled the fashion world for almost a century.

Along with creating his own dress designs, Worth also commissioned his own custom fabrics and in particular he patronized the French silk industry centered in Lyon1Unfortunately, the silk industry in Lyon has diminished since the late 19th Century and today, Prelle et Cie is one of the few silk weavers that remain. Prelle’s silks have been used to restore a wide variety of historic sites worldwide and they even recreated many of the silk fabrics used in 2006 film Marie Antoinette.. One such creation that Worth commissioned from the firm of Morel, Poeckès & Paumlin in 1889 was the Tulipes Hollandaises (“Holland Tulips). The design was intended to push the silk weaver’s art to its limits, the design has a three-foot repeat in the pattern which made it difficult to weave.

Below are two pictures of the textile’s design:

Worth Evening Cape 1889_3

Worth Evening Cape 1889_4

The tulips are depicted in bright colors set against a black background and some commentators have characterized it as an “aggressive” design intended to make a bold statement, especially given the size of the design repeat.

As part of the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris, the products of French industry were exhibited and naturally the textile and couture industries were part of it. The above textile was put on display and it ultimately was awarded a grand prize.

Paris_1889_plakatThe above fabric was ultimately made into an evening cape that was designed to show off the tulip design to its maximum advantage:

Worth_Evening Cape 1889_1

Front View- Evening Cape, House of Worth, 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1708)

Worth_Evening Cape 1889_2

Rear View- Evening Cape, House of Worth, 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1708)

Worth_Evening Cape 1889_5

Here’s a view that’s a bit less sterile than what is normally encountered in a museum setting.

The above evening cape shows off the silk textile to its maximum advantage. Some could argue that it’s excessive and perhaps even gauche but that was the nature of Haute Couture in the late 19th Century and given the spirit of the time, anything less would have been dismissed as banal. Less was definitely not more during the Belle Epoch. 🙂