I feel I must begin with an apology. The images here, from the V&A Museum in London, are the largest files I can find, so they aren't as clear and defined as I'd like, but the ensemble is so thoroughly charming, I had to use them anyway.
This is a summer weight wedding dress, probably of French, possibly English making, that is composed nearly entirely of a very fine creamy striped silk gauze. The workmanship is of the very highest order. Its essentially a flawlessly constructed set of clothing. Add to that the perfection of the balance of details, and the overall proportions, and we have a fragile, wearable dream. The woman who was fortunate enough to have worn this remarkable thing could only have felt elevated by it.
Though there are many details, they are handled with subtlety, and grace. The structure of the dress is outlined repeatedly by a narrow bias banding in a slightly darker cream shade of silk satin. Nearly every edge is trimmed with dagged Valenciennes lace, and on the jacket front, sleeves and bustle, there are large silk ribbon bows.
This ensemble, from 1872-4, is a transitional piece. Standing as it does between the vast circular skirts of the 1860s, and the full blown dimensions of the bustle that would arrive in short order. The skirt still retains a bell shape, and roundness that recalls the earlier style, and the sleeves maintain the fullness popular in the prior decade. The waist, however, has risen to the height it would maintain until the silhouette changed again into the cuirass style of the 1880s. The jacket, with its knee length basque, and gathered volume at the back, is forward thinking to 1875 and beyond, when the bustle would achieve its first, and largest presence.
I am grateful to whoever conserved this delicious and perfectly wrought creation for us to see and smile at today. And also to the tireless people of the V&A, without whose skills and knowledge these things would literally rot and fall to dust.