Designing For The 70s

When designing an 1870s dress, one is often faced with an overwhelming number of choices. While the basic 1870s style was characterized by the all-encompassing bustle silhouette, all of the other details were far from uniform and there were a bewildering variety of choices available in selecting the fabrics and trims. Moreover, there were many available choices in bodice, skirt, sleeve, and train design to include the princess line that came into vogue in the late 1870s. Finally, compared to earlier eras, there is also a variety of color choices, all made possible by the development of aniline dyes.

With all these choices, where does one begin? One of the most effective methods that we have successfully employed throughout the years is through the use of contrasting colors. Below are some examples of the possibilities:

The Englishwomen’s Domestic Magazine, June 1876

The color contrast could come in the form of a striped fashion fabric with one basic color and the stripes with the other color as shown on the above left figure. On the right, the contrast comes from the trim, in this case large bows and ribbons.

1876

With the above plate, the contrast comes from the fabrics themselves. The dress on each figure consists of two sets of fashion fabric and in some instances, one of the fabrics could be patterned. Below is another example of this:

In the above plate, we see a base fashion fabric combined with a second fabric that’s been draped over the first. The large scale use of fringe enhances the contrast and in the case of the left figure, the second fabric looks like it’s ready for slide off. Of course this is fashion plate and a bit of artistic licence is to be expected. 😉

Fashion Plate c. 1876

Wide stripes could also be used for a more dramatic effect as demonstrated with the above two figures. The cuirass bodice offered a wider “canvas” for these effects because of its larger continuous surface era. The princess line dress offered even greater scope for dramatic effect as seen below:

Le Moniteur de la Mode, 1876

In the above plate, the dress on the left uses contrast to its fullest extent by unifying the contrasting colors in a continuous flow of fabric and especially with the train. The dress on the right is a little different in that contract color is limited to stripes and edge trimming and with the embroidered back panel on the bodice enhancing the overall effect.

The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine, July 1877

The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, July 1877

In the above plate, the contrast effect is achieved through the use of striped trims to “outline” the dress in key areas. Once again, the princess line allows for this technique to be used to its greatest effect. Now let’s look at some examples of extant garments:

Day Dress, American, 1876; Philadelphia Museum of Art (1969-147-1a,b). This dress is constructed from steel grey silk taffeta and pale pink silk plain and striped satin; grey silk knotted fringe and pink satin cording.

A color contrast can be achieved through a variety of methods. One of the easiest, as shown above, is to utilize two solid colors with one color acting as the base fashion fabric that covers the largest expanse while the other plays a secondary role with the contrast color. Note that the backside of the fashion fabric that has been turned out as shown along the bottom of the skirt while on the bodice there are revers and a faux waist coat. Below is another example of the solid color method:

With the above example, the secondary contrast fabric has been used to create a series of stripes running in a up the skirt on a diagonal angle to create a spiral effect. On the front of the bodice is a large panel in the same color along with two large sleeve cuffs. Another creative way to approach contrast colors are to use two different colors in two different fabrics as with the silk velvet combined with a silk faille in the dress below:

Day Dress, French, 1875; Philadelphia Museum of Art (1976-120-1a--c)

Day Dress, French, 1875; Philadelphia Museum of Art (1976-120-1a–c). Constructed of silk faille and silk velvet with tatted lace.

But why stop there? 😉 Contrast can be also achieved by having one of the fabrics be a stripe or other type of pattern as with the dress below:

Day Dress, Emile Pingat, French, c. 1874; Philadelphia Museum of Art (1938-18-12a,b)

Day Dress, Emile Pingat, French, c. 1874; Philadelphia Museum of Art (1938-18-12a,b)

In the above example, the two contrast fabrics are nearly equal in volume with the striped fabric being employed as an overskirt on the bottom and as trim on the bodice. Plaids and checks were also employed as with this dress:

Day Dress, c. 1873; McCord Museum (M20277.1-2)

Day Dress, c. 1873; McCord Museum (M20277.1-2)

Note how the striped fabric is dominant in the above dress, comprising most of the bodice, overskirt, and train. The solid color fabric shows up in the sleeves and underskirt and it’s the same color as the stripes in the patterned fabric with the ecru providing the contrast. This is just one possibility of many.

The princess line dress also offers many possibilities. While is maintains the bustle silhouette, the fact that there is no separate bodice and skirt creates a unified whole that runs smooth and uninterrupted as with this dress:

Czech Dress1

Day Dress, 1870s; National Museum, Prague (H2-193316)

Czech Dress2

Czech Dress3

Czech Dress4

All right, so we went a bit overboard with the last dress but it’s an interesting color combination of light pink and steel grey (although it’s hard to detect with the lighting- it shows up best on the rear). In the front is a wide panel of light pink that’s offset by the steel grey on the remainder of the dress (with the exception of some detail on the rear). The above examples are just a small sampling of the color possibilities that are available. Combinations could simply be a matter of varying color shades such as dark and light blue or they could involve a combination of two different colors.

In choosing an effective color combination, keep in mind that while Victorians loved combining different colors, they also sought to have those colors harmonize at the same time, acting as complementary colors. Below is an illustration of a Victorian era color wheel developed in 1867 by Charles Blanc:

In the above illustration, the complementary colors are directly opposite of each other (e.g., yellow-purple, green-red, blue-orange). Naturally there are various shades in between and the complementary pairs will shift. The above is admittedly an over-simplification but it does give an idea of what designers were aiming for during the late 19th Century. And just to complicate matters further is the idea of saturation. Saturation refers to the intensity/vividness of a color. Colors that are highly saturated are bold and rich, while those that are desaturated lack in vibrancy.

color_saturation

An effective color combination could employ the principle of using two colors that are the same except for the difference in saturation. This is somewhat related to juxtaposing fabrics of two fabrics of different color shades as mentioned above:

The above is by no means a comprehensive overview and admittedly a lot of this is subjective. The best suggestion we can give is to look and pictures of original fashion plates and extant garments, making allowances for fading and deterioration. Certain combinations are going to look “right”, others not so much (and some could be downright ghastly- no different than today). We hope that this has provided some ideas to help you get started. 😎



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. 🙂



Something Plum- 1880s Fall Colors

It’s hard to believe that we’re moving towards the Fall, especially here in the American Southwest but it’s true and one can see it in the shifting of the sun. Although colors were not formally assigned to a season as it common today in the fashion world (this was before Pantone, after all 😉), darker colors did tend to be associated with the colder months of the year. Below is one interesting dress that uses plum as its base color and to us, it’s the quintessential Fall dress (although we wouldn’t say no to wearing it other times of the year). 😎


Plum has always been one of our favorite colors and especially in the Fall. Recently, we came across this wonderful circa 1883-1889 day dress in the collection of the Goldstein Museum of Design:

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Day Dress, c. 1883 – 1889; Goldstein Museum of Design (1963.007.002a-b)

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Three-quarter frontal view.

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Rear View

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Three-quarter rear view.

Style-wise, this is a classic 1880s day dress with three-quarter sleeves and distinct over/underskirts. There doesn’t appear to be much of  a bustle effect (but this is probably due to the museum’s staging). What’s striking about this dress is its use of a solid dark plum color underskirt combined with a silk brocade overskirt and bodice. Also, the trim on the bodice is fairly minimal while we see extensive ruching and layers of pleating for the underskirt. Here’s a close-up of the silk brocade fashion fabric on the bodice back; the pattern is suggestive of chinoiserie:

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Close-up of bodice back.

And here’s part of the underskirt with its extensive ruching:

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Close-up of overskirt.

Here’s a close-up of the bodice front which utilizes a jacketed/under-vest effect with facing lapels. It’s interesting but attempt but it strikes us as a bit disorganized- it’s attempting to meld typical design elements of the period but in a clumsy manner. Also, the fringe appears to be an afterthought and does little to add to the overall design effect. C’est la vie….

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Close-up of front bodice.

On the other hand, the middle back is neatly done and the train appears tidy in comparison with the bodice front:

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Close-up of rear.

Plum and its shades and tints have always been favorites with us and are always a source of inspiration for many of our designs. When combined with utilizing fabrics with varying degrees of luster, patterns, and textures, the results are phenomenal and offer a high degree of individuality. Let it inspire you as it’s inspired us. 😎



Tissot- For Artistic Inspiration

Today we offer a little artistic inspiration by way of this portrait of the Princesse de Broglie that was painted by James Tissot in 1895:

James Tissot, The Princesse de Broglie, 1895

The first thing that caught our eye was Tissot’s use of analogous colors with shades of green on the cape and shades of yellow on the dress. The green colors on the cape are especially interesting in that we see shades of color accentuated by various textures: light green feathers for trim, slightly darker green on the pleated silk collar, and a variegated fashion fabric of gold and green. The overall effect is amazing. The evening dress the sitter is wearing definitely takes second place with a yellow fashion fabric trimmed with a darker yellow on the hem, collar, and belt.  Finally, to tie it all together, there’s a choker collar of dark blue with gold that immediately draws the eye to the sitter’s face. Tissot has done a brilliant job here and one can almost feel a visual harmony of coolness, evoking a sense of spring and summer and some reason our minds are drawn to Monet’s home at Giverny…

 

In terms of garments, greens have always been a favorite with us and many of our designs have incorporated similar colors:

We have by no means exhausted the design possibilities using these colors and anticipate creating more designs in the future. 🙂



Mauve Monday…Why Not?

And because it’s Monday… 🙂