1890s Day Wear & Poplin

From the July 16, 1899 issue of La Mode Illustree, this elegant yet functional walking suit style described as a toilette de visites ornee d’applications (roughly translated as a “Visiting outfit decorated with appliqués”):

This style features a simple wrap-around multi-gore fan skirt characteristic of the 1890s and decorated with a large floral design on the outer corner of the wrap skirt. The bodice is interesting in that it’s a jacket-bodice that’s intended to mimic a jacket over a vest although if you study the illustration, it seems that the vest blends into the jacket revers but you can just barely make out a faint line dividing the two- talk about optical illusion. 😉

Here’s some more details from the description: The dress is made from a bottle-green summer-weight poplin.  Also, the skirt is decorated with a large white lily appliqué on the right front of the skirt and white trim run along the edge of the skirt. On the jacket-bodice, the lily theme is taken further with a white decorative lily motif trim on the sleeves and bodice front- it’s also noted that the appliqués are edged in bottle-green silk to match the overall dress color.  At the top of the vest portion of the jacket-bodice, there’s a silk green plastron covered by white ecru lace.1This is an extremely rough English translation from the description in the original publication.

This is an interesting style and it would have been nice to see fully created. What really sticks out is the use of a poplin fabric. During the late 19th Century, poplin was a plain weave fabric that usually combined silk warp yarns with wool weft yarns and often given a moire finish.2Dictionary of Textiles, 8th Edition; today, Poplin is woven from a variety of fibers, mostly cotton and the finish is often flat. Often confused with Broadcloth, Poplin is heavier. Although the fashion illustration doesn’t really provide any clues in terms of finish, it still bears more investigation as a fabric for spring and summer garments.



And Now For An 1890s Velvet Walking Suit…

Velvet was a go-to fabric for many late 19th Century designs and sometimes it could be taken to extremes as with this circa 1897-1900 walking suit:

Walking Suit, c. 1897-1900; Galliera Musée de la Mode

This is an interesting outfit on several levels. First, it would appear that this is a walking suit of sorts with a long fitted jacket that’s more characteristic of the 1908-1912 time frame while at the same time, the upper sleeves read more late 1890s. From a silhouette perspective, we see the nipped waist characteristic of the 1890s combined with a multi-gored skirt. Unfortunately, we don’t have a frontal view of this garment so we can only guess at what’s going on but based on other examples, it’s most likely that there would have been some sort of real or faux waistcoat/waist combination. Finally, to complete the style, the cuffs are also decorated with a scaled down version of the flame pattern

This most notable feature of this suit is the use of magenta-colored silk velvet on a major scale- both the skirt and bodice/jacket use it on lavishly to the point where it appears that the suit is almost entirely velvet with accents of a lighter shade of magenta-colored fabric- perhaps wool or a silk faille. Even more compelling is that the entire lower part of the skirt is covered in velvet, tapering off in a series of flame or tentacle-like tips in the middle. The overall effect is dramatic, especially since the decorative scheme on the jacket/bodice is similar but reversed with the flames/tentacles going downwards and made from the lighter fabric. Finally, a word about color- this is one of the better examples of the use of saturated jewel tone colors, in this case two shades of magenta and effect is just stunning.

Unfortunately, on a practical level, we also realize that the fabrics and colors read “winter” and as a practical matter, replicating a walking suit similar to this wouldn’t work for us here in the American Southwest. But it would be perfect for a trip to the British Isles… 🙂



Inspiration Doesn’t Punch A Time Clock

We are often asked about how we get our inspiration for our designs. Well, there’s no easy answer there but there is one thing that can be definitely be said: inspiration doesn’t punch a time clock and neither do we here at Lily Absinthe! 🙂 Often inspiration can arrive at the oddest of moments- whether we’re driving to an appointment, drinking coffee in the backyard and watching the dogs, or simply thumbing through a magazine. 🙂 One just never knows but the one element that’s constant is that it’s a nonstop process.

John Singer Sargent, Carmencita, 1890, Musée d’Orsay, Paris

At Lily Absinthe, we constantly strive to explore new colors and new style elements, working them in various combinations. Some don’t feel right and are quickly discarded, others get filed away for awhile and perhaps re-worked at a future date, and some we immediately act on- there are those moments when the design exerts such a power influence that it simply can’t be ignored.

Many of our designs focus on the creation of three-dimensional effects in the fabric, something that’s achieved through combinations of fabrics of different textures and the use of complementary and contrasting colors, aesthetics that were commonly used in the 19th Century and are very relevant even in more modern designs.

With that said, let’s take a closer look at just one of our many projects:

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Here we have silk velvet (the ONLY kind of velvet we use, by the way) revers and beribboned silk organza flutings for a beautiful Lily Absinthe bride. <3

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And here’s another view of the hem- that’s a lot of knife pleating going on there. 😉

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And a little late night silk velvet piping for one of the dresses… In this design, the whole objective to present something that’s unified yet unique in its elements. Fabrics of varying luster, weight, and texture are combined to create a dress that has a life of its own. We hope you’ve enjoyed this one example of our designs here at Lily Absinthe.



1890s Style- A Quick Overview

Probably one of the the most iconic fashion styles is 1890s style with its leg-of-mutton sleeves and the wasp waist. One of the basic rules of fashion is that fashion will emphasize a particular body part until it reaches a point of excess and a reaction sets in and the emphasis then shifting to another body part. For 1890s style, we see it developing in reaction to the excesses of the bustle era and in particular, its last flowering in the mid to late 1880s with the “shelf” bustle:

Evening Dress, American, c. 1884 – 1886; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.63.23.3a, b)

And, invariably, a reaction set in and the bustle silhouette with its emphasis on the derriere (ok, buttocks, let’s just get it out there 🙂 ) now shifted towards a more slender, upright silhouette with emphasis on the shoulders and waist in the form of the leg-of-mutton sleeves combined with an extremely narrow waist (i.e., the wasp waist).

Le Moniteur de la Mode. September 1895

Naturally, these changes do not occur overnight (at least back then) and during the early 1890s, we a see a gradual fashion shift towards the new look (which we discussed previously). By 1895, more extreme versions of the new silhouette were developing with the sleeves and waist. Below are a few examples of this “new look” in fashion plates, as interpreted by the French:

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La Grande Dame: Revue de l’Élégance et des Arts 32, 1895

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La Grande Dame: Revue de l’Élégance et des Arts 32, 1895

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La Grande Dame: Revue de l’Élégance et des Arts 31, 1895

In the above examples, we see the classic hourglass figure which is created by an A-line skirt combined with a seemingly unstructured bodice that balloons out at the shoulders. The bodice front seemingly gives an impression of a billowy blouse/shirt-waist (another style that began to take hold during this period).

Compared to 1880s and some early 1890s styles, the lines dresses depicted have much softer lines and everything appears to be very free-floating. However, it must be noted that this silhouette is in reality a structured design that relies on a corset to achieve that ideal hourglass figure.

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Assorted Corset Styles, c. 1880s & 1890s

Now that you have seen the basic silhouette as depicted in fashion plates, let’s take it a bit further with some extant originals:

Day Dress, c. 1890s; Museu del Disseney de Barcelona (MTIB 88108-0)

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Day Dress, c. 1895; Augusta Auctions; Black Cotton with raised red and yellow pin stripes.

Maison Felix, Day Dress, c. 1893-1895; FIDM Museum (2008.5.51AB)

Worth, Day Dress, c. 1890 – 1893; Kerry Taylor Auctions

The above are only a small sample of what was out there- while the silhouette for each of the above dresses is the same, each differs in the materials, trim, and design elements thus creating unique dresses that are still part of a specific style. What is also interesting is that bodices could be open or closed and the open ones continue trends of the 1880s and early 1890s in creating a jacket bodice/skirt combination used with a waist and/or vest.

Day Dress, c. 1895, French;

Day Dress, c. 1895; Fashion Museum Antwerp

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Day Dress, c. 1894 – 1895; Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM; 2006.870.19AB)

The above examples vary in materials and trim but they all embody the basic 1890s design aesthetic. The Jacket/bodice dress style was also embodied in the more informal waking suit, a practical garment for daytime wear in public.  Below are a few extant examples:

Walking Suit, 1892; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.53.72.9a–c)

Walking Suit, c. 1892; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1982.82.6a, b)

Doucet, Walking Suit, c. 1895; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.15&A-1979)

Constructed of wool, linen, or cotton, these suits incorporate the hourglass figure but in a muted form with an A-line skirt and a tailored coat with the characteristic leg-of-mutton sleeves, although the sleeves are somewhat muted in the earlier examples.

In conclusion, it is clear that there was no lack of variety in dress styles during the mid-1890s. With daywear, the hourglass silhouette was kept somewhat within limits but as we will see in future posts, this was not always the case with evening wear and the finer forms of daywear and we will see examples of this in future posts. 🙂



And For Some More Edwardian Day Wear…

Today we feature some more examples of the variety that existed in daywear from the first decade of the 20th Century. Like the 1880s and 1890s before, there was a wide variety of styles available. Below are just a few examples, starting first with a lingerie dress featured in the May 1902 issue of Les Modes designed by Redfern:

And then for something just a bit different is this house dress in somewhat of a Directoire style:

And for a little more Directoire style, there’s this circa 1905 princess line day dress:

Jeanne Hallée, Day Dress, c. 1905; Royal Museums of Art, Brussels

The decorative effect is very striking with the use of trapunto embroidery:

And for some day dress style- typically a skirt, waist, and jacket combination or some variation. Here’s just one possible style depicted in the July 1901 issue of Les Modes designed by a one Blanche Lebouvier:

The jacket is bolero jacket with large points along the bottom. This is just one of many variations for jackets. Below is an afternoon dress designed by Redfern featured in a 1903 issue of Les Modes:

The above dress illustrates some of the more common characteristics of the day dress of the early 1900s to include jacket/bodices that had layers to often include a lace capelet. The silhouette reflected the distinct “pouter pigeon” shape created by the S-bend corset. Below, we see another day dress style created by Paquin and featured in a 1903 issue of Les Modes:

Here we see a less structured look (at least externally) with a loose waist acting as a bodice trimmed with passementerie and lace cuffs. This could be considered a lingerie dress although it’s a bit less fluffy than what’s normally associated with the lingerie dress style (one could easily argue both sides). Below is a similar style that was featured in the July 1902 issue of Les Modes:

This dress style nicely illustrates the ideal silhouette of the early 1900s created by the S-bend corset and could be classified as a more structured lingerie dress. Draped and layered lace was frequently employed as a decorative device as with this circa 1903 afternoon dress designed by Doucet:

Doucet, Afternoon Dress, c. 1903; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1557a, b)

Lace applique was also utilized as  a design element:

Day Dress, c. 1902; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1973.46.2a, b)

Here’s a close-up of the back:

The above is just a brief, broad-brush overview of day dress styles of the first decade of the 20th Century but it’s a good place to start when considering styles for recreation. Stay tuned for more! 🙂