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).

Élisabeth_de_Caraman-Chimay_(1860-1952)_A

Countess Greffulhe

Élisabeth_de_Caraman-Chimay_(1860-1952)_D

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:

tumblr_nwqgsiCMv41swhcebo3_400

tumblr_nwqgsiCMv41swhcebo2_1280

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)

e8eab6c1ff0875cbf002a801e4d54973

Three Quarter Frontal View

tumblr_n7li75flJS1qf46efo2_500

Three Quarter Rear View

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

17_worth_tea_gown_-_illustration_aurore_de_la_morinerie_0

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.



Early Princess Style…

It’s generally accepted that the princess dress style began to gain traction around 1876-1878. However,  as with most fashion trends, the princess dress didn’t just spontaneously appear but rather it was a product of an evolutionary process that we’ve managed to trace back to at least 1874.  One of the more logical places for the princess style to develop was with house dresses because of their simple, relatively loose construction. Below are two designs that were offered for sale as patterns in the October 1874 issue of Demorest’s Family Magazine:

The Griselda Polonaise is described as:

The recent styles, however furnish a concession to the rage for jackets, and by a clever addition of a “basque,” or “jacket ” back, give the effect of two separate parts to the costume. A stylish example of this is illustrated in the “Griselda” polonaise, one of the prettiest, and at the same time, one of the most practical designs of the season. It is long, straight around, with just enough fullness to make it graceful, and is fitted with a slashed basque, which comes far enough forward to furnish the jacket effect. The revers collar extends into square tabs at the back—tho ends of which are finished with woolen ball, or tasseled fringe to match the basque. Plaitings may be employed if the design is used in the making of an alpaca suit, but the whole amount of fringe required, will not be over a yard and a-half.

What is interesting about the “Griselda Polonaise” is that it’s not referred to at all as a princess dress but rather focuses on the faux jacket style that serves to create an illusion that there are two separate parts the dress. Of course, one look at the dress front illustration makes it clear that this is a one-piece garment.

The Camilla Gabrielle as:

A new style of the princess dress will be found in the “camilla” gabrielle, a very dressy design, easily arranged however, and adapted to a wide class of materials…it forms a ladylike indoor dress for either city or country, requires a comparatively small amount of material, and but little trimming to make a stylish dress.

Both of the above styles are very elegant versions of the indoor house dress while at the same time emphasizing that they don’t require a lot of expensive materials.  Here’s an extant example of a house dress from circa 1875:

House Dress, 1875; Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti

This dress has a princess silhouette and is constructed from a combination of lavender and dark purple/eggplant silk taffeta. This style is very similar to the above engravings from Demorest’s with a few  variations on decorative treatments. What’s striking about this dress is the use of contrasting dark and light panels, a feature that would become common into the late 1870s. Also, we can see that with this style, it wasn’t too far of a leap to migrate into a full-blown day dress suitable for wear outside the house as can be seen with this example:

Another interesting feature about the earlier princess style dresses is that we can also see an evolution from a long polonaise into a more proper dress and this is evident with the these two dress styles that appeared in the June 4, 1876 and August 2, 1876 issues of Le Moniteur de la Mode:

In the above two fashion plates, one can see very visible underskirts that are more than simple hems but rather suggest that the style started with a two-piece skirt and polonaise with the polonaise becoming longer to the point where an underskirt was either no longer needed or remained in a vestigial form with an elaborate hem and train.  Now, just to throw some other elements into the princess dress style, there’s this plate, also from an 1876 issue of Le Moniteur de la Mode:

Here we see the princess line combined with an outer redingote combined with the suggestion of an underskirt and waist/vest (we believe that much of this would have actually been of a one-piece construction.  The redingote, combined with the wide lapels and elaborate tails, definitely reads Directoire; whether this was solely a concept piece only depicted in a fashion plate or actually makes for interesting speculation. In the end, the only major takeaway from all of this is that fashion evolves while at the same time combining other style elements in a seemingly endless variety of combinations and it can be said that there’s definitely a lot to consider in designing a recreation of the princess style dress, whether it’s a house dress, tea gown, or full-blown day/afternoon dress.