Designs From Maison Worth


The Master Himself

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:

Worth Evening Cape 1889_3

Worth Evening Cape 1889_4

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.

Paris_1889_plakatThe above fabric was ultimately made into an evening cape that was designed to show off the tulip design to its maximum advantage:

Worth_Evening Cape 1889_1

Front View- Evening Cape, House of Worth, 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1708)

Worth_Evening Cape 1889_2

Rear View- Evening Cape, House of Worth, 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1708)

Worth_Evening Cape 1889_5

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. 🙂

Outerwear Style c. 1870

Today we feature an interesting circa 1870 visite from the Musée des Arts Décoratifs:

Visite, c. 1870; Musee de Arts Decoratifs (Inv. 49228), © MAD, Paris / photo : Jean Tholance

This visite is constructed from a combination of a silk jacquard in green, red, black, and gold and a what appears to be a black silk velvet with a raised floral design- it’s very hard to make out from the pictures. The multi-color jacquard runs along the front and it used in the sleeves and lower back; again, it’s difficult to make out the precise construction. Finally, the edges are trimmed with gold knot-work fringe. In many respects, this style is very reminiscent of 1860s mantles.

Below is a close-up of the sleeve:

In the above picture, one can see the elaborate silk jacquard pattern that’s very reminiscent of a tapestry and edged with knot-work fringe. Overall, the combination of a multicolor jacquard combined with black creates a very dramatic style effect and especially when it comes to the front and sleeves. It’s too bad that there are no pictures detailing the construction and especially on the back where the jacquard and the black velvet meet. This is an excellent example of early 1870s outerwear style and definitely would be a good candidate for recreating.

Winter In The West

Day Three of #VictorianFebruary hosted by @ladyrebeccafashions is: “Winter”…well, Los Angeles isn’t that wintry, but when we want “weather”, we go to our house in Tombstone, AZ. Brrrrrrr! Old West Winter fun 🙂

At The Dressmaker’s Cottage at No. 11.

Outside of the Bird Cage Theater.

1890s Cape

At Big Nose Kate’s warming up with an Irish Coffee.

I’m afraid that’s pretty much it in the way of “winter” pictures- we just don’t get much weather weather in Southern California. 🙂

And For The Winter Season From Maison Worth

Norbert Goeneutte, “The Boulevard de Clichy under Snow 1876”

Winter is here and with it, outerwear takes on a whole new importance. Here’s one spectacular design from Maison Worth from the late 1890s to help keep the winter cold at bay… 🙂

Worth, Evening Mantle, c. Late 1890s; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.51.69.2)

This mantle/coat is a stunner with silk velvet (most likely) floral pattern fashion fabric combined with sleeves lined with black silk velvet and collar and upper capelet also of the same black silk velvet. As a counterpoint, the facings are a cream/ivory colored silk satin edged in lace filigree. Finally, trimming the neck are cream/ivory feathers. Below is a close-up of the upper front:

Close-Up of Front

Side Profile

The sides and back really show off the floral pattern fashion fabric nicely.

And below is a close-up of the fashion fabric:

Close-up of fashion fabric.

From the above photo, it appears that the fashion fabric’s floral pattern is either created from burned out velvet or the black floral elements are velvet appliques. It’s hard to tell without examining it in person. And finally, we have the characteristic Maison Worth label:


As with many of Maison Worth’s creations that we’ve viewed online, mere photos don’t tell the whole story and it’s too bad that we aren’t able to view this coat in person because we’re sure it would have a lot more to tell. But in spite of this, it’s still a marvelous example of the designs that Maison Worth produced during the 1880s and 90s. 🙂


Some More 1880s Outerwear…


n a previous post, we discussed 1880s outerwear of a more practical outerwear nature and illustrated it with some examples. Today, we focus in just a bit more with this one particular 1880s coat style as illustrated in the November 7, 1886 issue of La Mode de Illustree:

Manteau et toque en peluche garnis de fourrure – Coat and hat trimmed in plush and fur.

This is a very practical style, to say the least and here’s an extant coat from circa 1885 that replicates this design to a great degree:

Coat, c. 1885; Chicago History Museum (1960.592)

This coat is made from a light brown silk velvet plush and trimmed on the opening edges and hem with an ivory lambs wool.  The coat is also lined in the same ivory lambs wool and there are interior ties to help create a snug fit. The center back has an opening to accommodate the bustle/train. This example is probably a bit more on the high end. But just to show that coat styles were not limited to high-end clientele, below are some sample pages from the Strawbridge & Clothier Quarterly Catalog for Spring 18831Strawbridge & Clothier was a department store located in Philadelphia that catered to a mostly middle-class market.:

While a coat may not be necessary for a recreated wardrobe, it’s still good to know about the range of garments that were available back in the 1880s and if nothing else, it’s interesting to see how outerwear was constructed to accommodate what was worn underneath.