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.

Mantles- 1880s Style

When building a period wardrobe, outerwear such as mantles are often overlooked even though they were a key element in just about any lady’s wardrobe. Broadly speaking, mantles are a lineal descendant of cloaks and shawls and as such, are basically a more refined version of these loose garments, designed to follow the lines of the underlying dress. One of the most distinctive characteristics of 1880s mantles was that the front was cut significantly longer than in the read in order to accommodate the bustle/train of the dress. To begin, here’s an example from circa 1875 made from a Kashmir/Paisley shawl:

Mantle, c. 1875; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.85)

Kashmir/Paisley shawls were extremely popular as outerwear during the 1850s and 1860s but were not always the easiest to wear due to their large size and especially with a trained dress. Many of these older shawls were converted to more manageable mantles during the 1870s. The above example is relatively loose which goes together with some of the exaggerated bustles/trains characteristic of early 1870s styles. Here’s an example from circa 1884 that continues this trend:

Mantle, c. 1884; Victoria and Albert Museum (T.43-1957)

But the choice of fabric was not limited to Kashmir/Paisley; other fabrics were utilized with velvet being a major favorite:

Mantle, c. 1880s; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.50.36)

The above example is a more loosely fitted example with wide sleeves and a lot of ease in the front. In the example below, we see a more tailored version with a peplum running along the bottom. In this profile, one can see that the back is cut to accommodate the prominent bustle characteristic of the later 1880s. Also, one can see a more structured, rigid sleeve setting the lower arm at a 90 degree angle; this was often referred to as a “sling sleeve.”

Mantle, c. 1885; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.299-1983)

The mantle front often had a long length as with this example:

Pingat, Mantle, c. 1891; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.337)

Pingat, Mantle, c. 1891; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.337)

To get a better idea of scale, here’s a picture of the mantle being worn over a dress:

View of mantle worn over a dress.

And for something a little different, here’s an illustration from the January 1880 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:

Here we see a mantle with the cylindrical silhouette characteristic of the Mid-Bustle Era. Unfortunately, we were unable to find any actual extant examples so illustrations will have to do. Here’s a couple more variations on the basic design:

The above is just a mere fraction of the possibilities with mantles- with just one or two basic shapes, one can create a wide variety of mantles utilizing all manner of fabrics and trim and that’s exactly what we’re going to be doing in the future. 🙂

And Still More 1890s Style…(We’re On A Roll Here)

Yes, we’re on a roll here…it seems to be shaping up into 1890s week (or maybe month). Here’s another great dress we came across while looking for something completely different (funny how that always seems to happen). For today’s consideration is this ball gown that was made by Pingat sometime around 1894:

Pingat, Ball Gown, c. 1894; Museum of Fine Arts Boston (56.816)

Rear View

As ball gowns go, this is a relatively simple design with a minimum of trim (mostly beading on the front bodice), relying instead on combinations of lace, and silk satin to achieve its effect.  With roses strategically placed on the skirt front, collar and shoulder, there are pops of color that offset the blush pink/ivory silk satin. The gigot sleeves combined with gored skirt definitely place this dress safely in the mid-1890s and create the classic hourglass style that was typical of the period. Overall, as with many of Pingat’s designs, this is elegant and clean and would definitely make an excellent bridal gown. Although best know for his outerwear, Pingat also produced many elegant dress designs- ball gowns, evening/reception dresses and day dresses and this is just one excellent example.

In The UK – Part 2

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After a short break, we decided to head east to Soho and check out a few of the fabric stores that we’d previous planned for. Our first stop was MacCulloch & Wallis. There was a variety of fabrics available mostly focused on cottons and silk, (although there was also a wool section) and while much wasn’t anything we couldn’t obtain here in LA, there were some stand-outs that caught our eye:

London Fabric

There were a number of cotton/silk brocades in a variety of colors as seen above. Here’s a sampling of what we bought:

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Adam London

Checking out the fabrics at MacCulloch & Wallis…

London Cloth House

Our next stop was the Cloth House. Although the store was small (everything is small in London, it seems… 🙂 ), it was packed with some interesting fabrics, primarily cottons and cotton/silk mixes (or so it seemed). We didn’t a lot that was useful but the few things we did find were exquisite but unfortunately, almost none of them were available in enough quantity for a dress length- apparently they stock most of their fabrics in 5 meter increments so if your timing is off, you’re out of luck (although they can restock on some fabrics). Here are a couple of cotton prints we walked away with…can you sense the “Liberty London” vibe here? 🙂

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Next, while we weren’t specifically looking for wool, we walked into Borovick Fabrics on a whim and walked out with this beautiful plaid:

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The nice think about this wool is that it’s a medium weight and it will work for Southern California- normally, there’s simply no real opportunities to wear wool, at least not like in the UK. We bought enough yardage for a complete sack suit and vest… 🙂 And then we decided to take a break at the local Cafe Nero before moving on….

(To be continued….)

In The UK – Part 1

London

After a somewhat uncomfortable 10 1/2-hour flight (that will teach us to ignore the advice on seatguru.com), we made it into Heathrow and were quickly whisked away to our hotel in Kensington. As luck would have it, we arrived at the tail-end of some warm weather with clear skies and zero possibility of rain. 🙂 After some issues with the hotel room (it turns out that there is no air conditioning allowed in historic “listed buildings” above the ground floor, we got everything sorted out and we were ready to hit the town running.

The next morning, we decided to start out somewhat slow by heading over to the V&A Museum for a quick once-over. We were hoping to get into the Frida Kahlo exhibit but you need special tickets to get in and they were all sold out so we contented ourselves touring some of the regular galleries. Unfortunately, most of the better 19th Century costumes are in storage and there’s not a lot on display so it was a bit disappointing though not unexpected (we were hoping that they’d at least rotate a few items).

Although we’ve commented on this before, one of the best stand-outs was this dolman made in 1885 by Pingat:

V&A Museum Dolman Jacket Pingat 1885

Here are a some more views, courtesy of the V&A:

Pingat Dolman 1885

Pingat, Dolman/Jacket; V&A Museum (T.64-1976)

Pingat Dolman 1885

This bodice from 1895 also caught our eye:

V&A Museum Bodice 1895

Unfortunately, getting good pictures are is difficult when the items are behind glass but here are some better views, courtesy of the V&A:

Bodice 1895

Guiquin, L, Bodice, 1895; V&A Museum (T.271&A-1972)

Bodice 1895

Three-Quarter Front View

Bodice 1895

Close-up of upper sleeve.

Although it’s easy to miss because the bodice is behind glass, the silk fabric and trim are very pleasing and especially the silk brocade sleeve treatment. It’s very subtle but adds a depth both in texture and luster. It’s too bad that the skirt is not available for view- it would have made for a beautiful dress- the bodice is only a hint. 🙂

Finally, we end with this fan from Ronot-Tutin that was created c. 1890-1900:

V&A Museum

Stay tuned as we head to Soho for some fabric shopping… 🙂