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Evening ensemble

Designer:
Charles Frederick Worth (French (born England), Bourne 1825–1895 Paris)
Date:
1887
Culture:
French
Medium:
silk, metal
Dimensions:
Length at CB (a): 22 in. (55.9 cm) Length at CB (b): 71 1/2 in. (181.6 cm) (d, e): 4 x 9 in. (10.2 x 22.9 cm) Other (f, g): 35 in. (88.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Edith Gardiner, 1926
Accession Number:
2009.300.1094a–g
Not on view
This is truly an attention getting gown with fantastical themes. The fantasy here is depicted in the bodice which imitates a peasant's cotton blouse and is played against the traditional 18th century and neoclassical motifs in the skirt embroidery.

The bustle silhouette, although primarily associated with the second half of the 19th century, originated in earlier fashions as a simple bump at the back of the dress, such as with late 17th-early 18th century mantuas and late 18th- early 19th century Empire dresses. The full-blown bustle silhouette had its first Victorian appearance in the late 1860s, which started as fullness in skirts moving to the back of the dress. This fullness was drawn up in ties for walking that created a fashionable puff. This trendsetting puff expanded and was then built up with supports from a variety of different things such as horsehair, metal hoops and down. Styles of this period were often taken from historical inspiration and covered in various types of trim and lace. Accessories were petite and allowed for the focus on the large elaborate gowns. Around 1874, the style altered and the skirts began to hug the thighs in the front while the bustle at the back was reduced to a natural flow from the waist to the train. This period was marked by darker colors, asymmetrical drapery, oversize accessories and elongated forms created by full-length coats. Near the beginning of the 1880s the trends altered once again to include the bustle, this time it would reach its maximum potential with some skirts having the appearance of a full shelf at the back. The dense textiles preferred were covered in trimming, beadwork, puffs and bows to visually elevate them further. The feminine silhouette continued like this through 1889 before the skirts began to reduce and make way for the S-curve silhouette.

Charles Frederick Worth was born in England and spent his young adulthood working for textile merchants in London while researching art history at museums. In 1845 he moved to Paris and worked as a salesman and a dressmaker before partnering with Otto Bobergh to open the dressmaking shop, Worth and Bobergh, in 1858. They were soon recognized by royalty and major success followed. In 1870 Worth became the sole proprietor of the business. At his shop, Worth fashioned completed creations which he then showed to clients on live models. Clients could then order their favorites according to their own specifications. This method is the origin of haute couture. Worth designed gowns which were works of art that implemented a perfect play of colors and textures created by meticulously chosen textiles and trims. The sheer volume of the textiles he employed on each dress is testimony to his respect and support of the textile industry. Worth's creative output maintained its standard and popularity throughout his life. The business continued under the direction of his sons, grandsons and great-grandsons through the first half of the twentieth century.

(c, d) While American fashion commentators at mid-century had pronounced colored evening shoes vulgar, by the 1870s they had become an accepted style. While it was not uncommon for a lady to buy white shoes and have them dyed to match a special dress - a practice which continues to this day - the wealthiest clients would have shoes specifically made to coordinate, as is the case with these slippers which match an evening gown, 26.359a-b, by Worth. Ladies dressed by this preeminent fashion house could certainly afford such a luxury, but what makes this pair particularly appealing is color coordination of the steel beads and sequins with the fabric. The branch design of the beadwork is also less typical than floral or simple geometric patterns.
Marking: (a, b) Signature label woven into petersham: "Worth/Paris"
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