Another Take On Wedding Gowns…

In contrast to today, the term “wedding gown” was far more flexible in the late 19th Century than it is today. When we think of a wedding gown, we invariably think of some sort of dress that’s in some shade of white or ivory that’s only worn once on the wedding day and then stored away forever, unless a descendant chooses to wear the dress for their wedding. However, in recent scholarship, it’s been noted that the concept of the “white wedding” with its one-use wedding gown is a fairly recent development, as much a product of merchandising as social convention.

As discussed in a previous post, during the late 19th Century, a wedding dress was typically a woman’s “best dress,” often enhanced by netting, lace, and flowers (especially orange blossoms). The dress was definitely meant to be worn long after the wedding and in fact, the idea of having a dress for that’s only worn once and then stored away forever was considered the height of wastefulness. With that said, here’s just one example of what a wedding dress could be, at least if we accept the Walsall Museums’ description:

Day Dress c. 1885

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

Day Dress c. 1885

Side Profile

Unfortunately the photography is not the best…style-wise this is mid-1880s with a defined train/bustle and is constructed from a silver-gray silk satin for the overskirt and bodice combined with a silk brocade floral pattern for the underskirt, under bodice and sleeve cuffs. The bodice is constructed to create the effect of a jacket over a vest (although these were usually made as a single unit) and the red flowers on the silk brocade provide pops of red that add richness and variety to what would otherwise be a somewhat dull monochromatic silver-gray dress.

Day Dress c. 1885

Close-up of front bodice.

And here’s a nice close-up of the silk brocade fabric:

Day Dress c. 1885

Close-up of fashion fabric.

Here’s a couple of more pictures (although the color is a bit off):

Day Dress c. 1885

Three-Quarter rear view.

Day Dress c. 1885

The red flowers on the silk brocade panels definitely draws the eye up and fixes the viewer’s eyes (As should be the case with all bridal dresses!). Of course, as with much of fashion history, there’s rarely any absolutes and this was the case with using “regular” colors versus the more bridal colors of white and ivory during the 1880s. However, in the end, it’s important to realize that the dividing lines between “bridal” and non-bridal were not as rigid was we tend to view them today (although that’s changing). This was just a brief glimpse into the world of bridal dresses during the 1880s and that there are alternatives to the “traditional” when it comes to bridal dresses. 🙂

Something Plum From The 1880s…

Plum has always been one of our favorite colors and even more so as we move into Fall. Recently, we came across this wonderful c. 1883 1889 day dress in the collection of the Goldstein Museum of Design and we just couldn’t resist sharing it with the rest of you: 🙂

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Day Dress, c. 1883 – 1889; Goldstein Museum of Design (1963.007.002a-b)

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Three-quarter frontal view.

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Rear View

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Three-quarter rear view.

Style-wise, this is a classic 1880s day dress with three-quarter sleeves and distinct over/underskirts. There doesn’t appear to be much of  a bustle effect (but this is probably due to the museum’s staging). What’s striking about this dress is its use of a solid dark plum color underskirt combined with a silk brocade overskirt and bodice. Also, the trim on the bodice is fairly minimal while we see extensive ruching and layers of pleating for the underskirt.

Here’s a close-up of the silk brocade fashion fabric on the bodice back; the pattern is suggestive of chinoiserie:

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Close-up of bodice back.

And here’s part of the underskirt with its extensive ruching:

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Close-up of overskirt.

Here’s a close-up of the bodice front which utilizes a jacketed/under-vest effect with facing lapels. It’s interesting but attempt but it strikes us as a bit disorganized- it’s attempting to meld typical design elements of the period but in a clumsy manner. Also, the fringe appears to be an afterthought and does little to add to the overall design effect. C’est la vie….

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Close-up of front bodice.

On the other hand, the middle back is neatly done and the train appears tidy in comparison with the bodice front:

Day Dress c. 1883 - 1889

Close-up of rear.

Plum and its shades and tints have always been favorites with us and are always a source of inspiration for many of our designs. When combined with utilizing fabrics with varying degrees of luster, patterns, and textures, the results are phenomenal and offer a high degree of individuality. Let it inspire you as it’s inspired us. 🙂

 

And For A Little Early 90s…

We are amazed at some of the various extant periods garments that we have accidentally come across over the years. Here’s a reception dress from the early 1890s that we recently discovered on website for the Goldstein Museum of Design:

Reception Dress c. 1890 Day Dress

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

Reception Dress c. 1890 Day Dress

Three-quarter frontal view, right.

Reception Dress c. 1890 Day Dress

Side Profile

Reception Dress c. 1890 Day Dress

Rear View – For a moment, this appeared to be the front but it’s not, rather it’s almost a mirror image of the front.

Style-wise, this dress has an outer later consisting of a robe-like silk brocade combined with an underlayer consisting of a black silk underskirt and green silk bodice with black lace trim. The collar has a feather-like trim all around combined with black jet beading. The silhouette has a somewhat upright, cylindrical appearance characteristic of 1890s styles and the outer layer with its vertical lines further emphasizes the vertical aspects. While the overall effect suggests the princess line, it’s hard to discern if the underlayer has a waist seem- the lace provides obscures this. Here are some close-up views:

Reception Dress c. 1890 Day Dress

View of upper front bodice.

This frontal view shows off the sleeve caps nicely- we see a somewhat restrained version of the gigot sleeves characteristic of 1890s style. Based on the size, we would be inclined to date this dress from early 1890s, perhaps 1891-1894, before the extreme sleeve sizes of came into play. The front bodice is constructed as a jacket with wide beaded lapels with green (bordering on chartreuse) silk satin.  Here’s a close-up of the upper bodice front:

Reception Dress c. 1890 Day Dress

Close-up of bodice.

 The back is just as elaborately constructed as the front:

Reception Dress c. 1890 Day Dress

View of upper back.

This view from the upper back reveals that the collar consists of a band of black jet beading combined with black feathers. The center back appears to be a green silk satin covered in net that’s inset between the silk brocade outer fashion fabric.

Reception Dress c. 1890 Day Dress

Side view of collar.

This side profile nicely shows off the tapering collar. Below is a close-up of the silk brocade fashion fabric; the vertical branches combined with the vertical stripes accentuates the dress’s vertical lines and serve to draw the eye upwards. Definitely a text book use of lines in fashion design. 🙂

Reception Dress c. 1890 Day Dress

Close-up of fashion fabric.

Unfortunately, we were unable to learn much from the museum website so there’s some unanswered questions, especially in regard to construction- not a deal-breaker but it would be nice to know. To conclude, this dress is an extraordinary example of early 1890s style, especially with the fabric selection and color and it provides an interesting alternative example of a reception dress with its layering. This dress is an ideal candidate for replicating. 🙂

On To Craigdarroch Castle…

After a brief tea refreshment, we drive back to Victoria to pay a visit to Craigdarroch Castle. Nicknamed today as “Canada’s Castle,” Craigdarroch Castle was built in 1887-90 by the Robert Dunsmuir, a man who made his fortune from coal and railroads. Like many houses built by the nouveau riche of the late 19th Century, to expense was spared and it was built large, originally on a 28-acre estate (although most of the surrounding land was later sold off). For us, it was a fascinating peek into a world mostly only seen in pictures and the sheer massiveness of the house impressed us- one just doesn’t get an idea of the sheer size until they actually experience it in person. 🙂

Here’s are few views of the exterior:

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There was renovation going on so I wasn’t able to get the best pictures so here’s one from Wikipedia to help out:

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And now for the interior…

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The central staircase- there are four floors and a lot of steps…

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Part of the entrance hallway.

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Front Parlor

One of the most interesting things we learned was that in restoring the house, great efforts were made to track down the original furnishings and various other artifacts though auction catalogs and the like- after the death of the Joan Dunsmuir in 1908, the house and its contents were dispersed in a number of sales since none of the heirs lacked the means to buy the others out. Also, ironically enough, Robert Dunsmuir died in 1889 before he could occupy his new house.

Moving along, here are some more views:

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One of the hallways…

By now, you probably might have noticed that there were a number of garments on display. Unfortunately there were no signs or anything else that gave any information so it’s hard to know if these were original to the house or merely generic placeholders. But here they are:

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This one is definitely late 1890s, especially with the relatively narrow sleeve caps.

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Here’s a good view of the side profile.

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The chatelaine is amazing.

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This one was a bit far away to be able to view properly but it appears to be more of a late 1890s or very early 1900s.

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Fairly generic ball gown/evening dress. The staging wasn’t the most optimal.

And for a something Chinese…we’re not sure how that fit in but OK. 🙂

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We’re not sure where this fit in but it was fascinating to look at.

Here are some more views of various rooms:

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One of the bedrooms.

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The billiard room.

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Early sewing machine.

The ballroom was closed due to issues with the soundness of the floor but there were a number of dance cards:  🙂

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Overall, it was a wonderful experience and we highly recommend it for anyone visiting Victoria.

Moving Into October…

It’s October 1st and Fall is upon us (ok, technically Fall starts on September 22), even in sunny Southern California! Here’s a little inspiration that’s definitely speaks to us here at Lily Absinthe:

Tissot October

James Tissot, October (1877)

It’s an interesting discovery, especially in light of a previous post we made, and here’s the color palette:

Palette1

Finally, some dress inspiration from circa 1893:

Day Dress c. 1893

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

While the above colors are not traditionally considered “Fall colors,” but they seem to work well and gives us a fresh take on fall styles. 🙂