Some 1890s Style…

The styles of the 1890s never fail to fascinate us here at Lily Absinthe- at the same time they look represent one of the heights of Victorian fashion yet at the same time give a hint of fashion developments to come in later years. To start, here’s a more formal day or reception dress from the mid 1890s:

Day Dress, Mid 1890s; Augusta Auctions, Museum of the City of New York Deaccession.

Three-Quarter Front View

Side Profile

Rear View

Style-wise, this dress has a silhouette characteristic of the 1890s, characterized by an upright cylindrical profile. The skirt and bodice are constructed of a bottle green silk velvet combined with what appear to be silk faille facings and collar created to look like a faux vest underneath (no doubt, it’s all one piece in actuality). The faux vest/waistcoat is especially striking in that it almost jumps out from the dress with its contrasting ivory silk faille set against the bottle green velvet, effect that’s enhanced by the velvet absorbing light because of its texture and depth. Here’s a closer view:

Close-up of front.

The jeweling and decoration on the silk faille further enhances the bodice’s effect:

Detail of front bodice.

Collar Detail

Detail of front bottom corner of bodice.

Detail of facing.

Overall, this is a textbook case of how various different fabrics and colors and be combined to create an effect that’s greater than the sum of its parts. The eye is instantly drawn to the bodice, following the dresses’ vertical silhouette. Unfortunately, there’s no detail as to who designed and constructed this dress so that remains a mystery but never the less, this is a testament to 1890s style in that it’s both backward and forward-looking at the same time. The faux vest/waistcoat is reminiscent of later 18th Century styles while at the same time, the silhouette, fabrics and colors seem point towards later dress styles- the lines are clean and the bodice is restrained in its decoration and balances the skirt nicely. Definitely an aesthetic treat to behold and it will certainly serve as a source of inspiration for us.

And For Some More Originals…

LBD*, circa most likely 1898 with those smaller sleeve puffs at the shoulder and that interesting shirred silk brocade contrast arm gusset that matches the applied collar pieces. Someone tried to steal some of her inner boning before she came to live with us, but that assault allows us to politely inspect her insides. Don’t you love that pretty cotton print on the inside and those precise hand stitches for her Hong Kong finishes? She’s not a mourning bodice, she was somebody’s special gown that glittered with every graceful corseted turn. I like to think she’s seen a lot of happy occasions and deserves the love we can give her. She’s definitely on my “must pattern her” list! 🙂

*Little Black Dress- term made famous by Coco Chanel

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. 🙂

The Ensemble Dress, c. 1877

Ensemble dresses were not just present in the 1890s- here’s an example from circa 1877 by Worth:

Worth Reception Dress 1877

Worth, Ensemble Dress, c. 1877 – 1878; Cincinnati Art Museum (1986.1200a-c)

The view above reflects the cuirass bodice style that was coming into vogue during the late 1870s and the lines are well-sculpted and clean with a minimum of trim. This bodice was intended more for wear at daytime functions while the bodice below was meant for evening functions:

Reception gown, Worth, c. 1877-78

With the night bodice.

Here’s a close up of the day bodice. The edges of the bodice front openings and sleeve cuffs are trimmed with the same fabric that the underskirt is made from, combined with lace trim.

Reception gown, Worth, c. 1877-78.

Close-up of the day bodice.

Although we don’t have a side profile picture, it does appear that the silhouette is a bit more slimmed down and with the cuirass bodice, the wouldn’t be much room for a full bustle.  Stay tuned for more on ensemble dresses…