Chartreuse For The Summer…

Chartreuse has always been one of our favorite colors and especially during the spring and summer. This is a dress that I made for myself awhile back and it’s still one of my favorites. 🙂

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Inspiration Doesn’t Punch A Time Clock

We are often asked about how we get our inspiration for our designs. Well, there’s no easy answer there but there is one thing that can be definitely be said: inspiration doesn’t punch a time clock and neither do we here at Lily Absinthe! 🙂 Often inspiration can arrive at the oddest of moments- whether we’re driving to an appointment, drinking coffee in the backyard and watching the dogs, or simply thumbing through a magazine. 🙂 One just never knows but the one element that’s constant is that it’s a nonstop process.

John Singer Sargent, Carmencita, 1890, Musée d’Orsay, Paris

At Lily Absinthe, we constantly strive to explore new colors and new style elements, working them in various combinations. Some don’t feel right and are quickly discarded, others get filed away for awhile and perhaps re-worked at a future date, and some we immediately act on- there are those moments when the design exerts such a power influence that it simply can’t be ignored.

Many of our designs focus on the creation of three-dimensional effects in the fabric, something that’s achieved through combinations of fabrics of different textures and the use of complementary and contrasting colors, aesthetics that were commonly used in the 19th Century and are very relevant even in more modern designs.

With that said, let’s take a closer look at just one of our many projects:

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Here we have silk velvet (the ONLY kind of velvet we use, by the way) revers and beribboned silk organza flutings for a beautiful Lily Absinthe bride. <3

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And here’s another view of the hem- that’s a lot of knife pleating going on there. 😉

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And a little late night silk velvet piping for one of the dresses… In this design, the whole objective to present something that’s unified yet unique in its elements. Fabrics of varying luster, weight, and texture are combined to create a dress that has a life of its own. We hope you’ve enjoyed this one example of our designs here at Lily Absinthe.



Defining 1880s Style- The Silhouette

When it comes to mid to late 1880s style, it’s easy for one to conjure up visions of dresses with severely sculpted lines that were largely defined by an extremely angular “shelf bustle.” Naturally, as with all fashions, they manifested themselves in both extreme and moderate versions but it was the more extreme versions that caught the attention of the press and assorted satirists. One of the most oft-repeated quips was “one could set a tea service on top of the bustle.”

Here’s just one example from an 1883 German humor magazine in which the women is likened to a Centaur:

bustle-satire-fliegende-bltter-magazine-1880s

From Fliegende Blätter; Band LXXVIII (1883), p. 147.

Interestingly enough, the above cartoon was made in 1883 when the bustle was re-emerging- perhaps they were ahead of the fashion curve? 😉

All joking aside, to a great degree, 1880s style was defined by the “shelf bustle” as shown in the picture below:

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)

Structure was everything in Victorian fashion and below are some examples on how the distinctive 1880s silhouette was created:

Bustle_c._1885

Bustle, c. 1885; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.2007.211.399)

Bustle 1884

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

Bustle 1880s

Bustle, 1880s

Within the parameters created by the basic silhouette, there was a wide variety of possible styles. As a rule, day dresses were defined by an under and overskirt, one draped over the other, and these could either in complementary or contrasting colors and/or a solid color combined with a pattern or even two different patterns. As for bodices, this could either be  one solid unit or a combination jacket and waistcoat. The waistcoat could either be a separate garment or a faux waistcoat that has been integrated into the jacket to create a single bodice. Below are just some examples:

Godeys_Jan 1887

Godey’s Ladysbook, January 1887

In the above plate, on the left one can see a combination jacket/waistcoat styled bodice combined with with a solid colored overskirt covering a patterned underskirt. Interestingly enough, the waistcoat fabric matches the pattern on the underskirt. On the right, one can see a solid bodice trimmed with an embroidered panel that matches the pattern of the underskirt. At the same time, the pattern on the overskirt matches the basic fabric of the bodice. While there may be contrasts in fabric patterns, the do harmonize in the way that they’re both used on the skirts and the bodices. At the same time, the colors also harmonize even when they’re contrast colors.

As a rule, day dresses were defined by an under and overskirt, one draped over the other, and these could either in complementary or contrasting colors and/or a solid color combined with a pattern or even two different patterns. As for bodices, this could either be  one solid unit or a combination jacket and waistcoat. The waistcoat could either be a separate garment or a faux waistcoat that has been integrated into the jacket to create a single bodice.

Magazine Des Demoiselles_1887_2

In the above plate, we see the use of different shades of the same color that are used to harmonize. The dress on the left simply combines a lighter brown with dark brown trim on the bodice lapels and are continued down the dress front (the dress appears to be a princess line but it’s hard to tell from the plate). The dress on the right is a bit more sophisticated in that not only do we see a dark and light shades of green combined, but we also see the use of a striped overskirt combined with a striped and patterned bodice. Interestingly enough, in both dresses, the dark color is only used on the trim and patterns, the light color makes up the majority of both dresses.

Below is another example of how colors and patterns could be combined:

Magazine Des Demoiselles_1887_3

Magazine des Demoiselles, 1887

On the left, we see the use of contrasting colors, in this case rose-colored vertical stripes combined with a light gray. The stripes are distributed around the skirt and on the sleeves and front of the bodice. There appears to be only one skirt. On the right, we see a solid dark gray/blue overskirt and bodice combined with a black floral pattern with a rose background for the underskirt, cuffs, collar, and bodice front. It also appears that the bodice cuts away to reveal a waistcoat of the same patterned fabric- to us, the patterned fabric conjures up visions of cut velvet.

The following fashion plates from 1886 and 1887 further illustrate some other possible combinations:

Peterson's_Nov 1886

Peterson’s Magazine, November 1886

Petersons_Feb 1887

Peterson’s Magazine, February 1887

Petersons_June 1888

Peterson’s Magazine, June 1888

Fashion plates are are well and good but what about actual dresses? Well, in answer, here are some extant examples::-)

Day Dress c. 1885

Day Dress, French, c. 1885; Silk plain weave (taffeta) and silk plain weave with warp-float patterning and supplementary weft, and silk knotted tassel; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.2007.211.34a-b)

1887 - 1891 Day Dress1

Day Dress, c. 1887 – 1891; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.55.40.1a, b, e)

Pingat 1 1888

Pingat, Promenade Dress, 1888; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.7758a, b)

Day Dress 1887 - 1889 1

Day Dress, c. 1887 – 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.53.68.2a–c)

Day Dress 1888 1

Worth, Day Dress, 1888; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.665a, b)

1888 Day Dress

Madame Arnaud, Paris, Morning Dress, c. 1888; The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (2008.46.1)

For many, the typical 1880s silhouette is off-putting and in our experience, we have found that for most people looking to recreate the styles of the 1880s, they tend to gravitate towards either towards the beginning of the decade with the Mid-Bustle Era styles or towards the end of the decade where the bustle was diminishing and we start to see a more cylindrical, upright profile that was to carry on into the 1890s.

However, we would argue that while there is no denying that the late 1880s fashion silhouette was defined by an often extreme, angular bustle, this was not always the case and there are many instances where women toned it down- just looking at the variety of bustle appliances and pads that were available for sale is testament to that. As with all fashion, there were those who went to extremes and others who tended to be more conservative and especially for those of more modest means.

Just as important, if not more so, the 1880s offers a variety of styles to suit every aesthetic and a lot of room for developing a unique “signature” style that’s unique to the individual. So, why not give it a try? 🙂



Water Lily Inspiration…

This dress has always been a favorite of mine- inspired by Monet’s waterlilies, it has layers of different silks all dyed to match and a suite of antique lace. Dreaming of when we can dance again at balls. 🙂



More Color Building Blocks

Today we look a little more at color and shape only this time, we’re looking at colors that are harmonizing rather than contrasting (i.e. complementary) than the example that we last posted. First, as described previously, we have contrasting colors which are colors opposite of each other in the color wheel:

Contrasting Colors

Next, we have harmonizing colors which are colors that lie between two primary colors. In this case, the arrow indicates colors between the primary colors of blue and yellow:

Harmonizing Color

In practice, the use of harmonizing colors can sometimes produce suboptimal results so often times, it’s a matter of seeing what works and what doesn’t which can be very subjective. Admittedly, the above explanation is somewhat of an oversimplification but it does illustrate something that we do almost unconsciously whether we’re selecting a color scheme for painting the house, new bath towels, or even fabrics for a new dress. Of course, what specific colors we each choose are completely subjective… 🙂

Turning to fashion, here’s an example of the use of harmonizing colors with this dress from circa 1885 – 1886:

Day Dress 1885-86 1

Day Dress, c. 1885 – 1886; Goldstein Museum of Design (1961.003.006)

Day Dress 1885-86 2

Three-Quarter Left Front View

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Right Side Profile

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Rear View

In terms of silhouette, this dress is relatively simple, consisting of an underskirt and combination bodice/overskirt/train (which appears to be a one-piece construction from examining the pictures). With a short bodice front, the bodice is reminiscent of a tailcoat and it presents a dramatic vertical sweep that shows off the fashion fabric to its best advantage. Interestingly enough, the dress is dates as being c. 1885 – 1886 but we would be inclined to think that it’s actually earlier (i.e. more Mid-Bustle Era), judging from the minimal train and cylindrical silhouette. Of course, there’s also the possibility that it was staged without the requisite underpinnings; sometimes it’s hard to tell only from photos.

As for colors, we see the use of a burgundy/wine silk for the base underskirt covered by a patterned silk brocade bodice/overskirt. The pattern itself is a burgundy/wine color that matches the underskirt and the background color is a light rose/gold. Below are some close ups of the bodice and skirts where you can really get a good look at the silk brocade pattern:

As can be seen from the above, we have to basic harmonizing colors, burgundy/wine and rose/gold and these can all be found in the color wheel between red and yellow. This is only one example but we thought we’d showcase it a bit simply because it’s a very dramatic illustration of this effect. Also, the combination bodice/overskirt further enhances the effect since it flows uninterrupted. Finally, we chose this dress simply because we love its aesthetics. 🙂


Stay tuned for more!