Wednesday, April 8, 2015

One Shot: Dinner Dress 1875

    When Mon. Vignon of Paris designed this dinner dress around 1875, he was clearly working with a client of not only extreme wealth, but rarified tastes.
Where it was commonplace to mix wildly differing textiles, with varied textures, patterns and colorations, this dinner dress is successful because nearly all its decoration is done in the same color.  It becomes instead a symphonic display of dressmaking techniques, and superb workmanship.  Only the black velvet bows, and the drape on the bustle break up this interplay of creamy tones.
    The silhouette is one that was in the process of morphing.  In just a few years, the cuirass shape would take over, clamping women in skin tight clothing from neck to knee.  But for now, the narrowness of the skirt is not so tight as to be completely restrictive, and the sleeves, though trimly cut, have not gotten to the compressive state they will by the 1880s.
    The majority of the dress is made up in a silk damask of cream and gold with an 18th century inspired floral and leaf pattern.
The jacket bodice has a deeply pointed basque, front and back, and is decorated with rows of vertical ruching in cream satin. In addition there is an appliqued lace collar, and multiple frills of lace at the cuffs.
    The cream silk satin under skirt is made up with 6 regular rows of ruching, and finished at the hem with two rows of narrow knife pleats.  The over skirt is trimmed with motifs of beadwork in chalk finish rocaille beads and the hemline is finished with rows of elaborate passementerie fringes mounted on a  silk mesh.

The bustle has a long drape of black silk velvet, that accents the shape of the dress, and operates as a strong emphasis point.  It is cut on the straight grain, and finished with the same fringe detail is the over skirt.
    All in all this is not only a superb example of the formal dress of the day, but a visual textbook of high level sewing techniques and finishes.

With endless thanks and praise to the Metropolitan Museum of New York for these images, and the fact of the garment's conservation.

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