Gigot Sleeve Style…

Gigot, or leg-of-mutton, sleeves was one the key defining elements in Mid-1890s style. Often taken to extravagant lengths, it’s a style element that dominated any dress whether for good or ill. When used judiciously and balanced against other style elements in a dress, the effect could be amazing. However, done wrong, the result could be atrocious to the point where the wearer of the dress’ face disappears in a sea of poufy fabric. Below is an example when it’s done right as with this 1895 house dress/tea gown Laboudt & Robina1One could argue that this dress is either a tea gown or a house dress and either would fit, in our opinion.:

Laboudt & Robina, House Dress/Tea Gown, 1895; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.670)

Three-Quarter Rear View

This garment is constructed from a dark blue silk velvet combined with a lighter blue patterned silk taffeta or bengaline for the sleeves and the edges of a front inset panel. The inset panel appears to be an silk embroidered decorative motif consisting of bunches of flowers set against an ivory silk satin. The patterned fabric on the sleeves and garment front consist of large swirls of black and yellow and draw attention to the sleeves in an aesthetically pleasing manner. In terms of silhouette, the garment features a fitted waist and is clearly intended for wear with a corset and is designed to mimic a robe. While it could be argued as to whether this is a fancy house dress or a formal tea gown, either way it was intended as more of an at-home dress.   Below is a close-up of the decorative front trim:

Trim Detail

While it may seem to be a bit of a reach, the blue patterned silk reminds us of the night sky in this painting The Starry Night by Van Gogh:

Vincent Van Gogh, The Starry Night, 1889

In terms of overall style, this house dress/tea gown stands out as one of the best examples of this style but for us, the most striking thing about it are the sleeves which act as a major style element but not to the exclusion of all else. With this garment, the gigot sleeve style has been taken to a new height of sheer aesthetic beauty.



Pingat & Tea Gowns

No sooner did we say that tea gowns didn’t seem to be a thing with Emile Pingat than this amazing circa 1892 example from the National Gallery of Australia came along:  🙂

Emile Pingat, Tea Gown, c. 1892; National Gallery of Australia (NGA 92.1129.A-B)

This design takes the while idea of a “tea gown” and takes the style to the extreme, elevating it to an extremely fashionable garment. Utilizing complementary colors of acid yellow and dark brown, the gown combines a silk satin skirt and bodice and velvet sleeves with a Medici collar. The effect is further enhanced by the same brown velvet running along the skirt hem. Finally, a large belt with a jeweled design and decorative panel running down the gown front completes the gown’s dramatic effect. With the belt, it’s difficult to tell if it’s a princess line or not but in either case, the silhouette is a typical 1890s style. With the Medici collar and jeweled velvet sleeves, this gown reads Renaissance with a nod to aesthetic dress. And here’s the rear view:

Fashion has always been a play between extremes and this tea gown is no exception in that Pingat’s design pushes the boundaries of what a tea gown was intended to be- what was once meant as a casual garment for wear at home has now been transformed far beyond that definition to the point where it bears little difference between it and full-on formal wear. Of course, one could argue that perhaps it’s more a matter of the dress being mislabeled by the museum and we acknowledge that it’s quite possible too although the neo-Renaissance style seems to belie that a bit. In either case, without further documentation, all we can do is speculate but one can’t deny the dramatic style effect either way.



And Something New From Maison Pingat…

We don’t normally associate Emile Pingat with more casual designs such as tea gowns and morning dresses but that’s not always the case. Recently, we came across this interesting 1890s era example that was on an auction website:  🙂

Pingat, Tea Gown, c. 1890s; Whitaker Auctions

This dress is constructed from cream-colored wool trimmed with ivory lace at the sleeve cuffs and neck. The dress is also trimmed in a floral pattern constructed from soutache cord appliques mounted on linen running along the hem, neck, and dress front.

This dress has a silhouette that approximates the quintessential 1890s x-silhouette yet the lines are more loose and free-flowing, aided by the princess line style. This dress reads “tea gown” although it would also work for a house or morning dress; in any event, this was probably a bit too casual for going outside of the house and was intended for wear at home. As we’ve commented on other tea gowns, Pingat has taken what was meant to be a simple style and upgraded into more of a couture gown. Here’s some close-up views:

This close-up view from the rear shows the princess line seamwork although there are waist lines on the side pieces- whether these are simply stitch lines or actual seams is hard to determine from the picture but either way, the dress reads princess line. The sleeves are elbow length and have moderate poufs on the sleeve caps- based on the sleeve caps, we’d be willing to estimate that this was garment was made something in the 1893-1894 time frame but this is just an estimate on our part.1Unfortunately, like most auction website listings, the dating is very vague and in this case, it just stated that it was “1890s” which is not very helpful.

The above lace collar extends up the neck and is topped off by a row of tiny silk flowers. Also, the pictures above and below show excellent close-up views of the applique decorative design and in many respects it’s reminiscent of trapunto.

The dress was front opening and concealed by this elaborately worked placket consisting of raised appliques worked in a floral pattern designed to mimic a vine with flowers. It’s a very cleaver design solution and keeps the rest of the dress lines clean, unfettered by the need for an opening.

And here we seen Pingat’s label stamped into the petersham, something that was very common for couture houses to do. The petersham was intended as a way to control the dress and keep it firmly attached at the waist. With this tea gown, we see a design is simple and elegant, embodying the oft-quoted idea of “less is more;” it’s definitely that. With dress’s simple, clean lines acting as a canvas for the restrained decorative scheme, and it all harmonizes together nicely.

 



And Something For The Bridal Line…

I‘ve been slowly building a dress sample based on the styles of tea gowns and lingerie dresses from the 1899-1905 era for our Bridal line. This one is all fine sheer cottons, mostly pearl white worn over buttercream yellow, antique lace front panels and insertion, and dyed to match silk ribbon. Our original idea was to make this from white over blue…and then a friend gifted me with a bolt of vintage white and yellow dotted Swiss, and everything changed!  🙂

 



Fashion & Celebrity: The Countess Greffulhe

During the 19th Century, the connection between celebrity and fashion became increasingly intertwined. One of the first designers to exploit this connection was Charles Frederick Worth and assisted by the growth of the fashion press, Worth developed into an arbiter of fashion (while at the same time increasing his sales).

One such celebrity connection was Marie Anatole Louise Élisabeth, Countess Greffulhe née de Riquet de Caraman-Chimay (July 11, 1860 – August 21, 1952). Born to Belgian nobility and cousin of the poet and dandy Robert de Montesquiou, Comtesse de Greffulhe was the acknowledged leader of Parisian society by the 1880s and was noted for her association with various artists and writers and was even immortalized by Marcel Proust as the Duchess of Guermantes in his novel In Search of Lost Time. Some of her achievements as a patron are described here:

She was an early adept of ‘fundraising’. As founding president of the Société des Grandes Auditions Musicales, she turned charity work into public relations. With tremendous practical acumen, she raised funds and produced and promoted operas and shows, which included Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde and Twilight of the Gods, Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, and Isadora Duncan. In addition to this, she was a political animal – a fierce supporter, for example, of Captain Dreyfus, Leon Blum, and the Popular Front’. She was also a passionate sponsor of science: she helped Marie Curie to finance the Institute of Radium, and Edouard Branly pursue his research into wireless telegraphy (Palais Galliera).

The Comtesse was also celebrated for her beauty and taste in clothing:

Countess Greffulhe was the epitome of elegance, with glorious outfits to match. Her public appearances were highly theatrical, with a sense of their being rare, fleeting and incomparably fascinating, in a cloud of tulle, gauze, chiffon and feathers, or in her kimono jackets, her velvet coats, with her oriental patterns, her shades of gold and silver, pink and green. The outfits were carefully chosen to emphasize her slim waist and her slender figure (Palais Galliera).

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Countess Greffulhe

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Much of the Countess Greffulhe’s wardrobe survives to this day and in fact, is the subject of an exhibition at the Palais Galliera in Paris and will be coming to this country later this year in September 2016 at the Museum at FIT, New York. Below are both pictures of one of the dresses along with the Countess wearing it:

ROBE DU SOIR PORTEE PAR LA COMTESSE GREFFULHE

Evening Dress, Worth, 1896; Palais Galliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris (GAL1978.20.1)

The dress itself is made from a black silk velvet decorated in white satin appliques embroidered with metal cannetilles and old sequins. The collar/bertha could be turned up like a pair of bat’s wings. Below are two pictures of the Countess wearing the dress:

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When compared against the original dress, it is evident that that the collar/bertha has been altered. Also, it appears that the dress originally had a white embroidered panel running down the front that appears to have been removed.

Another Worth dress that belonged to the Countess is this iconic green tea dress:

Tea Dress by Designer Charles Frederick Worth circa 1895

Tea Dress, Worth c. 1895; Palais Galliera (GAL1964.20.4)

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Three Quarter Frontal View

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Three Quarter Rear View

This tea dress was constructed from a dark blue-black cut velvet on an silk satin emerald background.

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Illustration Of The Tea Dress – Specific Details Unknown

Finally, we’ll wrap up with this double portrait of the Countess that was taken in 1899 by the photographer Otto Wegener in which she’s seen to be embracing herself, the figures dressed in contrasting white and black dresses. This photo was achieved by the superimposing of two negatives onto each other and it’s an interesting portrayal. The exact motive for her having this picture taken is lost to posterity but some theorize that it was meant to be a musing on the fragile nature of beauty over time. We leave to the reader to draw their own conclusions… 🙂

Otto Wegener, The Countess Greffulhe, 1899; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2005.100.622)

The Countess Greffulhe was a dynamic woman who was an influential force in Parisian society during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries and as such embodied the idea of “patron of the arts” and from the looks of it, fashion was no exception. In the end, fashion exists as part of society, not apart from it. 🙂

P.S. On our first trip to Paris, we discovered that the hotel we were staying at is located across the street from where the Countess’ mansion was located. Unfortunately, it’s now the site of an ugly office building.