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.


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Another 1893 Ensemble Dress From Maison Worth

Here’s another ensemble dress from Maison Worth, also from circa 1893. Style-wise, it’s similar to the example that we presented in a previous post but perhaps a little more restrained. Here are a few views:

Worth 1893 Day Reception Afternoon Dress

Worth, Ensemble Dress, c. 1893; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.620a–e)

To us, this bodice reads visiting/afternoon dress, more of a formal day-oriented garment. Below, the bodice reads more of a reception dress or possibly evening dress- although that’s probably stretching things a bit.

Worth 1893 Day Reception Afternoon Dress

The Alternate Bodice

Once again, we see a jacket style for the day bodice with a filler of tulle. The skirt and jacket bodice are a pea-green silk brocade with black lace trim and accents. The night bodice with its light cinnamon colored silk velvet provides a pleasant contrast to the pea green. Compared to yesterday’s example, this dress is a bit more restrained but it’s still a nice design. The silk brocade fabric is interesting and we only wish that there were some close-up pictures of the fabric detail. It’s evident that both the dress and the one in yesterday’s post used identical or fairly similar pattern pieces. Finally, here’s an interesting part of the ensemble- matching shoes:

Worth 1893 Shoes

Matching shoes to outfit.

Stay tuned for more posts on this subject. 🙂

 


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An 1893 Evening Dress From Maison Worth

Ensemble Evening Reception Dress Worth 1893

One interesting aspect of Charles Worth’s designs was what was called the “Ensemble Dress.” This was a dress that had two bodices, typically one for day wear and one for evening wear so one could have a nice semi-formal dress for calling on friends, going into town, or attending some sort of day function. At the same time, with a change in bodices, one would have also be properly dressed for an evening function. Below is just one circa 1893 example from Worth:

Ensemble Evening Reception Dress Worth 1893

Worth, Evening Ensemble Dress, c. 1893; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.622a–c)

First, we have a day bodice that’s designed like a jacket; no doubt some wort of a waist was worn underneath even though it would have been covered by the lace strips running down the front. And then we have a night bodice that’s perhaps a little more formal:

Ensemble Evening Reception Dress Worth 1893

The Alternate Bodice

And here’s a rear view of the dress with the day bodice:

Ensemble Evening Reception Dress Worth 1893

Rear View

In terms of silhouette, this is characteristic for the early 1890s with it’s fairly restrained train arrangement- most likely a small bustle pad was worn but not much else. The fact there’s small train points to it being more of a formal dress (with day and night configurations). The fabric is a silver colored silk satin with a gold leaf pattern decoration woven in broken texture that services to provide a contrast both in texture and color. The red silk velvet lapels and sleeve trim on the day bodice and the red bodice front on the night bodice. The effect is exquisite with either bodice. Below is a close-up of the fabric.

Ensemble Evening Reception Dress Worth 1893

Detail of fabric- too bad it’s not in color.

In 1890s fashion, the skirt and bodice have a minimum of trim and Worth lets the contrasting fabrics, both in color and in texture, speak for themselves. Just one of many exquisite examples from Maison Worth.


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Fashion As A Business- The Early Years

Races at Longchamps, Manet, 1867

Races at Longchamps, Manet, 1867

Today we go to France to take a look at the start of the fashion industry. “Fashion,” as we know it today, began to take form during the late 19th Century. Essentially, fashion was something that was entering the public consciousness on a scale broader than anything ever seen before. The industrial revolution played a major role in the development of fashion in a rising standard of living combined with the development of new methods of manufacturing textile goods made clothing more affordable for more people. Along with this was the rise of the middle class who now had the money and the leisure time to be able follow fashion more closely.

Where once fashion was limited to a monarch and his court, now fashion was far more defuse. Also, just as important, fashion and clothing manufacturing were developing into larger business enterprises and business concerns often drove fashion. This is similar to what we see today but only on a more limited scale with a smaller clientele. Along with the commercialization of fashion by Couturiers such as Charles Worth, Jacques Doucet, Paul Poiret, and a host of others, was the need to more effectively market their fashions. Where word-or-mouth was sufficient, more direct methods of getting fashion styles (i.e., product) before the public were needed and thus developed advertising, fashion journals, fashion plates, and later, fashion photography. With the development of the fashion industry and marketing, those who followed fashion wanted to see these fashions “live”. The concept of the runway show as a public spectacle was still years off but other ways to show off the latest styles were employed.

If it's seen at Longchamps, then you're OK... :-)

If it’s seen at Longchamps, then you’re OK… As is the case today, being seen in a public place with the just the right outfit could make all the difference. 🙂

Once such method was dressing up models with the latest styles and sending them to various public social gathering such as the horse races at Longchamps and in particular, the Grand Prix de Paris which was held every year in July. More than just a horse race, it was a day-long affair that provided a venue for people to see and been seen and that of course meant what they were wearing. Naturally, the press covered these events and end was result was free publicity. Below are just a few of the examples of the styles worn at Longchamps during the period from 1900 to 1914.

Les Modes, 1904

Les Modes, July 1904

Longchamps1

Longchamps2

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The women in the above pictures are wearing versions of the lingerie dress and one can see the influence of the s-bend corset although the silhouette is somewhat muted by the fluffy layers of fabric on the dresses. These definitely fall in the 1900 – 1910 time frame, probably more towards 1902 – 1905. And sometimes, fashion at Longchamps could cause a sensation…below is a picture from 1908 of three models wearing designs by Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix (known simply as Margaine-Lacroix) and dubbed by the press “Les Nouvelles Merveilleuses”:

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c. 1908, “Les Nouvelles Merveilleuses” as dubbed by the press- these three models caused a furor at Longchamps when they arrived- these dresses, designed by Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix were considered scandalous at the time.

The above three dresses definitely got public attention, in part because they completely did away with the conventional corset while at the same time creating a skin-tight silhouette by utilizing stretch fabrics in the dresses themselves to create the form-fitting silhouette.  Susie Ralph, a fashion historian, described it in an introduction that opened an exhibit on Margaine-Lacroix in 2013:

In 1908 Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix sent three mannequins to the Longchamp race-course clad in her form-revealing robes-tanagréennes. These corsetless dresses caused a sensation among Paris’ fashionable crowd – a riot according to some newspaper reports. Worn without corsets and slit to the knee on one side over the most transparent of underskirts, their impact on the fashion world was instantaneous and resulted in major press coverage not only in Paris but around the world. In today’s parlance the style immediately “went viral”….It was Margaine-Lacroix’s daring vision that brought to an end the ideal of the rigidly corseted hour-glass figure, and ushered in the new, slim twentieth century silhouette.

Margaine-Lacroix is an interesting designer in her own right although she is relatively unknown today. Hopefully we’ll be writing more about her in the future. Here, is where the above picture originally was featured:

new-picture-7

Controversy is no stranger to the world of fashion then or now and the debate over what exactly is too “revealing” still rages on. Moving on, fashion photography becomes ever more pervasive during in the years from 1910 – 1914. Here are some more examples:

1912-at-the-races

1912, Watching the races standing on chairs. The lines on these two dresses reflect the moved towards a more sleek, upright silhouette. Goodbye s-bend!

1914

1914, Here is an interesting design incorporating a waistcoat and cutaway coat.

Public spaces like Longchamps provided a venue for people to see “fashion in action” and for us, it provides a fascinating archive of fashion history that helps us to see fashion that is alive. We can see just how garments were worn, how they fit, and even gain some insight into the people who wore them.


Postscript:

Originally I set out to write this blog post about the development of fashion and how it was publicized on public places. However, along the way I also discovered the Les Nouvelles Merveilleuses controversy and the work of the a relatively now forgotten designer Margaine-LaCroix. It just goes to show that you learn something new everyday!😄


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An Evening Dress From Maison Worth

Today we feature yet another find from Maison Worth, in this case an evening dress from the mid-1890s from Drouot, a French antique auction website:

Worth, Evening Dress, c. Mid-1890s; Drouot Auction Website

This dress is constructed of a pink silk satin (possibly a duchesse) for both skirt and bodice. The skirt is relatively plain except for the ivory silk chiffon running along the hem. The bodice is another matter, decorated in front with a series of black bead and jeweled appliques on the front and on each sleeve cuff. Running along the bustline and the bodice back is ivory netting with spangles. To complete the design, the sleeves are three-quarter length with what appear to be pink chiffon sleeve extensions with spangles. It’s an interest effect, to say the least.

Looking at the sleeve heads, we would venture that this dress was made sometime in the 1893-1895 time frame- there’s a definite fullness but it’s not as expansive as was characteristic of the large gigot sleeves that developed as a style trend in 1895-1897; but of course, this is only conjecture on our part. Below are two close-ups of the bodice front:

The front applique panels create a very complex design. On close examination, it would appear that the base was composed of the same shade of pink netting as found on the sleeve extensions. And now for two rear views:

And a close-up of the sleeve detail:

The sleeve extensions (they see to be more than just “cuffs” to us) are quite elaborate, combining pink netting, spangles, and metallic fringe at the ends. This was probably not the most practical dinner for dining… Finally, just for completeness, here are two views of the bodice interior:

Note the distinctive petersham with the Worth logo. As with most formal bodices of the period, all the seams are boned and it’s interesting to note that the front has three bones sewn in side-by-side. All the seam edges have been finished by hand and overall, the interior appears fairly tidy.

The evening dress is fascinating in that it’s an example that hasn’t been well-documented since it’s been in private collections as opposed to a museum. We’d certainly be interested to know the provenance of the dress; it would be great to be able to find out more about but we suspect it will always remain somewhat of a question mark. We hope you’ve enjoyed most fascinating design from Maison Worth.



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