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Evening dress

Background Replacing the house’s signature heavy satins and silks with filmy chiffons, Maison Worth’s early 20th-century designs nod to the new, less restrictive silhouette popularized by Paul Poiret. This high-waisted, tubular evening dress incorporates the use of shimmering brilliants diffused through transparencies to emphasize its ethereal quality. Description Tubular, floor-length; empire waist; chiffon over lace at bust, V-neck, brilliant bands; elbow-length chiffon sleeves, shirred at inner elbow; satin skirt, embroidery at knee and hem, wide, draped satin waistband; chiffon overskirt, cutaway hem at front with tassels at hem center font and center back; satin train falling from waist, embroidered at hem; cluster of silk flowers at left bust. Garment structure Although the dress is not tightly corseted, it is supported by a boned corselet, which is sewn into the bodice and ends just below the natural waist. The predominantly satin skirt has embroidered bands of cornflowers at the knee and hem levels, with a double-layer of chiffon on the front overskirt. A single layer of chiffon with two wide lace ruffles spills from beneath the satin skirt back. Small lead weights are enclosed within the hem allowance to insure proper drape. The edges of the chiffon ruffles are finished with Worth’s distinctive selvage edge. The train is a separate panel falling from the raised waist, it partial conceals the petal pink bead and brilliant tassels. The shirring at the top is surmounted by two brilliant-set bands. The train also conceals the center back closure. Worn by the mother of the donor, Mrs. William Storrs Wells. Gift of Mrs. Harry T. Peters, 1956.

Pink chiffon, pink satin embroidered with silk floss cornflowers; pink machine-made lace; silk cornflowers, silk roses; brilliant-set bands; pale pink bead-and-brilliant tassels
Label: Worth / Paris
Center front length: 52½”
Center back length: 42½”
Waist measurement: 32½”
Hem circumference: 48½”
Band width under bust (on bias): 5”
Train width: 26½” (with 2¼” heading)
Evening dress

Background The early 20th-century repositioning of the natural waistline to raised position, prompted many couture houses to reference the Empire period. The courtly splendor of this gown evokes that of a Napoleonic spectacle. Here Worth transitions from the use of heavier tape laces to softer lace yardage, drawing upon two other house hallmarks to complete his decorative vocabulary: bowknots and highly refractive lead crystal brilliants. Description Floor-length with train; raised waist, boned; satin underdress with square neck; sleeveless; full skirt; applied bowknots at center front waist to hem; lace overdress with deep double ruffles at bust; square neck; elbow-length, full organza sleeves with underarm gathers; wired bowknots at neck and sleeves; taffeta sash; taffeta band at neck and shoulders crisscrossed with sash at back, center back bow with floor-length streamers. Garment structure The soft silhouette of this Alençon-style machine lace over satin evening gown belies its boned corselet and supporting taffeta substrate. The corselet laces at center back, is sleeveless with a square neckline banded in taffeta at the neck and shoulders, and has a raised waist. The lace overdress is joined to the satin underdress at the neck edge and waist. It has two wide lace ruffles at the neckline with elbow-length organza sleeves covered by a lace ruffle. The lace divides at the center below the raised waist to showcase a vertical row of brilliant bows. The lace of the skirt is cut to locate its scalloped edge at the hem. Applied scallops cut from additional yardage and applied to the split front opening edges. The two edges meet at the hem, the appliqué so skillfully executed that it is indistinguishable from the actual yardage hem. As the width of the lace was not long enough for a train, the scalloped edge of the lace hem is lapped over another lace section. The two sections are joined together by hand. Worn by mother of donor. Gift of Mrs. Harry T. Peters, 1956.

Cream satin; cream machine-made Alençon-style lace; cream organza; brilliants; wired brilliant bowknots; cornflower blue taffeta
Label: Worth / Paris; 79360
Center front length: 51½”
Center back length: 78”
Waist measurement: 31½”
Hem circumference: 144”
Sash length: 49”/ 52½”
Bow: 11”
Evening dress

Background A newfound fascination with translucent overlays and scrimmed metallics provided Maison Worth with an unexplored array of optical effects. Executing the same formulaic design—tubular silhouette and a low-profile train—the gowns produced by the house prior to WWI varied primarily in trim and color. Examples frequently acknowledge the influence of the Ballets Russes and its exotic color palette. Description Semifitted, floor-length, short train; lightly boned bodice, raised waist; black net overdress with gold lace panels either side of center front and center back, V-shaped black net inset with applied brilliants in tiered fringe pattern center front hip to hem, applied brilliants in mock fringe pattern at shoulders; cream net over gold lamé underdress; square neck, V-shaped cream lace inset; short sleeves; scattered brilliants on bodice; velvet belt. Garment structure The boned bodice of the overdress is fabricated in black net and gold lace. The net extends to form short sleeves and brilliants are applied; at the shoulders in a mock fringe pattern. Gold lace is applied over the bust. The cream net over gold lame underdress has a square neckline with a V-shaped cream lace insert which fills the deep V of the bodice. Worn by Miss Lucy T. Aldrich. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Laurance S. Rockefeller, 1956.

Black silk net; gold lace; cream net; gold lamé; brilliants; cream lace; cream velvet
Label: Worth

Background This suit combines the uniformity of a tailor-made suit with the feminine formality frequently associated with 19th-century visiting ensembles. Its bird’s-eye patterned silk and soft tailoring departs from the more durable linens and wools that typically define such garments. Although nodding to the increased awareness on the part of high-end clientele of a fashion trend toward garments of more practical design, the sumptuous padded frog closures, silk fringe, and contrasting deep-shawl silk collar remain consistent with the Worth tradition of high aesthetic standards and couture workmanship. Description Jacket: Semi-fitted, hip-length, cutaway front; faille shawl collar, ribbon edging; long sleeves; faille turned-back cuffs, ribbon edging; center front interlaced frog closure. Skirt: Floor-length, full; three fringed self flounces curving from center front to back; left side, slot seam closure. Garment structure The jacket’s off-center placket is held in place by concealed hooks and eyes beneath the overlap, fastening with an oversized, self-covered button and interlaced frog-closure. The button is trimmed with braid. The satin edging on the collar is pleated on the underside in order to conform to the curved edge. The full-length skirt is trimmed with silk fringe with three flat flounces applied in a curved pattern, their apex at center front. It fastens at the left hip with hooks and eyes concealed by a slot seam. Worn by Lucy T. Aldrich. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Laurance S. Rockefeller, 1956.

Black silk jacquard in bird's-eye pattern; black silk fringe; cream faille; black satin ribbon; black silk cord
Label: Worth

Background Worth’s early 20th-century client sought less feminine, more streamlined daytime clothing that could address the needs of her increasingly active lifestyle. In response, the house incorporated textiles more traditionally associated with men’s attire into its vocabulary, cutting stylish suits of increasingly diminished volume. Such attire was ideal for use in a professional context and for travel as it required a minimum of maintenance and could be accessorized to alter its appearance. A modicum of Worth’s signature embellishment here remains, with the interjection of decorative silk braid used to offset the austerity of the suit’s silhouette. Description Jacket: Tubular, below-hip length, slightly flared from waist to hem; wide flat serge collar with pointed ends, pique turnover collar; long sleeves, gathered at shoulder and below elbow, semi-fitted from elbow to cuff; applied ribbon below elbow; angled center front closure; angled center back seam; applied braid at collar, sleeves, center front, and center back; black patent leather belt, round tortoise shell buckle at center front and center back. Skirt: Tubular, ankle-length underskirt, off-center mock wrap closure; slightly flared knee-length overskirt, applied braid, off-center mock button closure below-hip to hem. Garment structure This suit is beautifully proportioned, with its belted jacket and front-opening, double-tiered skirt. The skirt upper tier is embellished with soutache and the underskirt is unadorned. To reduce bulk at the waist, the concealed part of the underskirt is made of lightweight silk. As both skirts are unlined the method of soutache-application is apparent. The ends of small running stitches are hidden under the braid trim on the wrong side of the upper skirt. Made for opera singer Mme. Emma Eames. Gift of Miss Matilda Frelinghuysen, 1953.

Navy blue silk serge; applied black silk braid in spiral and foliate patterns; cream silk pique; black patent leather; tortoise shell; black satin ribbon
Length: 28”
Hem circumference: 49 ½”
Top skirt:
Hem circumference: 58 ¾”
Length: 27”
Lower skirt:
Hem circumference: 41 ¾”
Length: 50”
YWCA Overseas Uniform

Background Prior to the United States’ entry into World War I, the pages of "Vogue" bear witness to the increased popularity of volunteering for overseas service amongst society women. Lacking uniforms made through standardized production, many women joining the war effort in Europe turned uniform spec sheets over to their dressmakers for personalized interpretation. One result is this elegant YWCA uniform, constructed of rugged wool covert and comprising knee-length cape, tailored jacket, and walking-length skirt–complete with its Worth/Paris silk petersham. Description Dress: Semi-fitted, mid-calf length; surplice bodice, double breasted with nonfunctional buttonholes, bretelles from shoulders to below waist at back; wide, flat bengaline collar; long sleeves, bengaline cuffs, self-covered buttons; flat-front skirt with self-covered buttons either side of center front; graduated vertical tucks at left and right sides from waist to hip, crow’s foot tailor’s tacks at ends; box pleats either side of center back; concealed skirt pocket left of center front; half self-belt at back; hook-and-eye closure on bodice, snap closure on skirt; cream silk slip top. Jacket: Unfitted, hip-length; attached knee-length cape, open at center front; wide, flat bengaline collar with curved ends; long sleeves; right bosom pocket; bellows patch pockets either side of center front hip, single-button flaps; belt loops (belt missing); satin lining. Garment structure The unlined dress bodice is joined with a separate silk chemise stitched in at the waist. The chemise fastens down the front with hooks and eyes, is lace-trimmed at neck edge, and has a small patch pocket on the inside between the left shoulder and bust. The skirt pleats are stitched down several inches below the waist, a crow’s-foot (triangle) embroidered to secure their ends. The skirt fastens with snaps, its placket finished with a simple silk ribbon binding and its hem finished at the edge with seam-binding, secured by hand with a row of small running stitches. The caped jacket fastens center-front with four irregularly spaced composition buttons and bound buttonholes, joining a circular-cut cape with a completely lined hand-sewn jacket. The jacket has hip patch pockets and a small welt pocket above the right bust. The patch pockets have box pleats at the center and a flap that buttons in place for security. The cape is unlined with bound inner seams. Worn by Margaret Merle-Smith. Gift of Ms. Cora Ginsburg, 1980.

Blue-grey covert cloth; blue-grey silk bengaline; blue-grey satin, cream silk
Label: Worth/Paris; 73016
Length: 50 ¾”
Hem circumference: 92”
Length: 28 ¾”
Hem circumference: 50 1/8”
Center front length: 37 7/8”
Center back length: 39 ¼”
Hem circumference: 134 ¼”

Background The 1920s witnessed a new era of freedoms for women in Europe and America. In New York, women could expect greater ease in employment opportunities, a greater voice in their government through the right to vote, and greater freedom of movement in their garments. Having discarded the heavy textiles, boning, linings, and copious trims that had been the house signature, Worth’s new designs for evening were less structured and less formal than they had ever been. They now showcased unusual, lightweight printed textiles and subtle new finishing techniques. Description Tubular; below-knee length; dropped waist; V neck with bugle bead trim, pink georgette modesty panel; sleeveless; triple-tiered skirt, applied beads at edges of hip- and knee-length tiers and at hem; pink georgette and black georgette mock hip sash with knot and separate calf-length streamers at left side; scattered brilliants overall; pink underslip. Garment structure The skirt layers of this triple-tiered tubular dress are applied to a plain-weave silk base so as appear to be the same width. The tiers are graduated in size and sewn to the silk base so that the upper two tiers overlap the one immediately below it, allowing the wearer to move without exposing the base layer. The dress has a pink underslip and a 9” unstitched lap at the back instead of a seam, to facilitate ease of movement. Worn by the donor. Gift of Mrs. Paul Pennoyer, 1971.

China silk printed with stylized pink flowers and leaves on black ground; pink georgette; black georgette; clear brilliants; black bugle beads; pink china silk
Label: Worth