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.”
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.
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.