Favorite decades: 1910's, 1800's, 1870's
Favorite artists: Anthony van Dyck, Giovanni Boldini, Henry Fuseli, Thomas Lawrence
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Mourning parasol, 1895-1900 US, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
A beautiful as well as large parasol, it is decidedly for mourning. This fact is evidenced by the hidden mourning crepe found in the middle layer between the taffeta and the densely ruched mousseline de soie. The handle is also extremely refined.
Robe by Liberty of London, ca 1897 London, the Victoria & Albert Museum
This garment with its full sleeves and long, flowing silhouette owes much of its inspiration to Pre-Raphaelite dress. The gown consists of a flared front panel attached to an open, flowing robe which falls from pleats at the back. The front panel has a patch pocket on the right side which is hidden by the deep plush edging.
Materials & Making
The puffed sleeves, wide cuffs and velvet edgings are inspired by plain, loose 16th century gowns. The sunflower and pomegranate motif on the fabric was a recurring design on objects associated with the Aesthetic Movement. The subtle gold and brown tones were popular ‘artistic’ colours used in both dress and furnishing fabrics during the 1890s.
Pre-Raphaelite painters had clothed their models in plain, loose dresses based on the forms of ‘early Medieval art’. The opening of Liberty’s dress department in 1884 helped popularise the taste for aesthetic dress. The Liberty designs which ranged from aesthetic gowns and children’s artistic dresses to more conventional ‘tea-gowns’ had a wide international appeal among the social elite.
Ownership & Use
This type of dress was seen as the healthy and aesthetic alternative to the corseted and constrictive fashions in conventional dress. Before long it was not only those with artistic leanings who chose to wear garments which fit more loosely. By the early 20th century many fashionable dresses had a softer shoulder line and a more natural silhouette.
Louise, Duchess of Devonshire’s ‘Queen of Zenobia’ Ball Gown for the Devonshire House Ball by House of Worth, 1897 Paris (worn in England), Chatsworth
Ball gown with an under-robe of cloth of silver, wrought all over with silver thread and brilliants, and with an over-dress of green and gold shot-silk gauze, embroidered to the waist with green and gold metalwork, decorated with jewels. A long train of turquoise velvet, embroidered in gold to an oriental design, was attached to the shoulders. A bodice of gold cloth and lace was fitted over a whalebone corset into which her waist was tightly laced. The headdress that went with it has not survived, but it can be seen in Lafayette’s photograph.
The dress was made for Louise, Duchess of Devonshire by the House of Worth to wear at the celebrated Diamond Jubilee Ball at Devonshire House. It was a fancy dress ball and Louise attended as Queen Zenobia, the warrior Queen of Palmyra. The Duchess may have got the idea for the theme of the dress from Inigo Jones’s costume designs for Court Masques that are in the drawing collections at Chatsworth.
Unfortunately, the images are really small.
Lady Evelyn Cavendish, later Duchess of Devonshire (1870-1960), as a Lady at the Court of the Empress Maria Theresa [1745-65], at the Devonshire House Diamond Jubilee Ball, 1897 London
The Devonshire House Ball was one of the most splendid celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. In 1892 the 8th Duke of Devonshire married the widowed Duchess of Manchester, Louise von Alten, whom he had known for many years. The ‘Double Duchess’ was a famous hostess and Devonshire House as well as Chatsworth became the focus of entertainments on a scale that had not been seen since the 6th Duke’s time. Those invited to the Diamond Jubilee Ball came in full fancy dress. The Duchess was magnificent as the Queen Zenobia of Palmyra, with a dress to match. The Duke was, rather unexpectedly, the Emperor Charles V, and his young cousin and eventual successor Victor Cavendish was also in 16th -century dress as one of Holbein’s ‘Ambassadors’.
Vogue, October 7th 1897
While these incredible shoes were not worn by the Wicked Witch of the West, she probably would have loved them. Labeled “The Livingston Shoe,” these bronzed leather lace-up beauties came from Charleston shoe retailer, Walter Francis Livingston (1874-1946). He opened his store at 366 King Street in 1896 and these probably date to right around then. They have long, shallow pointed toes, curvaceous Louis heels and high front lacing over a tongue lined in lamb’s wool.
Bronzing refers to a process of treating the leather with red dye, originally cochineal and by the 1890s, an aniline dye imitation, to give it a metallic semi-iridescence.
Livingston remodeled his store in 1922 and opened a second store in Jacksonville Florida. In the 1921 Boot & Shoe Recorder, he was touted as using an aeroplane to advertise “the best advertised shoe sale ever held in the South.” Livingston himself went up as a passenger in the plane to drop circulars and advertisements over the Isle of Palms on Sunday, June 25. Among the flyers was a coupon for a free pair of shoes and $1 off coupons. He was often mentioned as having attended the Boston Style Show, bringing the latest styles and patterns to Charleston direct from the largest and most representative manufacturers.
Ladies’ skirts were still long in the 1890s, so probably just these pointed toes would appear. But, some of the more active fashions (walking outfits, business wear) saw skirts rising around the ankle, so these would have been perfect.
TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our textile collection. Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our new Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday
Evening dress, 1895-1899 London, the V&A Museum
Portrait of Princess Mathilde of Bavaria, ca late 1890’s
The “1910” in the bottom corner is the year a book of her poetry was published. She died in 1906.
Walking dress, ca 1897 Paris, the V&A Museum
This is an early ready-made dress bought in a store instead of made custom by a dressmaker.