An Early 1890s Design From Maison Felix

When it comes to late 19th Century couture, Maison Felix is often overlooked but it was a force the equal of Worth, Doucet, and Pingat. Here’s an afternoon dress from circa 1890-1891:

Felix, Afternoon Dress, c. 1890-1891; Albany Institute of History and Art (1946.56.2ab)

This afternoon dress is an interesting style, drawing on 18th Century elements, especially in the use of a garnet-colored silk with a gray floral pattern styled to read as a robe and combined with a large lace inset on the front and sleeves. The flowing robe-like lines also hint at a tea gown but the silhouette is far too sharply defined: it’s clear that this garment was meant for wear with a corset and accompanying underpinnings. However, there’s nothing to say that this dress couldn’t have served as an at-home dress… 😄

Below are side profile and rear views. Although it’s hard to tell with the museum staging, we do believe that this is definite a very late 1880s/early 1890s dress. There is definitely a train although it’s not that prominent while at the same time, the sleeve heads have some ease- a harbinger of styles to come. 😉

Below is a fashion plate from the August 1889 issue of Peterson’s Magazine that further illustrates this style, especially with the figure second from the left:

We hope you’ve enjoyed this little view of late 1880s/early 1890s style.


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Patterns From Maison Worth

One fascinating aspect about Charles Worth was that although he positioned himself as an exclusive couturier, he also licensed printed paper patterns of some of his designs. Worth himself didn’t publicize this to any great extent and you have look hard for the evidence but it’s true. One example of this is this Redingote style was offered for sale for as a printed pattern in the 1882 edition of The Ladies Treasury:

And here’s the accompanying commentary:

Redingcotes are most popular in Paris. M. Worth makes them for summer dresses instead of polonaises. They are made in grenadines, over contrasting colours, for evening dresses. A mauve grenadine, on which are moons of black satin, two inches in diameter is made plain, over a lining of maize yellow satin. The grenadine is turned off in the front, to the sides, and is outlined in jet embroidery, black. A full frill of thread lace goes round the neck, and continues down the centre of the bodice. The petticoat of black satin has a pleated flounce of satin, and a front breadth of yellow satin, which is nearly hidden in jet embroidery, and bows of moire ribbons.

This style is M. Worth’s protest against the bunched-up paniers at the back, which it is said he detests.

Worth’s licensing of patterns is an interesting aspect of his business and is an area that’s not well documented. Of course, it would be interesting to locate the actual pattern but so far, our efforts to do so haven’t been successful. What’s also interesting is that even though Maison Worth was doing very well financially, it’s interesting that he would even bother with such pattern licensing- the revenue from pattern licensing could not have been much when compared to sales of his haute couture. Unfortunately, details about business side of Maison Worth are thin and we may never know the precise answer but it’s interesting to speculate on. As we find out more, we’ll be posting it here. Enjoy!


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Spring Is Coming…Doucet Style

Spring is here and that means long sun-filled days, time spend outside, and of course, picnics. ♡ Below is a circa 1900-1903 afternoon dress from Jacques Doucet:

Doucet, Afternoon Dress, c. 1900-1903; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.579a, b)

This dress is constructed from a white silk chiffon with a printed lavender floral design and trimmed in horizontal bands of lace running up the skirt. Lace is also liberally used on the bodice in vertical stripes and a large centerpiece at the neck. Bands of turquoise silk velvet on the sleeves and a large turquoise silk velvet sash at the waist completes the look.  The term “afternoon dress” seems to have been used somewhat interchangeably with “lingerie dress” which describes dresses made from lightweight diaphanous materials such as lightweight linen, cotton, organdy, chiffon, and voile. This is just one example of a characteristic style of the first decade of the 20th Century. Stay tuned for more! 🙂


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