And For A Little More Victorian Style Color…

As a follow-up to our previous post on harmonizing colors, we offer some more thoughts on the subject of color and Victorian style. Generally speaking, dresses could take one of two basic forms when it came to color: all one solid color (i.e. monochromatic) or combinations of two or more colors. The concept of the one-color dresses is pretty straight-forward:

Day Dress, 1877; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.2432a, b)

Day Dress, European or American, circa 1885; Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum

Liberty & Co. (attributed), Ballgown, c. 1880s; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1985.155)

Maison Truffert, San Francisco, Evening Dress/Ball Gown, c. 1894 – 1896; Augusta Auctions

Worth, Ball Gown, c. 1896; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1982.299a, b)

But the use of a single color could also take the form of a patterned fabric:

Day Dress, 1885; V&A Museum (T.7&A-1926)

Day Dress, c. 1880; The Museum at FIT (P92.21.1)

Day dresses were more likely to be found in one color than ball gowns and evening dresses but in either case, using one color tended to give a somewhat flat look to the the dress so often lace trim, patterned material such as embroidery, or some other decorative effect was utilized to counter this. Below are several examples of this:

Worth, Ballgown, 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.68.53.11a, b)

Worth, Ballgown, c. 1894; Kyoto Costume Institute (AC4799 84-9-2AB)

Day Dress, c. 1880s; Fashion History Museum Ontario

Lace was often employed to add dimension and depth:

Day Dress, c. 1894 – 1896; FIDM Museum (S2006.870.22AB)

In some cases, dresses employed a combination of plain and patterned fabrics, all in the same basic color such as with this dress:

Day Dress, c. 1885; Walsall Museums (WASMG : 1976.0832)

More common in dresses was the use of a combination of colors which usually took the form of different colored fabrics for the under and over skirts or the bodice and hem:

Worth, Ensemble-/Reception Dress/Evening Bodice, c. 1877 – 1878; Cincinnati Art Museum (1986.1200a-c)

Day Dress, Mid 1890s; Augusta Auctions, Museum of the City of New York Deaccession.

Bourdereau Veron & Cie, Place de la Bourse, Paris, Day Dress, c. 1893; Kent State University Museum (1983.1.207 ab)

Often, stripes and/or patterns were also employed in the color combination:

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

Here’s a couple examples of more complex use of color combinations. In the dress on the left, solid light and dark blue are combined with a patterned fabric that’s also predominantly blue. On the right, red with floral embroidery is combined with solid colored white/ivory lace.

In this example below, a solid black underskirt is combined with a bodice/overskirt of dark green striped black silk with floral appliques. Black beading and feathers further accentuate the color combination:

Reception Dress, c. 1890; Goldstein Museum of Design (2013.004.012)

Outer garments could also provide an added element to the color combination as with the figure on the left with a wine/burgundy-colored mantle with celadon trim that matched the solid celadon-colored dress. The figure on the right demonstrates  a combination of ivory-colored lace and solid pink:

Color combinations could even take the forms of stripes and patterns:

Day Dress, c. 1875; Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum

And probably one of the most dramatic uses of two colors can be found with this ball gown that utilizes just stripes:

Doucet, Ball Gown, c. 1890; Mint Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina (1998.13A-B)

Pops of color could also be used as part of a color combination. In the example below, an ivory-colored front under bodice and center underskirt grabs the eye:

Worth, Day Dress, c. 1890 – 1893; Kerry Taylor Auctions

And on a larger scale, the use of the red as a color pop goes a long way towards making this evening dress an eye-catcher:

Worth, Evening Ensemble Dress, 1893; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.622a–c)

The above illustrations gives only a small hint at the combinations and methods that were employed in utilizing color and it’s clear that while pure colors (e.g., one colored fabric with another) could be employed in combination, the combination could also take the form of striped or patterned fabrics, lace, and/or other trims in various colors. More importantly, it’s not just about layer colors, but it’s about layering colors in varying textures and luster to create a garment that projects depth and ultimately a life of its own.

And For A Little Fashion From Sweden…1880s Style

With our upcoming trip to Sweden in September, we decided to dig a little into the Sweden’s fashion history as it relates to the late 19th Century and we found some interesting fashion plates from a Swedish fashion magazine entitled Freja. Unfortunately, we don’t know anything about the publication but the fashion plates were compelling and so we had to share them. 🙂 First up in the spirit of the summer season is these two plates:

The styles depicted in these plates are fairly standard for the period but are still compelling in that each has a fairly similar silhouette yet each one has an individual style. In the first plate from August 1885, the figure on the left’s dress is a solid color with matching hat with the skirt having multiple layers of ruching and ruffles. The sleeves and bodice front are a bit over the top with all the excess lace and overall the dress reads a bit too formal for the seaside. The dress on the right presents a contrast with a printed floral design combined with a solid color ruched pseudo-waist/vest underneath the bodice front. The color combination presents a harmonious combination (allowing for the fact that this is a colored fashion plate). Finally, the dress on the right presents a unified whole with clean lines and minimal trim.

In this plate from August 1886, we  see two more different styles in which the waist is far more minimized than in the first plate. The dress on the left creates the illusion of a closed robe with white lace providing a contrast layers that outlines the rest of the dress. The garment is drawn in at the waist with a belt and gives an illusion of a continuous garment although it’s obvious that the bodice and skirt are separate (of course, we could be wrong, considering that we’re looking at a photograph of the place). The use of contrasting white lace flounces provides an interesting effect that outlines the garment and draws the eye in.

The dress on the right provides a different style approach with the use of a solid color combined with a thin material (probably some variety of a light cotton voile or similar over a heavier cotton underlayer (cotton seems the logical choice). The folds of the lighter outerlayer creates the effect of a loose-fitting garment although it’s obvious that there’s a corset and bustle on underneath. Perhaps a nod towards aesthetic dress? 🙂 If nothing else, it certainly gives off a princess line appearance. Unfortunately, we don’t have access to the commentary that accompanied these places so a lot of our comments are based on a bit of conjecture.

The two dresses depicted in the above plate from February 1885 are more of what could be termed reception or visiting dresses and were meant for more indoors wear. The dress on the left is an interesting combination of a silk brocade underskirt combined with a solid silk overskirt, all in the same gold colors with a bit of white lace running long the front to provide contrast. The black velvet (conjecture on our part) bodice offers an interesting color counterpoint to the skirts. Thin strips of gold brocade fabric running on each edge of the bodice front provides a continuation of the skirts, drawing the eye upwards with a pseudo-waist of white lace for contrast.

Compared to the left dress, the right dress provides a light and airy contrast with its white lace underskirt, apron, and inner bodice combined with a rich red velvet-like outerskirt and bodice. It’s a visual one-two punch that definitely attracts the eye. 🙂

In this last plate from December 1884, we see a combination of afternoon/visiting dresses done in a combination of solid color velvet combined with velvet brocade. The dress on the right provides the best view with a velvet brocade underskirt combined with a solid-colored overskirt trimmed in fur. The bodice presents a dramatic appearance with a plastron of the same velvet brocade as the underskirt combined with solid-colored sleeves. This dress gives an effect of a robe being worn on the outside although it’s obvious that the bodice and skirts are separate. The above is just a taste of what was in style for Sweden during the mid-1880s and in future posts we hope to uncover more.

Once Upon A Time In Tombstone…

This is from a few years ago in Tombstone when my friend Arlene and I decided to wear 1890s instead of the usual late 1870s. 🙂

When it comes to Tombstone, people tend to focus on 1881 with the gunfight at the OK Corral, the Earps, et al. In reality, the town continued as a mining town all the way up until the 1920s when the local economy began to shift away (Tombstone was the county seat for Cochise County all the way up to 1929). Moreover, people tend to think of Tombstone as a little dusty frontier town in the middle of nowhere…well, in our humble opinion, they’re wrong.

On the fashion front, we have this commentary on Parisian fashions from the September 27, 1893 edition of the Tombstone Epitaph:

Among the new felt hats are sailors of broad brim and low crown. Derby gloves of chamois have the biggest of red buttons and are bound in red. Paris is advocating flesh-colored suede gloves for evening wear in place of the pure white so long worn. A sleeve which is stamped with the approval of Felix is made of frills of three-inch lace from the shoulder to the waist.

It is now quite the fashion to make up the pretty semi-diaphanous muslins and French lawns over light foundations of batiste or sateen. Pretty clusters of horse chestnut blossoms appear upon ecru-colored round hats of “nutmeg” braid, trimmed with russet brown velvet ribbon. Spanish yellow velvet ribbon is a fashionable trimming for cream tinted nuns’s veilings, crepons, clairettes and similar sheer wool fabrics for young ladies’ wear.

Information on the most current was readily available even in the remotest of places, thanks to newspapers, magazines, and catalogs of retailers such as Sears & Roebuck and Tombstone was no exception. In future posts we hope to be able to bring more of this to light so stay tuned! 🙂

The 1900 Violet Dress Restoration Project

Restoring a gown from scratch requires careful planning, knowledge of patterning, and several breathing masks…because those early silk dyes are deadly. I’m looking forward to wearing this soon, and I just restored another velvet chapeau that matches this violet shade! I got this bodice and skirt from an auction with a pinned note of provenance. It belonged to ‘Grace Jennings’ who apparently wore it to a Luisa Downing’s wedding sometime in the late 1890s. This dress is not repairable, so I’m slowly patterning and re-making it. Thank you, Grace! Your dress has a loving home.

Soutache and Chenille Embroidery closeup. The lace false front will be lightened, it’s obvious it was white when it was made.

The hat is pictured backwards just to show how perfectly the flowers harmonize! How sweet to think that two ladies’ Sunday Best will be re-used to make a new ensemble.
Yes, I’m a sentimental sap.

I’m inspired by all this handwork. The borders blend into the garment with a random series of french knots. For some reason, the embroidered part isn’t shattering. Maybe it’s because it’s backed with linen and a cotton batiste. The chenille ‘stamens’ are a mauve silk plush. So 3-D!

I still can’t believe that hat matches so well, I’ve had it for two years and never wear it. It needs a gentle steaming and cleaning.

The label…

This was the note that was pinned to the bodice interior, it’s identified as once being owned by a ‘Grace M. Jennings’ and ‘worn to ‘Luisa Downing’s wedding’. I love this sentimental touch.

I think the belt was an afterthought cut from some scrap fabric. Too much machine topstitching compared to the couture techniques on the garment!

See that pile of violet silk shreds in the box on the right? That’s the skirt. I’l have one chance to pattern it, because it’s disintegrating as I type.

 

31 bones present in under the bodice and the bodice alone and five in the collar. That’s a lot of stays! And to examine closer…

The first snip is always the hardest. No going back now!

Removing the boning today, thirty seven stays in all. Each one is hand stitched into a silk tube, all seam allowances are finished with bias silk by hand. Saying a little prayer of appreciation to the designer’s details before I remake this bodice!

I always cross my fingers and say a little prayer when I have to take apart an original chapeau to restore it. Going to give that lace a little soak before I sew it back on.

Lace and silk tulle lining removed. There are three different kinds of wire used here and three different threads. I tied a black ribbon to the lace cover so I could easily match it back up.

Sigh. See that tiny understitching? They hold a tiny wire and I get to undo each one individually. Too late to turn back!

Removed all the lace from the front plastron so it can be cleaned. Look at her collar and how it dips in the center front…she had a short neck just like me but was still a slave to fashion!

Lace and silk tulle lining removed. There are three different kinds of wire used here and three different threads. I tied a black ribbon to the lace cover so I could easily match it back up.

Lace is restored to oyster white, the shade it was in 1900. Turns out there were lace appliques that the milliner layered to create “pockets” that perfectly fit over the undulating wire curves. That’s the original label next to it.

Here’s the sad shattered skirt. I get one chance to draft a pattern from this and every time it’s moved, it throws old fabric dust particles in the air. Yes, I’m wearing a mask.

This is an atypical hem for this era, it’s all self-fabric and completely hand-sewn. It’s also the only part of the skirt that has remained intact. In a future post, we’ll have more about the restoration and how we put this design to work for us as recreated fashion. Stay tuned!