House of Worth (French, 18581956)
Gift of Agnes Miles Carpenter, 1941 (C.I.41.14.1)
Employing a textile design that mirrors itself from selvage to selvage, this dress is pieced into a perfectly symmetrical image at the center front. Impeccable finishing details such as this distinguish the couture garment from the countless products of the ready-to-wear market that flourished in the mid- to late nineteenth century as a result of the Industrial Revolution. The use of the textile pattern to emphasize the woman's fashionable hourglass silhouette, achieved with the help of a steel-boned corset, further demonstrates the mastery of dressmaking technique at the House of Worth, as do the tiny handstitched cartridge pleats at the shoulder that create voluminous sleeves. The design of this sleeve, broad at the upper arm and fitted at the lower arm with the sleeve extending over the back of the hand, refers to sixteenth-century dress styles.