Something From The Collection…

Check out how this 1898 British designer chose to conceal the hand worked eyelets…I am currently lifting a pattern and taking notes from this beauty in our collection.

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A Trip To The Fashion Museum Bath, Part I

We began our first full day in Bath with a trip to the Fashion Museum Bath for a special viewing some select items from the museum’s collection. First up, is this evening dress/day dress made by the House of Worth either in the early or late 1890s (the official date is 1890). We’ll start with some general views:

General view of the bodice and skirt front. It’s kind of hard to capture the magnitude of the dress because it was on a table and the room was small.

The front of the bodice and upper skirt.

The bodice back.

Close-up of the bodice.

For some basic details, the dress appears to be constructed from a black silk velvet with a lighter gray floral pattern created by burning out the velvet (or so it would seem). Supplementing the floral pattern decoration on the bodice are crystals (probably Swaroviski since they were a major supplier to Worth). The official date on this dress is 1890 but to us, there may be some play in the dating- it’s hard to determine the precise silhouette since this dress is not on a mannequin but our best estimate is either early or late 1890s since the sleeves are relatively restrained, lacking the gigot sleeves characteristic of the mid-1890s. Of course, we could be wrong and if so, we graciously concede. 🙂

So far, this dress seems fairly conventional within the range of Worth and we guess that this is either a better afternoon/receiving dress or even a reception dress (probably less likely). However, once we we were able to get a better view of the skirt, the beauty of the dress was revealed:

The front of the skirt is divided by a black silk velvet panel running down the front with a string of decorative flowers running down the center. Below is a close-up of the flowers:

The flowers themselves are created by long metallic beads combined with ribbon. If you look closely around the flowers, you will notice what appears to be white spots or collections of lint; but they’re not. Actually, these are discolored worn down spots in the velvet plush where the beads had pressed down hard into the velvet. It appears that this dress was stored folded up for a long time. Now, here’s a view of the back of the skirt which really shows off the decorative pattern. Notice how it grows as it gets towards the hem. The skirt, incidentally, appears to be either a five or seven-gored single skirt characteristic of the 1890s.

Here’s some more close-up views of the burnt velvet itself:

This picture is especially interesting in that is shows that the floral pattern had subtle outlines around the individual leaves and it was hard to tell if it was burnt-out velvet or if another process was at work. The backside of the skirt offered no clues since it was completely lined with a fairly sturdy cotton.

Although this is a bit blurred, note how it’s actually two pieces of fabric coming together in the middle. Also, it’s been sewn in on the bias since the floral pattern narrows as it moves towards the top. This is also illustrated below:

Turning to the bodice, here are some views:

Closures consist of hooks and eyes and the top of the bodice and neck were lined with lace. Below is a picture of the bodice back:

The bodice back is decorated in the same way as the skirt with the floral pattern completely covering the bodice back. Also, there’s a v-back with a plain black velvet fill and the a tail at the base of the bodice that provides a natural beginning for the pattern seen on the back of the skirt. The eye is naturally drawn up and down. 🙂 Next, here are close-up views of one of the sleeves:


Note the crystals that add to the overall effect. 🙂 And just to be complete, here are some interior views:

The bodice interior. It’s lined with what appears to be a black polished cotton. Note the three eyes- these attached corresponding hooks that are set in the back of the skirt to prevent any separation between the skirt and bodice. Here’s a view of the interior stitching:

The back and front of the bodice are lightly boned on top of the major seam lines to maintain their shape (a corset was worn underneath to maintain the basic silhouette (body contouring, if you will). Also, note that the seam allowances are all finished by overcast stitching, which was standard for the time, and tacked down to the lining. Compared to some Worth dresses we have examined, this is actually pretty tidy. Below are some more interior views:

In all the Worth dresses we’ve examined, the seam allowances are notched with gentle edges which allows the fabric to follow the bodice curves with no bunching or bubbles. Also, note that the bodice is NOT constructed as what’s referred to today as a “turn and flip.” Rather, the pattern pieces were flat-lined with each piece of fashion fabric stitched to it’s corresponding lining pattern piece BEFORE the pieces are sewn together.

And the iconic Worth label.

Overall, it’s a fantastic dress and is a good example of Worth’s later work and illustrates the construction techniques that were utilized during the period. The design is elegant and definitely catches the eye, leading it up and down the dress to admire the complete floral decorative effect. It’s simply brilliant. 🙂 We’re honored that we had the opportunity to view it in person- merci beaucoup to the museum staff!

(To be continued…)

Color And The Perfect Dress…

Color is one of the cornerstones of any dress design and as such, it’s one of the designer’s first considerations along with silhouette, line, and fabrics. So, once the color and fabric are selected, that’s it- on to the other parts of the design, right? Well, most of the time, yes. Generally, fabric color is set during the manufacturing process either by dying the filaments before they’re spun into threads or yarns; dying the yarns/treads before weaving the fabric, or dying the fabric after it’s been woven. So it would seem that’s settled…or is it?

Well, there are exceptions…through the use of specific fabric types and fabric manipulation, the designer can present new colors as well and even create the illusion of changing colors to create new color effects while adding variety and interest to the basic design. One of the simplest techniques involves the layering one or more fabrics over each other, a style characteristic of the Nouveau Directoire style that was popular during the years 1908 -1913. One such example is this evening dress from circa 1909:

Evening Dress c. 1909

Whelan-Hannan, Evening Dress, 1909; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1981.518.3)

Evening Dress c. 1909

Rear View

Evening Dress c. 1909

Side Profile

In this example, the underskirt is a medium hued turquoise colored silk satin covered with a black net overskirt. The turquoise underskirt is still visible under the black net but now it’s become considerably darker. At the same time, the shiny luster of the silk satin fabric has disappeared and the luster has been dulled down.

Below is a close-up of the upper front. In the center above the waistband, there’s a cut-out portion in the lace/net overlay where the underskirt fabric is visible and one can see the difference between the two colors side-by-side.

Evening Dress c. 1909

Close-Up of Bodice

Finally, just for completeness, the label:

Evening Dress c. 1909


In terms of color theory, the color palette of the above dress is monochromatic: the colors one sees with and without the netting are both a turquoise but one is a darker hue than the other with the dark hue created by the addition of the black net. This is a somewhat simplified explanation but important point is that the original fabric color was modified merely by the addition of another fabric. Of course, for this to work, it relies on a more solid structured fabric to be covered by one that’s thinner and semi-transparent such as net.

The layering effect described above is more pronounced in some eras more than others with the late Edwardian Era being one of the most prominent for this style. Here are a couple more examples of this style:

 Evening Dress Jeanne Paquin 1912

Color has always been area fascination for us and we hope to present a little more of this in future posts so stay tuned.

Fashion Friday- The Dress Of The Day

We are constantly on the search for the new and different when it comes to dress designs and not a day goes by when we find something new. Today we present an evening wedding reception dress (although it would work in daytime) from circa 1885 belonging to the Palais Galliera musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris:

Reception Dress Day Dress  c. 1885

Blanche Bouchet, Wedding Reception Dress, c. 1885; Galliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris.

Reception Dress Day Dress  c. 1885

Side Profile

Reception Dress Day Dress  c. 1885

Rear View

This dress has a silhouette characteristic of the Mid to Late 1880s and the side/back bodice and overskirt are constructed of, what appears to be, a light blue silk faille. In contrast, the front bodice and underskirt are constructed of , what appears to be, a blue silk velvet with beadwork in a floral pattern. In viewing this dress, the first thing that the eye is drawn to is the beadwork and the skirts are arranged to show off the large floral motif to its best advantage. The floral motif continues up the front of the bodice in two pieces, cut to create a set of facings that become wider as they approach the neckline, and ending with a matching tall mandarin-style collar. Finally, the velvet beading is also carried out in the cuffs.

Below are some close-up pictures that I created from the original pictures with photo editing software (not perfect but it should give a good idea of the dress details):

Day Reception Dress c. 1885

Close-Up of the front bodice.

Above is some more detail of the front bodice- one can get a better sense of the beading on the blue velvet background set against a lighter blue tint. What is especially interesting is the texture of the light blue silk. Allowing for the vagaries of digital imaging, one can make out horizontal striping on the fabric for the shoulders and overskirt. The stripes are at a 45 degree angle on the bodice front to the left and right of the velvet panels- no doubt these were cut on the bias (at least we think so, a physical examination would clear up this point conclusively). Whether these stripes are the result of using different colored filaments in the weave or simply the product of the weaving process itself is difficult to tell.

Below is a close-up of the lower front under skirt and it’s here that one can see the flowered motif really come to life, the flowers and vines becoming much larger, creating a garden effect.


Below is a close-up of the texturing mentioned above. From the picture, it would appear that a darker shade of blue have been woven into the fabric, interspersed with the lighter blue yarns (these would be the weft yarns). The warp yarns would only be the lighter blue. It also wouldn’t be surprising if the dark blue weft yarns were also thicker than the lighter blue yarns so they would be more prominent. Overall, the textile effect is brilliant and it’s a pity that we cannot have examined this in person.


This dress is an interesting example of the styles that were coming out in the mid to late 1880s: elegant with simple, sharp lines. In contrast to the 1870s, this style is disciplined and “tidy”, relying more on the basic effect of the fabric and its surface decoration rather than added in trims and embellishments. It would seem that everything on this dress is done for a purpose and is all part of a cohesive whole with perfect balance and proportion. It’s a pity that we couldn’t get better pictures of the dress (the Palais Galliera is a horrible website to maneuver through) but we hope we’ve been able to adequately portray at least a portion of the dresse’s essence. Stay tuned for more! 🙂

End Of The Year…Goodbye 2017

Cafe 1887

Robert Koehler, At The Cafe, 1887

The days between Christmas and the New Year’s have always been a favorite with us as we wind down the year and think about everything we’ve achieved in the past year and what we hope to accomplish in the new year. Lily Absinthe continues to grow as we constantly strive to incorporate new ideas and improve upon older ones. For 2018, we commit ourselves once again to striving to be the best at what we do and we look forward to serving you. 🙂