And Trending From Maison Worth, January 1894

La Maison Worth and the fashion press did not seemingly appear to have a close relationship yet, it seemed that there was a steady number of Worth designs that were featured in Harper’s Bazar during the 1890s, no doubt pushed along by Charles Worth’s two sons, Jean and Gaston. Below is one evening dress design that was featured on the cover of the January 20, 1894 issue of Harper’s Bazar:

Below is a description of the dress:

This superb gown of rose-colored moiré and dark garnet velvet is one of the most beautiful of the season for stately women lo wear at dinners, balls, and the opera. The front of the corsage [bodice] is of pale rose moiré, sloping to a broad point from a large bow on the bust, and is lightly embroidered with black and white beads. The sides and the back of the corsage are of garnet velvet, forming a short basque, cut in square tabs edged with bead embroidery.

Over short puffed sleeves are short winglike frills of velvet, surmounted by white lace. A tucker of white mousseline and lace fills out the top of the square neck. The front of the skirt is trimmed with three flounces at the foot, and is embroidered twice down each side. The train of velvet, falls in full folds, and is edged on each side with paniers of moiré turned back on the hips and tapering to the foot, the further edge finished with embroidery.

From the above description, this dress is constructed of rose-colored silk moire for the skirt and bodice front and garnet-colored silk velvet for the bodice and train. For the silhouette, it’s firmly in the mid-1890s style-wise. Below are swatches that give an idea of the basic colors:

Finally, we note that the sleeves are trimmed in white lace and that the neckline is filled with white mousseline, a silk muslin fabric. This style dress is a fairly conventional one for the time but it definitely embodied an elegant look that was suitable for any number of formal occasions. It would be interesting to know if this dress ever got beyond the concept stage and if so, we wonder what it would have looked like. Unfortunately, we’ll probably never know.

 



The Intersection Of Art & Costume

It’s always a treat when we can view a dress that’s depicted in a painting and the same dress that the painting was based on. In this case, we have the dress that was work by Louise Pomeroy in a portrait that was painted by John Singer Sargent in 1887.  🙂 First, the portrait:

John Singer Sargent, Mrs. Charles E Inches (Louise Pomeroy), 1887

And now, the dress:

Evening Dress, c. 1887, Modified 1902; Museum of Fine Arts Boston (2013.1653.1-3)

According to the museum website, the dress was imitation of a Worth design and was reworked sometime in 1902 when the original bodice was replaced. The dress is constructed from  silk velvet and taffeta and appears to have a princess line. The dress was perfect for the portrait in that it nicely harmonizes with the sitter’s complexion and hair. Interestingly enough, Ms. Pomeroy was pregnant when the portrait was painted and extra panels had been installed in the dress to accommodate the pregnancy.  This dress and portrait was part of an exhibition that was put on by the Museum of Fine Arts in 2019 entitled “Sargent and Fashion.:

This would have been a fascinating exhibit to have seen, especially since we’re long-time John Singer Sargent fans. Well, maybe in the future we’ll have another chance. 🙂



And Trending From Maison Worth For March 1894

When it came to the media, Charles Worth was very reticent about discussing the details of his highly successful couture business. However, with his sons Gaston and Jean increasingly taking over the daily operations of Maison Worth, this attitude began to change and during the 1890s, one increasingly sees Worth designs being featured in the fashion press. One example of this can be found with the March 17, 1894 issue of Harper’s Bazar where a Worth evening dress is featured:

This dress is described in Harper’s thusly:

This superb gown is of very light ciel-blue satin bordered with black fur. It is further enriched with bead embroidery in iris dc~igns. The pointed waist is draped across the bust. and has a jabot falling between branches of embroidery done on the satin. Fur shoulder-straps complete the square décolleté. Short puffed sleeves of dotted mousseline de soie are under a ruffle of beaded satin. The graceful skirt falls in godet pleats, and is trimmed with embroidery and fur. The coiffure is without any ornament, a looped tress at the back extending above the top of the head giving a pretty profile. The fan is of black lace figures appliqued on tulle.

The silhouette is standard mid-1890s and interesting enough, the skirt gores are referred to as godets.1In modern usage, godets refer to triangular panels set into a skirt to make the skirt flare out more. The only different is that these panels are more inset into the skirt as opposed to being full panels. In terms of skirt style, they are very similar to other Worth dresses of the the 1890s and early 1900s- all employed a graceful train and were constructed of solid silk satin with some sort of long flowing decorative motif, often floral or “sheaf of wheat.” Here’s a few well-known examples that follow in the same vein:

Worth, Ball Gown, 1893 – 1894; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.68.53.10a–c)

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

Worth, Ball Gown, 1899; Metropolitan Museum of Art (26.381a-b_front 0004)

Worth, Ball Gown, c. 1895 – 1900; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1290a, b)

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

Ballgown, Worth, 1898; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1324a, b)

While the skirts are similar, the bodices exhibit a wide range of variation different trim, fabrics, and decorative effects. Also, sleeves for the most part tend to be minimal except for examples from the mid 1890s, which comes as no surprise. 😉 As for the color, ciel blue, here’s an approximation:

The one interesting, and subtle, twist with this dress design is the use of fur as trimming on the skirt hem and shoulders. We wonder if this design was ever actually made or simply was a concept that Jean Worth fed to the fashion press. Someday, we may know the answer.



The Bustle Dress – A Brief Overview, Part 5

Fashion trends often involve dramatic shifts in style and the 1880s was no exception. In today’s post, we examine the return of the bustle in a more extreme form than what was found in the early 1870s and with it, a shift from upright and cylindrical to trained, placing emphasis on the derriere (or caboose, as some wags termed it). But however one views it, this was a great example on how fashion is always evolving. Enjoy!


We now turn to the Late Bustle Period from 1882 through 1890 when the bustle returned with a vengeance, now more angular and sharply defined with harder edges than its 1870s predecessor. Probably one of the most iconic examples of Late Bustle Era style is this circa 1884-1886 dinner dress:

Evening Dress, American or European, c. 1884 - 1886, silk; The Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.63.23.3a, b)

Evening Dress, American or European, c. 1884 – 1886, silk; The Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.63.23.3a, b)

Below is a closer look at the “shelf ” bustle/train:

The above evening dress epitomizes the sculpted “shelf bustle” that is characteristic of the 1880s. However, elements of the 1870s still remain: the bodice is remains at waist level and draped skirts are utilized to create a dramatic effect with the skirts being arranged to show off the pleating and trim to its fullest advantage. The “shelf bustle” profile was found in both day dresses and more formal evening and reception dresses and as could be expected, the formal dresses tended to be more dramatic and extreme in profile and the length of the train. The is certainly the diametric opposite of the sleek, vertical lines characteristic of the Mid-Bustle Era.

Transition in fashion is rarely dramatic, rather it’s a more gradual process as can be seen with these fashion plates:

Peterson’s Magazine, September 1881

Peterson’s Magazine, September 1882

For 1881 and 1882, the silhouette appears to mostly follow the Mid-Bustle style. However, here and there we see more fullness just behind the hips at waist level. But for 1883, we begin to see the emergence of a more trained or bustle style:

Peterson’s Magazine, March 1883

Peterson’s Magazine, August 1884

And by August 1884, we see the full emergence of a new bustle style. 🙂 Still skeptical? Consider these two illustrations from Demorest’s Family Magazine:

Demorest’s Family Magazine, March 1884

The above two illustrations were not simply based on a couture ideal but were firmly rooted in everyday style in that patterns to make the ablove dresses were offered for sale by Demorest’s. If a potential market of dressmakers and home-sewers didn’t exist, it’s doubtful that Demorest’s would have gone to the trouble of working up patterns of these for sale. On the couture level, the transition seems to have followed the fashion press as with this circa 1883 dinner dress by Worth:

Worth, Dinner Dress, c. 1883; Kyoto Costume Museum (Kyoto Costume Institute (AC9712 98-29-2AB)

This dress is constructed of a wine-red silk satin and velvet with a stripes and floral pattern, most likely utilizing the devoré technique. Silhouette-wise, it leans more towards the earlier Mid-Bustle style but then again it may be just the angle of the photo. Nevertheless, one can make out a very full gathering of fabric to the rear of the waistline and possibly padded or bustled.

Fashion transition often see the retention of older style elements which can linger on even though the overall style has changed as with this hybrid style circa 1885 day dress which incorporates a long cuirass bodice while at the same time having a bustled train of sorts:

Day Dress, French, c. 1885; Silk plain weave (taffeta) and silk plain weave with warp-float patterning and supplementary weft, and silk knotted tassel; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.2007.211.34a-b)

Day Dress, c. 1885; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.2007.211.34a-b)

Day Dress 1885_13

Day Dress, French, c. 1885 – Rear View

Day Dress, French, c. 1885 - Front View

Day Dress, French, c. 1885 – Front View

However, we believe that the 1885 date may be a bit late and perhaps it dates more towards 1882-1883 and it could simply be more of someone holding onto an older style.  Below are two examples of Late Bustle Era day fashion in full flower:

Walking Dress, c. 1885; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1978.295.8a, b)

Silhouette-wise, this dress has come into its own, leaving earlier styles behind. As with many Late Bustle Era dresses, the bodice is short so as to allow the skirt (or skirts, it’s hard to tell) to be trained/bustled at waist level. Also, as with many of these dresses, it’s constructed of one type of fashion fabric, in this case a light-colored gold-brown paisley and trimmed with a solid dark gold-brown on the cuffs and collar. Also, the bodice is open with an inset faux waist, which was also a common style of the mid to late 1880s.

The pictures above and below perfectly illustrate the Late Bustle Era silhouette with a well defined train that’s concentrated at the top.

And finally, here’s another day dress from the mid to late 1880s that has the characteristic silhouette:

Day Dress, c. 1885-1890; From Augusta Auctions (Number 36.15757.100.2)

This dress is constructed from a dark teal-blue silk satin or taffeta for both the bodice and skirts. The bodice, shoulders, and part of the overskirt are also trimmed with a gold and the same dark teal-blue and give the dress a pop of bright color that lightens up the overall dress color. The slashed sleeve heads give the bodice a Renaissance style and provide further pops of color.

The two pictures below illustrate the dress silhouette and details of the upper train. There is a distinct bustle and there is fullness to both under and outerskirts but no train, as was common with day dresses.

So how was the Late Bustle Era silhouette created? With structured foundation garments- in contrast to earlier bustles and crinolettes, bustles were sharp and angular, often constructed of steel, as illustrated by the examples below:

Bustle, 1883 - 1887

Bustle, Cotton, Metal, Copper, c.1883 – 1887; FIDM Museum Library (2005.5.174)

Bustle, Steel Frame, c. 1884; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.131C-1919).

Bustle, c. 1884; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.131C-1919).

Bustle Pad, French, . 1885Glazed calico trimmed with silk cord and stuffed with what appears to be straw; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.337-1978)

Bustle Pad, French, c. 1885; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.337-1978)

From just the few examples above, it’s evident that that bustles during this period came in a variety of materials and shapes. However, in contrast with earlier bustles, these are shorter and more concentrated around the natural waist.

(To be continued…)

 



More Behind The Scenes At The Met

Following up on a previous post, here’s another video from the Met Museum, this time an evening dress from circa 1884-1886. This should be a familiar dress to anyone interested in late 19th Century fashion history in that it epitomizes the extreme bustle fashion styles that developed during the mid to late 1880s:

This video takes a closer look at the dress as it’s taken out of storage. Because it’s stored flat, here’s a side profile view that gives a better idea of the dress as it was worn:

Evening Dress, American, c. 1884 – 1886; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.63.23.3a, b)

The video is very useful in that it provides some interesting close-up views of the dress itself. One interesting element is the pillow that is sewn into upper rear skirt, providing a built-in bustle pillow. The bodice itself is boned although this was purely to maintain the bodice structure/silhouette- the wearer would have been corseted. The dress was made by a one Antoinette Grapanche of New York:

Like almost all vintage garments, this dress is stored flat and outside of a special exhibition, will unfortunately never be seen by the general public, which is a pity but understandable; it would have been nice to have some more photos of this dress from various angles.  Anyway, we hope you’ve enjoyed this “little bit more” about another amazing dress from the late 19th Century.