Ajax loader
1883
Fancy dress costume, “Electric Light"

Background In addition to its elaborate non-theatrical designs, Maison Worth excelled in the production of opera and theater costumes, as well as fancy dress. New York’s late-19th century grand balls were ostentatious events, the most fantastic being the masquerade balls held by the city’s upwardly mobile nouveaux riches. The event hosted by William K. Vanderbilt, on March 26, 1883, marked the completion of his $3 million limestone chateau on Fifth Avenue and was a Gilded Age spectacle. It presented “The Wealth and the Grace of New York in Varied and Brilliant Array,” according to "The New York Herald." Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt II dazzled onlookers in Worth’s masterpiece the “Electric Light.” Description Bodice: Yellow satin; fitted, waist-length, center front busk point, basque, tulle drapery falling from shoulders to below hip; low wide neck, tulle inset, cord edging; sleeveless, tinsel, pearls, and cord at armholes; bead and looped fringe at hem; center front button closure. Skirt: Yellow satin, floor-length with extensive train; golden yellow satin peplum, embroidered yellow satin overskirt, open at back, gathered at center front knee, clear bead fringe either side center front, metallic and bead fringe at hem; velvet underskirt, starburst motif embroidery, twisted fringe at hem. Garment structure Fabricated in yellow and golden yellow satin with a midnight blue velvet underskirt and yellow tulle drapery falling from the shoulders, the dress is richly embellished with flat gold and silver metallic tinsel, embroidery with applied paillettes and clear and gold beads in lightning bolt and starburst motifs. Opulent quantities of metallic tinsel and looped cord edging in scallop motif, glass pearl and gold bead fringe, metallic twisted fringe and gold looped metallic thread fringe are all used in the design. The floor-length skirt has a pronounced bustle with a yellow satin overskirt and a midnight blue underskirt. The embroidered overskirt is gathered at center front and open at the back to showcase the starburst motif embroidery on the velvet underskirt and train. The overskirt is trimmed with metallic and bead fringe at the hem while the underskirt is trimmed with twisted fringe. Worn by mother of donor, Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt II, to the Vanderbilt Ball, March 26, 1883. Gift of Countess Laszlo Szechenyi, 1951.

REFERENCE
51.284.3A-H
TECHNICAL DETAILS
Yellow satin; golden yellow satin; metallic thread embroidery; paillettes and beads; midnight blue velvet; yellow tulle with applied tinsel; tinsel and looped cord edging; glass pearls; fringe
Label: Worth / Paris (woven in block letters on petersham)
1883-84
Afternoon dress

Background The distinctive floral and organic patterns woven in Lyon for Worth became as much a house signature as customized design and workmanship. The highly dimensional rendering of the rose motifs is dramatically offset by the color depth of their background, causing them to project forward. The asymmetry of the design, with its scalloped hem and petal-pink chiffon trims, is typical of Worth’s work during this period. Description Bodice: Satin; boned, fitted, waist-length, center front busk point, sweetheart seaming at bust, inset brocade yoke; high V neck, chiffon ruffle; fitted, elbow-length sleeves, shirring at inner seam, turned-back brocade cuffs, pleated chiffon at opening; center front button closure. Skirt: Satin brocade; floor-length, flat front, pleated at back with train, hip drapery; brocade center front panel with inverted pleat reversing to rust satin, Van Dyked center front hem. Garment structure The asymmetrical skirt is floor-length with a train. The brocade front and side panels are gathered into a decorative drape on the right hip to expose the rust satin underneath. The front panel is finished with a facing. On the back, the blue satin is pleated to form the bustle and the train. Worn by mother of donor. Gift of Francis H. Markoe, 1931.

REFERENCE
31.3.5A-B
TECHNICAL DETAILS
Dark blue satin; dark blue satin brocaded with bouquets of coral pink to rust colored roses and white stemmed flowers; petal pink chiffon; rust satin
Label: Worth / Paris
Bodice:
Center front length: 12”
Center back length: 16 1/8”
Waist measurement: 26”
OTHER VIEWS
1884
Evening dress

Background Otherwise formulaic in its classic mid-1880s silhouette and detail, this gown is distinctive in the bold contrast of its brocaded floral and solid background color. The hydrangea motif was also used by Worth in a more traditional scheme of primary rather than opposite colors to a more subtle effect. Description Skirt: Floor-length with train; center front pink satin panel with point d'esprit lace overlayer; lace drapery, hip to hem, left of center back, satin rosette below left hip. Bodice: Boned, fitted, waist-length, pleated basque; wide, V neck, point de gaze lace fichu over satin at front, lace ruffle at back; short lace sleeves, shirred and gathered satin bands at shoulders; center front lace-up closure. Garment structure The closely fitted boned bodice laces at center front to a deep V busk point. The brocade overskirt is open at the front to showcase a layer of point d’esprit lace, which scrims the center front salmon-colored panel. The lace drapes asymmetrically from the waist at center front to the back waist left of center. It is gathered just below the left hip and tacked with a satin rosette. The satin front panel has a slotted hem. Worn by mother of donor. Gift of Francis H. Markoe, 1931.

REFERENCE
31.3.4A-B
TECHNICAL DETAILS
Aqua satin brocaded with salmon pink flowers; salmon pink satin; tea-dyed lace
Label: Worth 7. rue de la Paix. Paris
OTHER VIEWS
1884-85
Visiting ensemble

Background The mix of materials used to create 1880s garments, with their silk fringe, tassels, and heavy brocades, was more relevant to upholstery than to clothing. But in the hands of a master couturier, that combination seems perfectly appropriate. This ensemble’s key strength derives from the graceful blend of its materials and shapes: the petals of the elongated bodice fall fluidly over the hitched velvet bustle; the elbow-length mantle enhances the overall design; and the ornate fringes add unity. Description Skirt: Floor-length, flat in front, gathered in back; inverted V-shaped center front satin panel with seven graduated rows of fringe waist to hem; velvet drapery at sides, extending to bustle. Bodice: Satin; boned, fitted, hip-length; round neck; long sleeves with turned-back velvet cuffs, double lace ruffle at wrist; exaggerated points, with fringe, at hem; center front button closure. Mantle: Velvet; circular, fitted at shoulders; elbow-length; stand collar, silk ball edging, satin ribbon ties at neck; fringe at hem. Garment structure Petal-shaped points resolve the bodice edge and peek from beneath the fringe of the short mantle. The sleeves have turned-back velvet cuffs with lace ruffles at the wrists. The velvet overskirt opens into an inverted V-shape to showcase the beaded fringe design on the satin underskirt. Knife pleats finish the underskirt hem. The overskirt is directed to the back and gathered with the satin underskirt at the bustle. Worn by Mrs. Charles Boughton Wood. Gift of Mrs. Hokan B. Steffanson, 1936.

REFERENCE
36.11.1A-C
TECHNICAL DETAILS
Dark brown cut and uncut voided velvet in floral and foliate pattern; dark brown satin; dark brown silk, fringe; satin ribbon; cream lace
Label: Worth 7. rue de la Paix. Paris (on bodice and cape petershams)
OTHER VIEWS
1885-86
Evening dress

Background The innovative use of modular components to facilitate Worth’s custom process is particularly apparent in this evening dress. His popular contoured bodice is a focal feature, playfully accented by his use of contrasting, asymmetrical shoulder treatments. The combination of blood red satin and scarlet damask adds slenderizing interest to the bodice construction. Worth’s penchant for incorporating antique laces is masterfully demonstrated here. Notably, the lace has been draped and blended into the design with its integrity intact—no cuts have been made. Description Bodice: Boned, fitted; waist-length, deep busk points center front and back, satin stomach panels; wide décolletage, pleated satin at bust, pleated damask at back; sleeveless, satin ribbon and lace at right armhole, lace at left armhole, feathers at left shoulder; center back lace-up closure. Skirt: Floor-length with train; lace panels over satin at center front and sides; asymmetrical damask overskirt, draping at front from right hip to left knee, draped and gathered over bustle; feather cluster, satin ribbon at left knee; taffeta lining. Garment structure The draped skirt is lined with taffeta and has interior tie backs in the train to direct its thrust. The bodice is naturally boned with slender strips of baleen, which are inserted within hand-applied casings. The asymmetrical design is trimmed with ostrich feathers on the left shoulder and lace under the arm. The right shoulder is trimmed with a satin knot and lace, which is wired at the edge so it will stand up. Worn by mother of donor. Gift of Mrs. Phillip W. Livermore, 1941.

REFERENCE
41.224.2A-B
TECHNICAL DETAILS
Scarlet silk damask in chrysanthemum pattern; blood red satin; 18th-century cream bobbin lace; red ostrich feathers
Label: Worth / Paris
Bodice:
Waist measurement: 22”
OTHER VIEWS
1885-86
Evening dress

Background The very popular basic evening bodice is treated with only a light surface embellishment of beadwork and metallic. In keeping with the companion luxuries typical of a New York’s Gilded Age household, the bodice back drape is to be secured by hand stitches taken at the time of each wearing—and administered by a lady’s maid. Description Bodice: Boned, fitted, waist-length, center front busk point, crossover satin panel, right shoulder to left underarm, chiffon over satin at left bust and shoulder, applied rose motif, mock half sash; wide V neck, chiffon ruffle at back, applied beads, pearls and silver thread; sleeveless; shirred chiffon at armholes, center back lace-up closure. Skirt: Floor-length with train; applied rose motif on front panels, center front and left and right side inverted box pleats reversing to plain satin; plain satin back gathered into bustle drapery extending into train. Garment structure The skirt has three inserted, inverted, unadorned satin box pleats, one at center front and one at each side. The selvage of each inserted panel is used decoratively, with hand applied floral beadwork outlining each edge. Hand-applied floral beadwork sprigs sparsely cover the skirt front panels. The side back panels extend into an opulent bustled train. Worn by mother of donor. Gift of Mrs. Phillip W. Livermore, 1941.

REFERENCE
41.224.4A-B
TECHNICAL DETAILS
Cream satin; cream satin; cream silk chiffon; applied silver seed beads and glass pearls; silver metallic thread
Label: Worth / Paris (on petersham)
ca. 1886
Ball gown

Background This ball gown, with its sleek bodice and draped bustle overskirt, illustrates Maison Worth’s ability to combine its proscribed modular components into a singular composition. The focus is not only on shaping but also on the effects of light reflectivity. The glowing satin sharply contrasts with the uncut, light-absorbing velvet, imbuing the gown with a sophisticated luminosity. Description Skirt: Floor-length with train; velvet underskirt, vertically slashed tabs all around outlined with attached lace flounce, pleated satin ruffle; satin overskirt, open at front, wrap-and-tie drapery knotted at hip left of center front, beaded tassels at ends; fringe and bead trim on overskirt edges; silk plush edging at train hem. Bodice: Boned, fitted; waist-length, inset velvet panels with deep center front busk point, square basque tails with bow; off-the-shoulder neck with pleated satin drapery, overlapping lace ruffle; sleeveless, shirred satin bands at armholes, flowers at left shoulder; center back lace-up closure. Garment structure The back of the neckline drape is attached only on the right shoulder and laps the laced closure. Since there are no hooks on the end of the overlap, the drape was hand-stitched closed by a lady’s maid at the time of wearing. The sleeveless armholes have an additional frill. At center back, a satin bow tops the two squared tails. A single fabric-covered lead weight is placed at the corner of each tail. The velvet underskirt hem is vertically slashed 4 ¾” all around, creating 2½” tabs. A hand attached lace flounce outlines the entire broken edge and overlays a pleated satin ruffle. A silk plush edging is sewn to the train. Gift of Mrs. Ernest Iselin, 1932.

REFERENCE
32.12.2A-B
TECHNICAL DETAILS
Ice blue satin; ice blue uncut ribbed velvet; cream lace; ice blue chiffon; ice blue ball fringe; ice blue beads; artificial flowers; ice blue silk plush
Label: Worth / Paris (woven in block letters on petersham)
Bodice:
Center front length: 14¼”
Center back length: 10¼”
Waist measurement: 20 7/8”