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Evening dress

Background The delicate proportions of this youthful dress illustrate Worth’s ability to design for and suit a client base widely diverse in age and type. Although the house embraced the challenge of designing for generously proportioned clients, it was also capable of flattering and emphasizing the charms of a more delicate lady. Description Bodice: Boned, fitted; waist-length, short split tails; wide neck, pleated velvet band, lace bertha collar, applied bows at center front, center back, and at shoulders; puffed, elbow-length velvet sleeves, gathered at inner elbow, lace ruffle at opening; integral velvet sash with center back butterfly bow; center front lace-up closure. Skirt: Floor-length with train; lengths joined with selvages exposed; pleated and gathered at waist all around. Garment structure The lace bertha obscures the front-lacing system of its boned bodice. The lower bodice edge is finished with a single row of corded piping. The panels on the bodice back are cut and seamed to form a mirror image of the motif. The pleated and gathered skirt panels are joined along their selvages—hand sewn with wrong sides together—and decoratively featured. The skirt has a pocket in right side seam and a dust ruffle along the hem. Owned by donor's mother Gift of Mr. Datus C. Smith, Jr., 1974.

Ivory satin with brocaded stripes of dark and light pink stemmed flowers with green leaves, gold columbine, and gold vines; pink velvet; cream lace with dot and bowknot pattern; pink velvet bows
Label: Worth / Paris
Center front length 11½”
Center back length to tails: 12”
Center back length to bottom: 15”
Waist measurement: 22¼”
Center front length: 40½”
Center back length: 50”
Waist measurement: 24½”
Evening gown

Background This grand evening dress was designed to stun the beholder with the oversized scale of its sweeping motifs, which were additionally emphasized through the application of lead crystal brilliants. Mrs. Stanford White was a very large, short-waisted woman, but in Worth’s accomplished hands, she appeared sleek and statuesque at the head of a receiving line. Only those well-acquainted with the shortcomings of her imbalanced figure could appreciate the gown’s deceptive flattery. Description Bodice: Boned, fitted, waist-length, deep center front busk point, net panels either side of center front; low sweetheart neck, pleated tulle inset; short puffed tulle sleeves, lace overlayer; bead tassels at hem. Skirt: Floor-length with train, flat front, full in back; clusters of bead tassels center front, waist to hem. Garment structure The fabric pattern is mirror imaged on both the front bodice and skirt. The short puffed tulle sleeves are sewn in by hand and have a delicate gathered lace overlayer. The bodice is constructed to be adjustable in size. The laced back, which is entirely concealed beneath a velvet overlap that fastens with hooks and eyes, has two points on either side of the center. When the points are lapped one on top of the other, the fabric pattern matches at center back; however, the back is designed so it can be let out 3½” and have both points show at the waist. The floor-length skirt is flat in front with a full back and train. Five clusters of beaded motifs with beaded tassels are applied at the center front from the waist to the hem. The skirt has a taffeta slip with a dust ruffle on the back hem. The dust ruffle is pinked on upper edge with pinked Van Dyke points on the lower edge. The shirring is done by hand, and the ruffle hand-sewn to the underside of the slip. Worn by Mrs. Stanford White. Anonymous gift, 1946.

Black voided velvet with branching floral and foliate motif, applied brilliants; Chantilly lace; cream tulle; black net with brilliants and jet beads in stylized floral pattern; jet bead and brilliant tassels
Label: Worth / Paris; 66271 (handwritten)
Center front length: 12”
Center back length: 8½”
Waist measurement: 33½”
Tea gown

Background "Harper’s Bazar" (the second ‘a’ was added in 1929) published an illustration of a comparable late-17th century inspired gown available from Maison Worth as early as 1893, but variations of it remained high on their design roster for much of the decade’s balance. Celebrated Metropolitan Opera soprano Emma Eames was so fond of its design that she wore an on-stage version in her role as the Countess in "Les Noces de Figaro" as well an off-stage rendition: a tea gown worn in her dressing room. Description Fitted from shoulder to bust, flaring into floor-length skirt with train, overlapping front panels joined with selvages exposed, pleated at back; open center front bust to hem, satin underlayer, applied lace either side center front, wired black satin rosette at center front bust; lace yoke, tassel fringe; high satin band collar, center back satin bow, lace falling collar with deep points; long sleeves, exaggerated puff from shoulder to elbow over fitted peach silk undersleeve, wired slit opening, brocade inset, bows and tassels at slit, fitted from elbow to wrist, applied lace, full-length back. Garment structure Deceptive in its seemingly easy, flowing form, the lightly boned bodice is fitted at the shoulders and bust before flaring into a full floor-length skirt and short train. The inner bodice structure is silk taffeta and has a center back hook-and-eye closure. Silk seam binding stay pockets are hand sewn into the seam allowances. All seams are hand overcast. The gown is trimmed with handmade bobbin tape lace on the sleeves, yoke, and large falling collar. The black silk rosette is constructed with of wide ribbon, its selvages woven to include wiring for shaping. Wide strips of lace are applied to the satin underskirt at center front, revealed only when the gown is in motion. The gigot sleeves have two upper sleeves: an exaggerated puff on the oversleeve from shoulder to elbow and a fitted peach silk undersleeve. The lower sleeve is fitted from the elbow to the wrist with lace applied to the lower sleeve and part of the upper sleeve. The sleeves fasten with button loops and fabric covered buttons. The split front of the gown features selvages as a decorative device. Worn by Mrs. Calvin Brice Anonymous Gift, 1942.

Lavender satin; lavender damask with vermiculate pattern; cream satin; bobbin tape lace; black satin ribbon, lavender tassel fringe
Label: Worth / Paris (on petersham)
Center front length: 57”
Center back length: 72”
Hem circumference: 166¾”
Motif repeat: 6¾”
Tea gown

Background Tea or reception gowns were a Worth specialty, their designs borrowing from the house’s virtuosic theatrical and fancy dress repertoire. The vibrantly contrasting voided velvet of this piece is here combined with a Renaissance-style lace yoke, evoking the picturesque garments illustrated by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones. The lightly boned interior of the gown allowed its wearer to receive guests within her own home while wearing little more than unconstructed lingerie beneath. Description Semifitted, boned bodice, full, floor-length skirt with slight train; lace over satin yoke, gilt lace edging; round neck; long sleeves, exaggerated puffed velvet sleeve upper arm to elbow, fitted, lace over satin sleeve elbow to wrist, lace extending beyond wrist, four cream silk bound buttons at wrist; satin lining. Garment structure The simplicity of this tea gown belies the inner structure and the boned bodice that support the dress. The bodice has been professionally let out 4” by inserting four ribbon godets. These additions appear to be a part of the original garment, rather than a later alteration. The lining silk has been slashed, the edges turned under and sewn to the godets with slipstitches—possibly the client had gained weight from the time of her last fitting. Worn by either Kate or Helen Brice, daughters of Mrs. Calvin Brice. Anonymous Gift, 1942.

Sapphire blue voided velvet on wine satin ground, dense floral and foliate pattern; cream hand-made Burano lace in Venetian rose point style; gilt lace; lavender satin
Label: C. Worth / Paris; 84097 (handwritten on waist stay)
Center front length: 56 ½”
Center back length: 68 ½”
Waist measurement: 23 ¾”
Hem circumference: 196”
Yoke measurements:
Center front length: 4 3/8”
Center back length: 5”
Afternoon dress

Background This gorgeously vulgar afternoon dress bespeaks the ostentatious lifestyle of its nouveau-riche owner, combining an undulating feather brocade with velvet, lace, and cut-steel beadwork. Only a hand as skilled as Worth’s could have plausibly combined such disparate elements into one garment, and only a client of Mrs. Brice’s scale—with her 36-inch corseted waist—could have carried it off. Description Bodice: Boned, fitted, waist-length; wide draped brocade revers, applied beads at edges; brocade stand collar, integral lace jabot; velvet gigot sleeves, flared cuff, brocade lining, lace ruffle at wrist; center front button closure. Skirt: Floor-length with train, flat in front, full in back; brocade overskirt open right of center front, steel cut beads at edges, velvet panel at opening; pleat left of center front, knee to hem. Garment structure The bodice body and split overskirt is made from the elaborately patterned brocade. Velvet is used for the sleeves, front yoke, and underskirt panels. The boned bodice is closely fitted and has an asymmetrical velvet yoke, wide draped brocade revers, and a brocade stand collar. Its front extends to the waist with six tails at the back to create a very small bustle effect. It has button and buttonhole closure at center front. The velvet gigot sleeves balloon outward and the sleeve cap is stiffened and supported by a shorter undersleeve. The edges of the collar and skirt opening are trimmed with copper-and-silver and silver metallic cord, and steel cut beads. Typically, unmatched seams indicate that a Worth garment has been modified, but in this unaltered exception most of the structural seams are not matched. Only the center back seam bears the typical mirrored imagery. Worn by Mrs. Calvin Brice. Anonymous Gift, 1942.

Brown velvet; raw umber satin with silver brocade in undulating feather pattern; cream macramé lace; steel cut beads, metallic cord applied in trefoil pattern
Label: Worth / Paris
Center front length: 17”
Center back length: 17 ¼”
Waist measurement: 36”
Ball gown

Background The designs of Maison Worth took advantage of the proportions of large women to showcase magnificent, grand-scale textiles that would overwhelm more diminutive clients. This ball gown, made for Mrs. Calvin Brice, is dominated by its spectacular variegated American Beauty rose brocade. To offset the power of the textile, the designer softens the neckline and sleeve edges with a bib and ruffles of rich gold metallic lace and caps the sleeve with a cluster of silk flowers. Description Bodice: Boned, fitted, waist-length, rounded busk points center front and center back; waist-length V-shaped lace bib at front; off-the-shoulder neck; organza cap undersleeve, gathered lace ruffle, flower clusters at armholes and shoulders. Skirt: Trumpet shape, floor-length with train. Garment structure The boned bodice extends to the waist with rounded points at both the center front and center back. Close fit is achieved with seams from the shoulders to the waist on the front and from the armholes to the waist on the back. The waist edge is finished with a single line of corded piping. The bodice laces at center back. The gathered lace flounces around the armholes overlay and are supported by organza undersleeves. The trumpet-shaped skirt has a floor-length train. The skirt front is flat with inverted pleats on either side of the center. Worn by Mrs. Calvin S. Brice. Anonymous Gift, 1942.

Purple satin brocade with American Beauty rose pattern; gold metallic lace with applied gilt paillettes; purple silk flowers; cream organza
Label: Worth / Paris; 84095
Center front length: 14”
Center back length: 12 7/8”
Waist measurement: 35½”
Ball gown in silver and pink velvet brocade

Compound weave with silk warp, silver metallic weft, cut and uncut pink velvet brocade, en broché, in floral spray and garland patterns; silver metallic loop trim. A) Bodice: Fitted, waist-length, deep point CF; off-the-shoulder, double ruffle; short, flared, double-tiered sleeves; metallic trim, ruffles and sleeves; lace-up closure. B) Skirt: Bell shape, pleated all around; floor-length, double-tiered.