1890s Style- Evening Wear, Part 3

The high 1890s- that period from 1895 through 1896 when enormous gigot sleeves, acres of lace, and multi-gored skirts ruled the fashion world and evening wear was no exception. In this post, we continue our survey of 1890s evening wear with a focus on ballgowns in particular; also, as noted in the last post, in the mid 1890s, the gigot sleeves trend also affected evening wear but to not as great extent as was the case with day wear.

So, what was the mid-1890s ballgown like? Here’s a brief description from the September 14, 1895 edition of the Los Angeles Times:

To approach the new. ball dress from a technical standpoint is to talk at once of the cut or its skirt. ‘Tis sliced out of taffeta in two straight front and three wedge-shaped back pieces, for in these days of undivided skirt patterns all the fullness goes to the rear. Underneath it Is braced by a lining of stiffly starched muslin and inside up to the knees are mewed a great many overlapping flounces of silk muslin edged with lace or rows of little variegated palettes.

As was the case for daywear, the basic style centered around creating an “X” or hourglass silhouette through a combination of corsetry, gored skirts, and wedge-shaped tops. Gigot sleeves helped accentuate the top but they were used in varying amounts of fullness and in some instances were minimal such as with these examples:

Evening Dress Ball Gown c. 1895 Worth

Worth, Evening Gown, c. 1895; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2003.288.1-2)

Evening Dress Ball Gown c. 1895 Worth

Ball Gown Jeanne Paquin 1895

Jeannie Paquin, Ballgown, c. 1895; Staatliche Museen Berlin (2003,KR 424 a-c)

Evening Dress Ball Gown 1897 Worth

Worth, Evening Dress, 1897; Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation via Europeana (2006.6.0416)

And now for some with more elaborate sleeve treatments:

Evening Dress c. 1895

Evening Dress, c. 1895; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1979.346.59a, b)

We would be inclined to say that the above dress is more of an evening dress than a ballgown but sometimes the dividing line can be fluid. And here’s a ballgown with a bit more sleeve:

Evening Gown Ball Gown Worth c. 1896 - 1897

Worth, Ballgown, c. 1896 – 1897; Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti via Europeana Fashion

Doucet Ballgown 1897

Doucet, Ballgown, 1897; Metropolitan Museum of Art (49.3.26a, b)

From most of the extant examples, it would appear that when it came to mid-1890s ballgowns, their design pretty much followed the general trends of the time with the exception that the sleeves which tended to not be as extreme as was found with daywear. On the other hand, evening gowns (a more general term for dresses that were worn for formal occasions other than balls) tended towards daywear in sleeve style. In the end, it’s logical that ballgowns would diverge some from sheer practicality:- ballgowns placed an emphasis on bare arms and a low cut bodice (a continuation of the earlier 1870s and 80s style), and gigot sleeves worked against this.

It’s easy to get lost in all the details and that especially with evening wear. In the next installment, we’ll delve more into the late 1890s. Stay tuned!

(To Be Continued…)

 

Charles Worth & Textiles

Image result for silk fabrics charles worth

Textiles are a major element in any fashion style and a good designer will always seek to utilize the right fabric so that a specific style looks its best. For Charles Worth, fabrics played a major role in the design process to the point where he would commission textile manufacturers to create textiles for his exclusive use. Drawing on his background as a draper, Worth created relationships with a number of textile manufacturers, most notably the silk weavers of Lyon, France.

Charles Frederick Worth Haute Couture bridesmaid dress gown from American 1896. Probably made from silk and fabric material with contrasting woven flower floral pattern, pearl, bead and lace tulle. High neckline with blown up gigot puffed sleeve, contrasting color for the bodice, dress fully flared with train at the back. #Vintage #Haute #Couture #Fashion House of Worth.

Worth’s opinion of the role of textiles was neatly summarized in an interview quoted in the March 24, 1896 edition of the Los Angeles Herald:

When a manufacturer invents any special fabric or design, he sends me a pattern asking if I can use it. The fabric may require a severe style of dress, or if light and soft it is adapted for draperies and puffings. If the material pleases me, I order a large quantity to be mades specially for me, and design my dresses accordingly. A purchase by a large firm of a great quantity of material influences other firms, and that material, with the style it is suited to, becomes the fashion. All my models are first made in black and white muslin, then copied in the material and coloring which I select.

Worth notes that with enough yardage and the right design, one can create a popular fashion. In the above quote, Worth notes that the textile manufacturer would come to him in the hopes of an order. However, knowing Worth’s tendency to commission custom fabrics, it was a two-way process in that Worth’s designs often drove textile development. In future posts we’ll be covering this in more detail but it’s interesting to hear from one of the leading designers of the day.

1890s Style- Evening Wear, Part 2

John Lavery Ball Gown 1894

John Lavery, “Miss Mary Burrell”, 1894 – 1895; Glasgow Museums (35.297)

And now we move on to the Mid 1890s when gigot (aka leg-of-mutton) sleeves began to come into its own as a major fashion trend. The gigot sleeve built on the “X” or wasp-waist dress silhouette that had slowly began to take hold in 1890 – 1891. As the decade progressed, the size of gigot sleeves increased to excessive proportions to the point of absurdity as satirized in this 1895 cartoon in Punch:

All joking aside, the gigot sleeve was a revival of an earlier style that was popular during the 1830s (yes, that which is old is new again! 😉 ) and as with its earlier incarnation, sleeve size ballooned to extreme size. Here are a couple views of the 1830s version:

Image result for 1830s gigot sleeve

Image result for 1830s gigot sleeve

Gigot sleeves could be quite large and complex to the point where special structures were needed to support them:

 

Gigot Sleeves Pattern

Pattern For A Gigot Sleeve

And now, we’ll see some examples as it applied to 1890s evening wear, first with a creation from Worth, circa 1895 – 1896:

102401

The dress is constructed from an ivory colored silk that’s better illustrated below.

35.134.2ab_F

Front

35.134.2ab_B

Rear

And for some detail:

And for another example from 1894:

Evening Dress 1894

Evening Dress, 1894; Cincinnati Art Museum (1996.375a-e)

 

Evening Dress c. Mid-1890s

Evening Dress, c. Mid-1890s; National Museums of Northern Ireland

Evening Dress c. 1895

Evening Dress, c. 1895; Nordiska Museet

From the above, we have a good representative example Mid-1890s evening dresses. Now, it must be noted that while evening and day dress sleeve styles tended to mirror each other, it was not so strict when it came to ball gowns and in the next we’ll look at this phenomenon further.

(To be continued…)

 

 

Fashion Advice From Paul Poiret

 

Label Poiret

In the course of researching something completely different, I came across some fashion advice that was attributed to Paul Poiret in the September 24, 1913 edition of the Los Angeles Herald:

…”select your gown according to the temperature, your mood, your temperament, whether you are at the seashore, in town or in the country, because gowns express every motion or condition.” M. Paul Poirot, the great Paris costumer, who is the creator of the tight skirt and other Innovations which were regarded as equally audacious when they made their advent, so declared today and added; “The simplest thing always looks the most original and I always strive for simplicity above everything…”

Poiret’s advice is timeless (although we could take issue with the always strive for simplicity part) and it could just as easily been said by any number of designers part or present. However, what is unique is that what a person wears does express every motion or condition, a fact that’s been noted by both designers and psychologists. 🙂

Poiret Sultan