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. 🙂
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 Lyon. 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:
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.
The above fabric was ultimately made into an evening cape that was designed to show off the tulip design to its maximum advantage:
Front View- Evening Cape, House of Worth, 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1708)
Rear View- Evening Cape, House of Worth, 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1708)
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. 🙂
Worth gowns are always a delight to look at but unfortunately, the years have not always been kind to these garments. Here’s a video of efforts to restore and preserve on specific 1897 evening dress that’s in the Olive Matthews Collection at the Chertsey Museum.
And here’s one view of the restored dress:
Worth, Evening Dress, 1897; The Olive Matthews Collection, Chertsey Museum (M.2017.013a–c)(Image 1897 © The Olive Matthews Collection, Chertsey Museum, Photographed by John Chase Photography)
Today we feature another evening dress from Maison Worth, in this case one from circa 1894:
Worth, Evening Dress, c. 1894; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1095a, b)
Unfortunately, the pictures haven’t been updated in awhile but from what we can determine, the construction appears to be an ivory or champagne-colored silk brocade or jacquard with a curl motif that runs in vertical stripes up the skirt and then diffuses on the bodice. The upper bodice/neckline and sleeves appear to be a gold/champagne-colored silk velvet decorated with lace. For the silhouette, it definitely reads mid-1890s although it doesn’t precisely follow the typical gigot style of the period; rather, it’s more of puffed sleeves covered with large flaps. It’s an interesting effect and in many ways reminiscent of renaissance style and especially in the way the silk bodice front meets up with the upper velvet neckline.
A big no-no by today’s curatorial standards but it’s nice seeing a Worth dress being worn by a live model (although the dress appears to be somewhat oversized for the model and there’s probably no proper corset on underneath): 🙂
To us, this is one of Worth’s more understated/restrained designs and while it’s by no means a show-stopper, it is elegant and demonstrates an interesting take on mid-1890s style.
Today we take a trip back to the 70s…the 1870s, that is, and more specifically circa 1874 with this afternoon dress from Worth:
Worth, Afternoon Dress, c. 1874; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1975.259.2a, b)
This afternoon dress utilizes the two-color combination style that was typical of early to mid-1870s dresses, consisting of black silk taffeta bodice and outer skirt combined with a pale green/mint green silk taffeta underskirt. What is interesting here is that the bodice and skirts have been cut so as to give the effect of a long robe that opens wide to dramatically reveal the green underskirt. Also, while it’s not easy to make out, the bodice is designed with an underlayer of the same green color- it’s hard to say if it’s a faux vest or simply an inset underlayer. Finally, the neck and front outer bodice edges and cuffs are trimmed with ivory lace. Below is a close-up of the bodice:
The silhouette is fairly standard for the early to mid-1870s and its lines are pretty clean, especially when compared to many 1870s day/afternoon dresses. Note that both sides of the outer skirt are piped with the light green fabric.
The bodice back has a set of carefully sculpted tails that serve to emphasize the train and each tail is emphasized with an outline of the green fabric (which also appears to be the lining color for the tails). Below is a close-up:
Below are some more detailed views of the skirts. It’s interesting that the “outer” and “inner” skirts are really one unit:
Finally, below is a view of the detail where the outer and inner skirts meet:
Compared to many of Worth’s designs, this one is relatively simple emphasizing clean lines with a minimum of trim. In many respects it almost reads “tea gown” although it’s far more substantial and was clearly intended for wear out in public. We’ll have some more interesting 1870s dress styles to show you in the near future so stay tuned! 🙂