And Something New From Maison Worth…

The output of Maison Worth seems to be a never-ending cornucopia of fashion delights and today is no exception with this Afternoon dress that was created by the Maison in the early 1890s:

Above is a view of the dress on display as part of a show commemorating the donation of a number of garments to the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Unfortunately, the dress is no longer display and is in storage.

Worth, Afternoon Dress, c. 1890; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2015.688.a-b) Purchased with funds donated by Mrs Krystyna Campbell-Pretty in memory of Mr Harold Campbell-Pretty, 2015
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of possibAGL Shaw AO Bequest

This dress is constructed from a combination of dark orange silk satin and dark orange patterned velvet ( possibly burnt out but it’s hard to tell). The inner skirt is constructed of the velvet fabric, trimmed with floral appliques while the outer skirt is the silk satin. The bodice is constructed to mimic an open vest and under-bodice, the under-bodice constructed of the same dark orange silk satin and the “vest” constructed of the dark orange patterned velvet. The sleeves are also made from the same velvet and the bodice front and cuffs is decorated in the same floral appliques as is the skirt. Overall, it’s a well thought out package and it hits all the right notes of elegance with a pleasing color scheme- this definitely reads “fall colors” although Victorians tended to not adhere to the seasons when it came to color.

For the silhouette, it’s hard to get a good read on it since we only have frontal photos to go on but it’s probably that this dates from the early 1890s, possibly 1889 or so and it appears that the dress has some fullness that’s been trained to the rear. We hope you’ve enjoyed this interesting example of Maison Worth’s craft- they didn’t just make elegant evening and ball gowns. 🙂

Fashion Publicity & Reaching The Mass Market…The Beginning

Today we take a look at fashion industry/haute couture in France began to transform itself from an obscure, closed world into a form that more closely resembles today’s fashion industry. “Fashion” as we know it today began to take form during the late 19th Century. Moreover, fashion was something that was entering the public consciousness on a scale broader than anything ever seen before. The industrial revolution played a major role in the development of fashion in a rising standard of living combined with the development of new methods of manufacturing textile goods made clothing more affordable for more people. Along with this was the rise of the middle class who now had the money and the leisure time to be able follow fashion more closely.

Jean BĂ©raud, Boulevard des Capucines,

Where fashion was once limited to a monarch and his court, fashion was now becoming far more defuse with a much wider audience following it. Just as important, fashion and clothing manufacturing were developing into large business enterprises and as a result, business concerns often drove fashion trends in a way similar today only on a more limited scale with a smaller clientele.

Pose de garnitures dans l’atelier de Worth, grand couturier parisien. Paris, 1907.

Along with the commercialization of fashion by Couturiers such as Charles Worth, Jacques Doucet, Paul Poiret, and a host of others, was the need to more effectively market their fashions.1Interestingly enough, Worth was very adverse to the press and he limited his interviews with them and never allowed journalists into areas of his atelier where they might see new dresses. This was more out the fear of fashion piracy more than anything else. Where word-or-mouth was sufficient, more direct methods of getting fashion styles (i.e., product) before the public were needed and thus developed advertising, fashion journals, fashion plates, and later, fashion photography.

With the development of the fashion industry and marketing, those who followed fashion wanted to see these fashions “live”. The concept of the runway show as a public spectacle was still years off but other ways to show off the latest styles were employed.

If it's seen at Longchamps, then you're OK... :-)

If it’s seen at Longchamps, then you’re OK… As is the case today, being seen in a public place with the just the right outfit could make all the difference. 🙂

Once such method was dressing up models with the latest styles and sending them to various public social gathering, most notably the horse races at Longchamps and in particular, the Grand Prix de Paris which was held every year in July. More than just a horse race, it was a day-long affair that provided a venue for people to see and been seen and that of course meant what they were wearing. Naturally, the press covered these events and end was result was free publicity.

Races at Longchamps, Manet, 1867

Below are just a few of the examples of the styles worn at Longchamps during the period from 1900 to 1914.

Les Modes, 1904

Les Modes, July 1904




The women in the above pictures are wearing versions of the lingerie dress and one can see the influence of the s-bend corset although the silhouette is somewhat muted by the fluffy layers of fabric on the dresses. These definitely fall in the 1900 –  1905 date range.

And sometimes, fashion at Longchamps could cause a sensation…below is a picture from 1908 of three models wearing designs by Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix (known simply as Margaine-Lacroix) and dubbed by the press “Les Nouvelles Merveilleuses”:


c. 1908, “Les Nouvelles Merveilleuses” as dubbed by the press- these three models caused a furor at Longchamps when they arrived- these dresses, designed by Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix were considered scandalous at the time.

The above three dresses definitely got public attention, in part because they completely did away with the conventional corset while at the same time creating a skin-tight silhouette by utilizing stretch fabrics in the dresses themselves to create the form-fitting silhouette.2We would definitely like to know more about the underpinnings of these models because there’s no way this look could have worked without some corset-substitute. We’re thinking an early version of Spanx.

Here’s how Susie Ralph, a fashion historian, described it in an introduction that opened an exhibit on Margaine-Lacroix in 2013:

In 1908 Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix sent three mannequins to the Longchamp race-course clad in her form-revealing robes-tanagrĂ©ennes. These corsetless dresses caused a sensation among Paris’ fashionable crowd – a riot according to some newspaper reports. Worn without corsets and slit to the knee on one side over the most transparent of underskirts, their impact on the fashion world was instantaneous and resulted in major press coverage not only in Paris but around the world. In today’s parlance the style immediately “went viral”….It was Margaine-Lacroix’s daring vision that brought to an end the ideal of the rigidly corseted hour-glass figure, and ushered in the new, slim twentieth century silhouette.

Margaine-Lacroix is an interesting designer in her own right although she is relatively unknown today. Hopefully we’ll be writing more about her in the future.

Here, is where the above picture originally was featured:


Controversy is no stranger to the world of fashion then or now and the debate over what exactly is too “revealing” still rages on. Later, from 1910 to 1914, we see the public event-as-fashion show hit new highs, helped along by better cameras and film as with these:


1912, Watching the races standing on chairs. The lines on these two dresses reflect the moved towards a more sleek, upright silhouette. Goodbye s-bend!


1914, Here is an interesting design incorporating a waistcoat and cutaway coat.

Longchamps provided a venue for people to see “fashion in action” and for us it’s a fascinating archive of living fashion history. We can see just how garments were worn, how they fit, and even gain some insight into the people who wore them. We’ve only touched the surface here and in future posts we hope to gain further insight. Stay tuned!

A Little Turn Of The Century Street Style For The Spring…

Here’s a little street style, 1890s or early 1900s style in New York. It’s not the best picture but it’s obvious that it must be in the warmer months judging from the chiffon day dresses that these two ladies are wearing. As for dating, most likely it’s either late 1890s or perhaps early 1900s- the sleeves are built up but it’s hard to discern the distinct pouter-pigeon look in the bodice so who knows? Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see an everyday picture of actual people.

Now For Some 1890s Casual, Parisian Style…

When is comes to the term “casual,” it’s always a matter of degree when applied to the late Nineteenth Century and especially for the 1890s. Recently, we came across this interesting circa 1897 day dress made by a one P. Barroin of Paris:

P. Barroin, Day Dress, Paris, France, c. 1897; FIDM Museum (2010.1098.3A-C)

This dress is constructed from a printed cotton fabric featuring a red and white pattern with silk taffeta trim on the skirt bottom and bodice/sleeves. The style is classic 1890s although the sleeves are bit more restrained than the usual large gigot/leg-of-mutton sleeves commonly found in the 1895-1897 time frame. Also present is the wasp-waist, measuring 28 inches in diameter, which in turn helps create the characteristic “X” line silhouette. Finally, inset in the middle of the bodice of silk chiffon shirring which creates the effect of a waist being worn underneath although the bodice would have been one unit. Overall, this is a sporty day dress with a minimum of trim and embellishment and was definitely meant for day wear in public; the straw boater hat further reinforces this sporty effect. This dress is representative of the more casual daytime styles of day wear that were coming into vogue during the 1890s and as such acted as a counter some of the more extreme looks one can see with evening wear of the period. This is definitely a worthy candidate for reproduction.  🙂

1890s Style- Chartreuse & Black

Today we shift gears a bit and move towards something more formal with dinner dresses. As the name  implies, the dinner dress was a fairly formal dress that was meant for formal dinner gathers (although there’s no reason why it wouldn’t be worn for more informal at-home dinners).1While specific dress terminology such as “dinner dress” or “afternoon dress” or “visiting dress” were used, we suspect that these categories were not as rigidly observed in practice and that there was a lot of overlap between the dress types. Here’s an interesting example of a dinner dress from circa 1894:

Dinner Dress, 1894; Maryland Historical Society Fashion Archives (1978.95.63a,b)

Colore-wise, this dress uses a three-color combination of black, chartreuse, and yellow with black being dominant. The outer and inner skirt are made of a black silk taffeta as well as the upper sleeves and part of the front bodice. The lower sleeves, revers, epaulets, and hem trim  and constructed from a chartreuse velvet which makes for a striking effect, presenting a contrast in luster and fabric textures while at the same time lessening the severity of the black. The yellow silk ruching on the bodice front quickly catches the eye, centering focus on the dress front. Finally, running down the front of the dress is a chartreuse and white floral pattern. Compared to the black and chartreuse, the yellow presents a color contrast that pops. Essentially, the chartreuse and yellow at as analogous colors set upon black which is neutral. Below are some close-ups:

Here’s another view of the floral pattern running down the front of the inner skirt. Also, one can see one of the chartreuse velvet sleeves trimmed with jeweling at the cuff. Below is a picture of one of the epaulets. Note the use of jeweled trimming around the edge and that it’s lined with the same patterned fabric as seen on the front of the inner skirt:

The blending of revers and epaulets is an interesting style feature and variations of this were present in many dresses of the period. The upper sleeves exhibit the leg-of-mutton or gigot style which are accented by the epaulets, creating a pagoda-like effect. Like many dresses that we’ve viewed online, we would love to have examined this one in person and who knows, maybe that chance will come someday.  We hope you’ve enjoyed this! 🙂