Going Out- Opera Capes

Going to the opera, or any formal occasion, required the right outerwear and especially in colder weather. Outerwear during the late 19th Century could range from short capelets all the day to full-on coats and naturally, each couturier had ideas on outerwear styles. Here’s just one style, in this case a circa 1890 opera case that was made by Jacques Doucet:

Doucet, Opera Cape, c. 1890; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1995.177.2)

This cape is constructed from a gold silk floral patterned brocade and trimmed along the collar and shoulders with fur. The capelet and lining appear to be be a yellow/gold silk, probably a satin but it’s hard to tell from the picture- unfortunately, there are no further details on the construction or materials used.

Now, although couturiers often convinced their clients that garments were custom designs made just for them, this wasn’t always the case as with this second opera cape that was also made by Doucet about the same time:

Doucet, Opera Case, c. 1900s; Whitaker Auctions

Unfortunately, no other photos are available but it’s safe to say that it appears to have been constructed of a copper and black silk brocade with a floral paisley-like pattern motif. The collar and shoulders are also trimmed in fur and the top capelet is in a gray/lavender silk satin- it’s probably the same as the lining if the first example is any guide. The above two capes are an interesting style and definitely worthy of reconstruction. 🙂



Fashion Transition- 1890, Part 2

Jules Benoit Ivy, Femme dans un Atelier, 1890

In our last post, we discussed some of the styles that were trending in early 1890 starting with the Directoire and Redingote styles. Today we move on to take a look at the jacket-bodice and pseudo-robe styles. This example from the early 1890s gives a good close-up view of the jacket-bodice style:

Jacket/Vest Bodice, c. early 1890s; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.55.41.3)

The jacket-bodice combines a fairly standard  form-fitting jacket with a faux vest that’s reminiscent of an 18th Century waistcoat. The faux waistcoat extends well jacket to reveal elaborate embroidery work that flows up the open front, ending at the neckt in a Mandarin collar. The close-up below provides a nice view of the embroidery:

The “faux vest” could often took the form of shirring made to look like a waist as with this circa 1890-1893 Worth day dress:

Worth, Day Dress, c. 1890 – 1893; Kerry Taylor Auctions

With this dress, the shirring runs down the opening in the outer bodice and then picks up again with the skirt front. The white shirring provides an interesting contrast to the black floral patterned dark green silk satin, especially in that the fashion seemingly sucks up light and the white shirring throws out light; the eye can’t help but be drawn to the dress front and then up to the wearer’s face. Below is a close-up of the bodice front:

And for another take on the jacket-bodice style, here’s  a circa 1890 afternoon dress made by Worth:

Worth, Afternoon Dress, c. 1890; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2015.688.a-b)

This dress combines a bolero style jacket constructed from a black and orange-brown patterned velvet with a lighter copper-colored silk satin vest/underbodice combined with an outerskirt of the same color. The underskirt utilizes the same black and orange-brown patterned velvet trimmed with embroidered flower appliques along the sides and bottom. With this dress, the contrast is one of harmonizing yet different fabrics.

One interesting variation on the jacket-bodice style is this circa 1890 reception dress that has the jacket acting as more of a redingote style:

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

The jacket/coat is a black and olive green striped silk taffeta with gold/red floral motifs. The underskirt is a solid black silk taffeta trimmed with black jet beading. Finally, the collar is trimmed with black ostrich feathers. Below is a side profile:

Sometimes it’s difficult to neatly classify dress styles but this one to us emphasizes the outer jacket/coat as more of an unified bodice/overskirt rather than simply a coat over a skirt.

Finally, we take a look at the pseudo-robe style. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of extant examples but here’s an early 1890s dinner dress made by Worth:

Worth, Dinner Dress, c. 1890-1895; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.636a, b)

Looking at large sash and knot combined with the plunging neckline this dress is reminiscent of a kimono and the floral pattern silk jacquard further reinforces the Japonisme style. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of extant examples of this style.

Rear View

We hope that you’ve enjoyed this all-too-brief over of fashion in early 1890 and we’re always on the search for fresh content so stay tuned! 🙂

Illustrated London News, c. 1890

 



And Now For Some Bees…

And to continue the natural world theme in yesterday’s post, today we feature a lingerie dress that was created by Jacques Doucet around 1900-1905, only this time utilizing bees:

Doucet, Day Dress, c. 1900-1905; Les Arts Décoratifs

In many respects, this dress style follows the lingerie dress style that was prevalent for warm weather daywear during the early 1900s, an area that Doucet excelled. This dress is constructed of layers of semi-sheer fabrics (probably batiste and/or organza) combined with lace and features a multi-layer train that alternates the fashion fabric with the lace. However, the centerpiece of this dress is the use of a decorative floral motif featuring bees. The bees themselves appear to be embroidered appliques and are artfully arranged running up the dress front to suggest bees buzzing about flying out of the vegetation.  One can definitely see that vertical lines are emphasized, especially with the dress front designed as a front-opening robe; the swarm of bees run all the way up the dress front and around the neckline to the back. Compared to many lingerie dresses of the period, the use of lace is fairly restrained and is not allowed to detract from the bee decoration. Below is a rear view:


The rear is also interesting in that the bees are set along the hem of the our dress layer to suggest low-lying vegetation and when viewed together with the front, the effect is very three-dimensional. This is more than a simple static decorative motif being applied to a dress, this has been well thought out. The dress itself is fairly simple design, acting as a canvas for the decorative design. This dress is definitely an inspiration for future recreated designs. 🙂



Doucet & 1890s Style

While the House of Worth was the leading fashion house during the late 19th Century, it was by no means the only one. Couturiers such as Jacques Doucet, Emile Pingat, and Jeanne Paquin, just to name a few, were in constant competition with each other. In today’s post, we’ll be taking a look at Doucet and his take on 1890s style.

Doucet Ballgown c. 1898 - 1902

Doucet was one of Worth’s leading competitors and like Worth, he utilized a number of marketing techniques that are now standard in the fashion industry to include dressing celebrities (and especially actresses). Doucet’s creations tended to have a softer silhouette, utilizing large quantities of lace, tulle, and chiffon as well as metallics and lame.

Doucet Ballgown 1898 - 1900

Doucet, Ballgown, 1898 – 1900; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.3275a–c)

Doucet Ballgown 1898 - 1900

Three-Quarter Front View

The above ballgown, made sometime between 1898 and 1900, is made from what appears to be a silk chiffon backed by layers of lame. Unfortunately there are no close-up pictures available- it would be very interesting to have a close look at the fabric. With the exception of some tulle at the top of the bodice and leaf garlands on the shoulders, there is no trim and the dress relies on the richness of the materials themselves.

However, Doucet’s designs were not always so “simple”. Here we see one of Doucet’s more iconic work, a ballgown made sometime in the 1898 – 1902 time frame:

Doucet Ballgown c. 1898 - 1902

Doucet, Ballgown, c. 1898 – 1902; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.3274a, b)

Doucet Ballgown c. 1898 - 1902

Side Profile

Doucet Ballgown c. 1898 - 1902

Rear View

Here once again we see the fabric itself as the central focus of the dress style only this time there is an elaborate floral pattern created by leaves and foliage appliques on a gold lame background backed by what appears to be a silk chiffon underlayer. The upper bodice and sleeves are lace the overall effect is of shimmering gold.

So what about day wear? Here’s one example:

Day Dress Doucet c. 1890

Doucet, Day Dress, c. 1890; Kyoto Costume Institute (AC10445 2001-4AC)

The fashion fabric for this dress is a silk crêpe de chine with a stencil print pattern of bamboo stalks and the sparrow motif has been hand-painted separately. The fabric was most likely made in Japan for the export market and is an excellent example of the Japonisme theme that was often utilized by fashion designers during the 1880s and 90s. One again trim is minimal, limited to the hem, sleeves and collar finished off with a silk chiffon fichu.

However, designers could also works against type as with this ballgown that Doucet made sometime around 1890:

Doucet Ballgown c. 1890s

Doucet, Ballgown, c. 1890; Mint Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina (1998.13A-B)

Doucet Ballgown c. 1890sDoucet Ballgown c. 1890s

Doucet Ballgown c. 1890s

Close-Up of Bodice

Doucet Ballgown c. 1890s

Rear View

The use of black and white stripes, artfully cut and blended together (especially on the bodice) reads “modern”, something we would expect to see from the 1950s. The black and white chevrons on the skirt front are especially bold and they immediately draw the eye. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of information about this dress (at least from what I could tell from the museum website) and it raised some interesting questions in regard to provenance- it reads so differently than the majority of Doucet’s work that we almost wonder if this is a dress that’s been mislabeled- it certainly bears further study.

Although we can see two different approaches to design by Worth and Doucet (with a bit of overlap), it’s evident that there was an increased emphasis on making using the dress itself as a canvas for creating the design’s major effect. By this time, the use of trim is completely secondary and does little to distract the eye from the main attraction of the fabric design and this can be especially seen with Doucet’s two very different ballgown designs. We hope that you’ve enjoyed this brief excursion into some of Doucet’s designs. Stay tuned as we bring you more in the future.



1890s Style- A Quick Overview

Probably one of the the most iconic fashion styles is 1890s style with its leg-of-mutton sleeves and the wasp waist. One of the basic rules of fashion is that fashion will emphasize a particular body part until it reaches a point of excess and a reaction sets in and the emphasis then shifting to another body part. For 1890s style, we see it developing in reaction to the excesses of the bustle era and in particular, its last flowering in the mid to late 1880s with the “shelf” bustle:

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

And, invariably, a reaction set in and the bustle silhouette with its emphasis on the derriere (ok, buttocks, let’s just get it out there 🙂 ) now shifted towards a more slender, upright silhouette with emphasis on the shoulders and waist in the form of the leg-of-mutton sleeves combined with an extremely narrow waist (i.e., the wasp waist).

Le Moniteur de la Mode. September 1895

Naturally, these changes do not occur overnight (at least back then) and during the early 1890s, we a see a gradual fashion shift towards the new look (which we discussed previously). By 1895, more extreme versions of the new silhouette were developing with the sleeves and waist. Below are a few examples of this “new look” in fashion plates, as interpreted by the French:

La Grande Dame_1895

La Grande Dame: Revue de l’Élégance et des Arts 32, 1895

La Grande Dame_1895_2

La Grande Dame: Revue de l’Élégance et des Arts 32, 1895

La Grande Dame_1895_5

La Grande Dame: Revue de l’Élégance et des Arts 31, 1895

In the above examples, we see the classic hourglass figure which is created by an A-line skirt combined with a seemingly unstructured bodice that balloons out at the shoulders. The bodice front seemingly gives an impression of a billowy blouse/shirt-waist (another style that began to take hold during this period).

Compared to 1880s and some early 1890s styles, the lines dresses depicted have much softer lines and everything appears to be very free-floating. However, it must be noted that this silhouette is in reality a structured design that relies on a corset to achieve that ideal hourglass figure.

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Assorted Corset Styles, c. 1880s & 1890s

Now that you have seen the basic silhouette as depicted in fashion plates, let’s take it a bit further with some extant originals:

Day Dress, c. 1890s; Museu del Disseney de Barcelona (MTIB 88108-0)

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Day Dress, c. 1895; Augusta Auctions; Black Cotton with raised red and yellow pin stripes.

Maison Felix, Day Dress, c. 1893-1895; FIDM Museum (2008.5.51AB)

Worth, Day Dress, c. 1890 – 1893; Kerry Taylor Auctions

The above are only a small sample of what was out there- while the silhouette for each of the above dresses is the same, each differs in the materials, trim, and design elements thus creating unique dresses that are still part of a specific style. What is also interesting is that bodices could be open or closed and the open ones continue trends of the 1880s and early 1890s in creating a jacket bodice/skirt combination used with a waist and/or vest.

Day Dress, c. 1895, French;

Day Dress, c. 1895; Fashion Museum Antwerp

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Day Dress, c. 1894 – 1895; Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM; 2006.870.19AB)

The above examples vary in materials and trim but they all embody the basic 1890s design aesthetic. The Jacket/bodice dress style was also embodied in the more informal waking suit, a practical garment for daytime wear in public.  Below are a few extant examples:

Walking Suit, 1892; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.53.72.9a–c)

Walking Suit, c. 1892; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1982.82.6a, b)

Doucet, Walking Suit, c. 1895; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.15&A-1979)

Constructed of wool, linen, or cotton, these suits incorporate the hourglass figure but in a muted form with an A-line skirt and a tailored coat with the characteristic leg-of-mutton sleeves, although the sleeves are somewhat muted in the earlier examples.

In conclusion, it is clear that there was no lack of variety in dress styles during the mid-1890s. With daywear, the hourglass silhouette was kept somewhat within limits but as we will see in future posts, this was not always the case with evening wear and the finer forms of daywear and we will see examples of this in future posts. 🙂