Sunday, August 9, 2015

One Shot- Emile Pingat Dinner Dress-1880

    Yes, I know I just focused on a garment by Emile Pingat a few days ago.  But when I was trolling the Met's website I found a treasure trove of work by this couturier, and I had to share this one as well.  So today, I will begin with my thanks to the Metropolitan Museum of New York for this gorgeous thing.  And also extend my heartfelt appreciation to their extensive conservation team, who makes sure that these fragile things stay as fine as possible, for as long as possible.
    It was by no means needful that a woman enduring the long Victorian process of mourning had to eschew being fashionable or extravagant.  As long as the clothing was black, and the jewelry was either black, or was memento mori work, a lady could get herself up in the height of current style without negative comment.
    This dinner dress of black silk satin conforms to all the requirements of both fashionability, and mourning.  By 1880, the first rather short lived bustle fashion had receded, and the cuirass shape, that formed tightly to the woman's body to the lower hip point and then fell straight on the sides to the floor had taken over as the style of the moment.  Its interesting to note as well, that for ladies of means, as the woman who ordered this dress clearly was, it was often the case that they would include in their order of clothing for the season a piece or two of mourning wear.  It would seem so very odd to us to do so, but in those times death came calling often, and especially the wealthy had high expectations placed on them to adhere to the mourning customs.
    This Pingat dinner dress is up to the minute fashion for 1880.  The neckline drops to exactly the point considered appropriate for such a dress, and the sleeve length is at the precise length as well.  If this were a gala, or theater dress, the neckline could be much broader and lower, and the dress could be sleeveless, have small cap sleeves, or sleeves that stopped above the elbow.  The train too, is hyper fashionable.  As the dress contracted in its circumference around the body, the train became longer to compensate.  After all, it was essential to display as much fabric and luxe as possible in those extremely class conscious days.
    The design is made to appear as though there is a coat over a dress. This faux coat is trimmed around its edges with a broad band of jet beaded trimming that resembles a fur when observed from a distance.  The center front of the dress has a row of faceted jet buttons, and the skirt front has a row of four black satin bows with tails.  The skirt hem is finished with a a broad pleated band of the same satin material, showing the only white in the dress as a minute edge at the very bottom.
    As morning progressed, the lady could choose to add more white to this, by inserting a narrow lace frill at the neck opening, and at the sleeves.  And once mourning was over, the dress could be re-trimmed with other materials to make it less funereal.

Over all, this is a wonderfully tasteful, and elegant dress, and we are lucky that it survives today, to teach us what it can.

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