Evening Dress Styles From Maison Worth

For Maison Worth, 1900-1903 was an interesting period for evening dresses- while their silhouettes were pretty much the same, their was a great variety in fabrics and decorative elements. Design motifs varied but were drawn from the natural world and the multi-gored skirts gave great scope to this. We first start with this example from circa 1901:

Worth, Evening Dress, c. 1901; Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum

This example is fascinating both because of the color of the fashion fabric and the design as well as the design motif itself. First, the mint-green decoration set against a pale gray-green is a combination of analogous colors that harmonizes well. Second, the design itself is floral with a ribbon running through it and is suggestive of a vine. Unfortunately, there aren’t any other pictures so it’s hard to get a complete idea of the how the decorative design was created although we’d venture that it’s some sort of velvet applique. Also, we’re unable to view the dress from either the side or rear to get an idea of its reach but nevertheless, it’s an imaginative design that draws focus to the wearer.

Next, there’s this example from circa 1902:

Worth, Evening Dress, c. 1902; Museum of Fine Arts Boston (2003.289.1-2)

The side and rear profiles show the floral design very nicely and there’s complete symmetry between left and right sides.

With this design, there’s a lace-covered underskirt combined with a silk satin overskirt and bodice. What’s interesting here is that the overskirt is shorter than the underskirt and it decorated with embroidered floral appliques that provide pops of color to a peach-ivory background. The whole effect is suggestive of layers of vegetation, especially with the bottom flower appliques overhanging the hem of the overskirt.

Flowers were a key part in many of Maison Worth’s dress styles and here we see the flower them taken to more of an extreme with another circa 1902 evening dress:

Worth, Evening Dress, 1902; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.2009a, b)

As with the prior example, this dress consists of a lace-covered underskirt combined with a silk satin overskirt. However, unlike the prior example, the front of the overskirt opens up revealing the lace underskirt with the edges of the overskirt cut in the shape of two rows of flowers, one on each side, curling upwards. The floral design on the overskirt appears to have been painted on. The overall effect in the front is three-dimensional and the eye is drawn upwards towards the wearer’s face. The bodice is similarly cut, enhancing the whole effect. Here’s a close-up of the bodice:

The train below provides a large canvas for the floral design and almost looks as if the train was actually completely made of flowers… 🙂

This is just a small sample of Maison Worth’s output and what’s interesting to note is that in each example, the decorative floral design was either painted or applique. We hope to unearth some more stunning examples in future posts. 🙂



And For Some 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. 🙂



Nadezhda Lamanova, Part 2

In our last post, we took a brief look at the career(s) and work of the Russian designer Nadezhda Lamanova as she built a reputation as a designer of Haute Couture for Russia’s upper classes and subsequently reinvented herself as an avant garde designer for the masses in the new revolutionary Russia. Now we’re going to take another look at Lamanova’s designs prior to 1917. To start, here is one particularly striking example of a circa 1910 – 1911 evening dress:

Nadezhda Lamanova, Evening Dress, c. 1911-1912; State Hermitage Museum (ЭРТ-18063)

Lamanova_Green Dress1

Lamanova_Green Dress2

And here’s some details of the embroidered decoration:

The above dress design reflects the shift from the earlier tightly structured silhouette of the S-bend corset towards a more vertical silhouette employing a tubular dress shape. Make no mistake about it, the underpinnings were still there but now the dress flowed loosely in a manner reminiscent of the Classical Grecian Chiton.

0_ad39_75badaa6_XL

The dress itself is two layers, the underlayer composed of a turquoise/jade green satin and an overlayer consisting of a black chiffon embroidered a floral motif consisting of the flowers and leaves of chrysanthemums. The embroidery itself is in a golden-green silk and gold thread. One can see the combination of different textures, contrasting colors and a separate overlayer with metallic embroidery creates a three dimensional effect to the dress and this is especially evident when one looks at the train. The above pictures simply do not do justice to the dress.

Now, for something a little different from the Mid-1890s. This is a visiting dress that belonged to the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna:

Nadezhda Lamanova, Visiting Dress, c. 1890s; Hermitage Museum (ЭРТ-9404)

 

Day Dress Princess Line Mid 1890s c. 1894-1897 Visiting

Day Dress Princess Line Mid 1890s c. 1894-1897 Visiting

Close-Up

The above visiting dress is from the mid-1890s, most likely 1894-1897 as characterized by the leg of mutton or Gigot sleeve style. Structured as a princess line dress, it was constructed from an ivory/cream-colored silk velvet. The dress features a decorative pattern of lines of green and silver metallic sequins that have been stitched in such a was as to create a vine motif; the vertical lines of sequins suggest some a trellis of sorts which serves to accentuate the vertical lines/silhouette of the dress.

The above examples are a tiny fraction of Lamanova’s output and they reflect the major fashion trends of the times and while much of what she created was fairly mainstream conventional as in the case of the above visiting dress, there were also attempts to push boundaries such as in the case of the above green evening dress. It wasn’t until after the revolution that Lamanova came into her own as a designer, creating ready-to-wear designs for the masses while at the same time creating avant garde designs. Lamanova is a designers that we should know more about.



Nadezhda Lamanova, Part 1

As with many of our posts, the subject of this one started with one topic but ended with a completely different topic. Initially, we came across some pictures of a ballgown that had been designed in the early 1900s for the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, consort of the Nicholas II, the last Emperor of Russia. Then, we noted that the designer was a one Nadezhda Lamanova. What was interesting here was that it was both a designer that was unknown to us and even more striking was that she was female. While almost all of the labor force making Haute Couture dresses were female, it was rare that the designer was female, at least before the 1920s.

Nadezhda Lamanova was born on December 14, 1861 in Nizhni Novgorod, Russia and died in Moscow on October 15, 1941 at the age of 79. Due to her parents’ death at an early age, in 1877 she underwent training as a seamstress at the Moscow School of Sewing. Two years later, she went to work for a fashion house. In 1885, she opened her own dressmaking shop in Moscow and successfully built up her business;  until it had become the most popular dressmaking establishment in Moscow. At some point (the translation is unclear), she traveled to Paris and met up with Paul Poiret (hopefully we can find out more about this in the future). Eventually, her work came to the attention to the Imperial Court and she was designated as “Supplier of the Court of Her Imperial Majesty” with her designs being worn by the ladies of the Court and the Empress herself.  Finally,  starting around 1901, Lamanova also designed costumes for theatrical productions.1Unfortunately, there’s not a lot about her in English so we’ve gleaned some of the basic biographical details from a variety of sources.

Надежда_Петровна_Ламанова

Early portrait of Nadezhda Lamanova, date unknown.

Nadezhda_Lamanova_by_Valentin_Serov_1911

Nadezhda Lamanova, portrait by Valentin Serov, 1911.

However, it’s after the Russian Revolution where Lamanova’s career became even more interesting. Arrested in 1919 by the Bolshevik Government (having been an officially designated designer for the Imperial Court could easily have been her death warrant), she was freed by the intervention of the writer Maxim Gorky after spending about 2 1/2 months in prison. Afterwards, she focused on designing theatrical costumes (presumably rehabilitating herself in the eyes of the Bolshevik regime in the process).

The Bolshevik Revolution- Big changes were coming to Russia…

By early 1920s, Lamanova had started designing clothing aimed at the masses, drawing upon traditional Russian dress and even some of her designs were incorporated in an official graphic “how-to” booklet called “Art in Everyday Life” in the form of simple clothing patterns. Below are two samples:

During the 1920s and 1930s, Lamonova’s designs were successfully displayed in various exhibitions outside of Russian and at the same time she continued to design costumes for both the theater and film. Below are just a few examples of her work (one can definitely get a Paul Poiret vibe looking at these):

Outfit by Nadezhda Lamanova inspired by traditional costumes of northern peoples, 1923; modeled by the actress Alexandra Hohlova.

Actress Alexandra Hohlova modelling another dress design by Lamanova, 1924.

Lilichka Brik (seated) with her sister Elsa Triolet in folk-inspired dresses by Lamanova, 1925.

Lamanova fashions from the 1920s.

So, what dress is it that got us travelling down this unusual path? Well, here is is, a ballgown that belonged to Empress Alexandra Feodorovna:

Nadezhda Lamanova, Ballgown, Early 1900s; State Hermitage Museum (ЭРТ-8619)

Close-up of Bodice

Close-Up of the Dress

This is a ballgown that was created in the early 1900s. Unfortunately, specific details (in English, at least) are scanty but based on the dress style, we are probably looking at the 1900-1906 time frame. The dress is constructed from white/ivory-colored silk satin underskirt combined with a white/ivory tulle decorated in sequins, beading and appliques using a floral design motif.  As with any of these dresses, the hours of hand-labor put into the embroidery and attaching the sequins is simply mind-numbing.

This ballgown is stunning and it epitomizes the luxury of the Russian Court. At the same time, know some about the designer, it’s amazing that  Nadezhda Lamanova was able to successfully reinvent herself at a time when anyone with an association to the Ancien Regime, no mater how remote, was suspect and oftentimes a one-way ticket to the firing squad. In the next installment, we will look at some more of Lamanova’s work prior to 1917.

To Be Continued… 



Gigot Sleeve Style…

Gigot, or leg-of-mutton, sleeves was one the key defining elements in Mid-1890s style. Often taken to extravagant lengths, it’s a style element that dominated any dress whether for good or ill. When used judiciously and balanced against other style elements in a dress, the effect could be amazing. However, done wrong, the result could be atrocious to the point where the wearer of the dress’ face disappears in a sea of poufy fabric. Below is an example when it’s done right as with this 1895 house dress/tea gown Laboudt & Robina1One could argue that this dress is either a tea gown or a house dress and either would fit, in our opinion.:

Laboudt & Robina, House Dress/Tea Gown, 1895; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.670)

Three-Quarter Rear View

This garment is constructed from a dark blue silk velvet combined with a lighter blue patterned silk taffeta or bengaline for the sleeves and the edges of a front inset panel. The inset panel appears to be an silk embroidered decorative motif consisting of bunches of flowers set against an ivory silk satin. The patterned fabric on the sleeves and garment front consist of large swirls of black and yellow and draw attention to the sleeves in an aesthetically pleasing manner. In terms of silhouette, the garment features a fitted waist and is clearly intended for wear with a corset and is designed to mimic a robe. While it could be argued as to whether this is a fancy house dress or a formal tea gown, either way it was intended as more of an at-home dress.   Below is a close-up of the decorative front trim:

Trim Detail

While it may seem to be a bit of a reach, the blue patterned silk reminds us of the night sky in this painting The Starry Night by Van Gogh:

Vincent Van Gogh, The Starry Night, 1889

In terms of overall style, this house dress/tea gown stands out as one of the best examples of this style but for us, the most striking thing about it are the sleeves which act as a major style element but not to the exclusion of all else. With this garment, the gigot sleeve style has been taken to a new height of sheer aesthetic beauty.