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:
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:
The Alternate Bodice
And here’s a rear view of the dress with the day bodice:
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.
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.
Perhaps the extreme hot weather we’re dealing with in Southern California or simply the aesthetics but tea gowns have been an object of interest for us lately. As noted in a prior post, the tea gown was an informal garment that was meant to be worn without a corset (in practice, this was not always the case) although many tea gowns were boned in the bodice area to provide a little structure.
There was certainly a wide variety of tea gown styles that were available ranging from ones mass-produced for the middle class market to the haute couture varieties aimed at a more upscale clientele. Below is one example from 1894, complete with gigot sleeves, offered by Maison Worth:
Worth, Tea Gown, 1894; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.637)
And here’s another offering from Worth, circa 1900 – 1901:
Worth, Tea Gown, c. 1900 – 1901; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.2498)
And if one could not afford to buy a ready-made tea gown, they could make their own:
The tea gown offered another alternative for women’s wear and it’s interesting to see how the varieties that were out there. Stay tuned for more in the future. 🙂
And for a extra little color, today we feature this Natural Form/Mid-Bustle Era day dress from Charles Worth in shades of orange:
Worth, Day Dress, c. 1878-1883; Augusta Auctions
The silhouette is quintessential late 1870s/early 1880s consisting of a long cuirass bodice with three-quarter sleeves that covers the hips along with an over/underskirt combination. Judging from the long train, it suggests that this dress was meant for more formal day occasions, whether at home or in public. The base fashion fabric for the bodice, overskirt, and train appear to be a wine-colored striped silk taffeta (perhaps?) overlaid with a burnt orange floral pattern. The colors are analogous, providing a palette of warm colors. The underskirt and front bodice insert appear to be a champagne-colored silk satin, trimmed with lace and ribbons on the skirt. The champagne color provides a cool color contrast that only serves to emphasize the bodice and outerskirt.
Here’s a nice view of the train and while it’s substantial, it’s still a demi-train (it’s fairly subjective here). Below is a close-up view of the fashion fabric. From the vertical ribs, it appears to be silk gold flower appliques laid over a silk burgundy stripe fabric. The fabric is fascinating and we would definitely want to study it up close in person.
The red-orange fashion fabric is definitely the centerpiece of this dress and gives it a special, unique appearance. While it’s tempting to classify this as “Fall colors”, it would be a mistake to do so in that Victorians were somewhat flexible when it came to associating colors with specific seasons. But, nevertheless, this is an excellent example of using color to define a dress style and it definitely carries a great impact. 🙂
Today we take you across the ocean to Paris, the capital of fashion in the late 19th Century for a brief look at one (of many) creation by Frederick Charles Worth. Worth was one of the first “name” fashion designers who pioneered what ultimately was to become the Haute Couture system that ruled the fashion world for almost a century.
Along with creating his own dress designs, Worth also commissioned his own custom fabrics and in particular he patronized the French silk industry centered in Lyon1Unfortunately, the silk industry in Lyon has diminished since the late 19th Century and today, Prelle et Cie is one of the few silk weavers that remain. Prelle’s silks have been used to restore a wide variety of historic sites worldwide and they even recreated many of the silk fabrics used in 2006 film Marie Antoinette.. One such creation that Worth commissioned from the firm of Morel, Poeckès & Paumlin in 1889 was the Tulipes Hollandaises (“Holland Tulips). The design was intended to push the silk weaver’s art to its limits, the design has a three-foot repeat in the pattern which made it difficult to weave.
Below are two pictures of the textile’s design:
The tulips are depicted in bright colors set against a black background and some commentators have characterized it as an “aggressive” design intended to make a bold statement, especially given the size of the design repeat.
As part of the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris, the products of French industry were exhibited and naturally the textile and couture industries were part of it. The above textile was put on display and it ultimately was awarded a grand prize.
The above fabric was ultimately made into an evening cape that was designed to show off the tulip design to its maximum advantage:
Front View- Evening Cape, House of Worth, 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1708)
Rear View- Evening Cape, House of Worth, 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1708)
Here’s a view that’s a bit less sterile than what is normally encountered in a museum setting.
The above evening cape shows off the silk textile to its maximum advantage. Some could argue that it’s excessive and perhaps even gauche but that was the nature of Haute Couture in the late 19th Century and given the spirit of the time, anything less would have been dismissed as banal. Less was definitely not more during the Belle Epoch. 🙂
Worth gowns are always a delight to look at but unfortunately, the years have not always been kind to these garments. Here’s a video of efforts to restore and preserve on specific 1897 evening dress that’s in the Olive Matthews Collection at the Chertsey Museum.