House of Worth
This gown is made from a very special fabric which was woven à la disposition to fit the shape and dimensions of the skirt so that the butterflies flutter upward from the hem and, being graduated in size, seem to disappear in the distance.
'May' Evening Dress
Dior reveled in the paradox of the natural and the sophisticated. The most telling example is his frequent self-presentation, not as a man who symbolized the authority of French taste, but rather as a simple gardener, farmer, and mill owner. In “May,” flowering grasses and wild clover are rendered in silk floss on organza. This “simple” patterning of meadow-gone-to-weed is composed of the tiniest French knots and the meticulously measured stitches of the hand embroiderer, suggesting that for Dior, it was not only that beauty resides in the most rustic, but also that the most successful artifice is a beguiling naivété.
A dress in the crinoline style. The bold, embroidered pattern is strikingly arranged over the skirt. The front and behind of the body, the waist, and the oval panels on the back of the skirt are trimmed with delicate chenille fringes that accentuate the out-standing, luxurious appeal of the dress. This dress might be worn by one of the fashion leaders of the day.
During the 19th century, on the one side men’s fashion became increasingly functional and inornate, while on the other side women’s wardrobes appeared more lavish and decorative than ever. Trimming decorations like fringes, tassels and braids (“passementerie”) that required a lot of attention to detail appeared in numerous variations.
Man’s Suit (Detail)
On this waistcoat are delicately embroidered arches and rows of pillars in the style of ancient Rome. During the latter half of the 18th century, under the influence of neoclassicism, ancient Roman and Gothic ruins and remains were frequently adopted as motifs in paintings, garden fixtures, and such.
At the end of the 1780s, just before the French Revolution, coats and figures that were decorated by spectacular embroidery disappeared, while striped patterns came into fashion. Waistcoats had a lapelled collar and their length became extremely short. From the end of the 1780s to the first half of the 1800s, while coats were being simplified, waistcoats were adopting the showier tendencies of men’s fashion.
The leaf pattern on the impressive silk brocade of the train evokes Japonisme, as one can see either a fern or a basho (Japanese banana) in its design. This motif is similar to a Japanese textile in the collection of Musée des Tissus et des Arts Décoratifs, Lyon; using this Japanese textile as an image source, the possibility that this textile was made in Lyon is large. In the second half of the 19th century, Lyon silk manufactures who produced the materials used in Paris “Haute Couture” kept their eyes to the popular Japonism trend as a new design source. In the latter half of the 1880s the bustle reduced in size, and the entire dress changed to a more simple style. At the rear of the skirt, vestiges of the bustle style remained, but the extreme forms of the bustle style were simplified and toned down.
Late 18th century
Straw-work sewing box, decorated all over with parquetry. The exterior of the lid is inlaid with sailing ship and townscape marquetry, and there are traces of coloring. Inside surfaces of the box also have parquetry decorations, pigmented with a variety of colors. Straw-work, which was produced throughout Europe in the 18th century, is a craft that involves splitting straws open lengthways, flattening them out, then gluing them together onto paper to form a board that is used for decoration.
Parquetry and the related decoration technique of marquetry were often used in the 17th and 18th centuries. In marquetry, flat pieces of wood used for the background and patterns are placed on top of one another, then a design is cut into them so that one fits into the other. In contrast, parquetry involves cutting the flat pieces of wood into certain shapes, which are then combined to create continuous geometric patterns. The sewing box utilizes both of these techniques.
This elegant dress is made of mull with applications of jewel beetle elytra. 1,942 of these glistering forewings, with its colour oscillating from green to purple, can be found on the dress, 1,548 on the shawl.
India was colonized by the British Empire during the mid-18th century, and from the latter half of the 19th century onwards a vast variety of products using jewel beetle embroidery was being exported to the western European markets. Beautiful and splendid decoration design with jewel beetle elytra originated during the time of the Mughal Empire that dominated most of the Indian subcontinent from the 16th to the mid-19th century. Examples of luxurious turbans with gold thread embroidery and wedding gowns from the Maharajas with jewel beetle applications are preserved in the National Museum, New Delhi, as well as in the Jai Singh II. City Palace Museum in Jaipur. Furthermore, there has been a tradition in India of applying jewel beetle elytra as an adornment to jewelry and paintings alike. This technique is thought to have derived from embroidery.
The petticoat, which corresponds to a skirt in a present item, reflected a Chinese influence. Through the use of Chinese embroidery that utilizes “ungen” (traditional coloring technique which expresses the zonal shade of the same hue), motifs such as the flowering plants, peaches which Chinese symbolic of the good omen, phoenixes, and butterflies are all expressed in brilliant colors and lively motion. These motifs were cut out, then, in England, appliquéd onto this petticoat. What charmed Europeans of the 18th century were items imported from the East, which had increased in number since the Age of Discovery. After especially the 17th century, Chinese items spurred on longing in the West for distant lands, leading the chinoiserie craze to be born. These rare, foreign visions of beauty became the sustenance of new creations in the West.
Dress (Robe à la française)
The woman’s dress of the 18th century is characterized by the light pastel color and the decorations such as lace, ribbons, and artificial flowers. Especially, lace, created with the most delicate handwork techniques, was significant in enriching wardrobes luxury decoration. The “quilles” that trimmed at the front opening of the robe from the neck to the hem, the lappets on the headdress, and the engageantes on the cuffs, all of which are lace, give the gown an even more luxurious look. Since lace was the most expensive kind of ornament to adorn a gown, the type of lace that made up the engageantes varied, from layers of high-quality lace to inexpensive cotton drawn work. Needlepoint lace, based on embroidery techniques, and bobbin lace, based on braiding techniques, both developed in late-sixteenth-century Europe. Lace production was prominent in parts of Italy, France and Belgium, and these various types of lace were named after the areas in which they were produced.
Robe à la française (Detail)
In the eighteenth century, formal dress was so closely associated with Versailles and the French court that it was universally described as the robe à la française. The robe à la française has a fitted overdress which is open at the frontand has a decorative bodice insert called a stomacher covering the corset and an underskirt, the petticoat, showing under the splayed drapery of the overskirt.
In its most formal configuration, the robe à la française presented a particularly wide and flattened profile accomplished by enlarged panniers. Constructed of supple bent wands of willow or whalebone and covered in linen, panniers took on broader or narrower silhouettes. The most remarkable held out the skirts like sandwich boards, barely wider than the body in side view but as expansive as possible in front or rear view. A woman so garbed had to pass through a door sideways.