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Evening dress

Background In contrast with the extravagant designs normally associated with Maison Worth, the pristine silhouette and tender proportions of this gown demonstrate the restraint of which the house was equally capable. The sculptural clarity of this gown’s lines provides a textbook example for anyone interested in emulating its design. Description Bodice: Fitted; short-waist length; wide neck; short sleeves; pleated tulle ruffle at neck and sleeves; self trim at neck; self bows center front and sleeves; center front lace-up closure. Skirt: Floor-length with train, fuller in back. Belt: Self belt, horizontal pleats, center back bow and streamers. Garment structure This evening dress is a fine example of Worth’s ability to design simple gowns as easily and superbly as extravagant ones. The slightly trained crinoline of this dress is typical of the mid-1860s silhouette and features a flatter skirt front with its fullness pulled to the back and held in place with multiple cartridge pleats. The long seams on the skirt are hand sewn. Collar, bows, pleated belt, streamers, and fringed streamers are all fabricated of the self-same ribbed silk. The edges of the collar ruffle are cut with small scallops and left raw. The ruffle is pleated ½” from the upper edge and sewn to the edge of the collar with running stitches and is covered by a bias strip. The streamers on the front bow are cut with straight edges into points. Only a few seams on the bodice have been machine- stitched. Worn by either Mrs. Benjamin Talbot Babbitt or Mrs. Frederick E. Hyde. Gift of Richard H. L. Sexton and Eric H. L. Sexton, 1962.

Cerulean blue ribbed silk; white tulle
Label: Worth & Bobergh / 7 rue de la Paix 7 / Paris (stamped in gold on petersham waist stay)
Center front length: 8¼”
Center back length: 7¾”
Waist measurement: 21 3/8”
Center front length: 42”
Center back length: 71”
Waist measurement: 21¾”
Hem circumference: 204”
Streamer length: 7 7/8” X 19”
Fringe length: 3”
Wedding dress with two bodices

Background A sketch for the evening bodice of this gown is in the Worth archive of the Fashion Museum of Bath and North East Somerset Counties. Referred to as “baby doll,” the princess seaming (an unbroken waistline) of the evening bodice introduces an innovation that would set the tone for the fit of many of Worth’s subsequent designs. The daunting cost of any of the house’s more extravagant designs motivated many bridal clients to consider extending the usage of a one-time investment by ordering an evening bodice as well as a modest chapel bodice. The fullness of the skirt and the inward bend of the evening bodice busk place the donor’s date for original use in dispute. Both elements more closely conform to Worth’s designs of the mid, rather than late 1860s. But the elongation of the evening bodice’s basque agrees stylistically with those at decade’s end. Description Chapel bodice: Fitted; waist-length; band of beads and pearls applied front to back, either side center front; swansdown band on left side (reconstructed from original design); round neck, small round lace collar; long sleeves, ruched tulle band below elbow; swansdown band (reconstructed from original design), pearls, and beads at cuff; center front button closure. Skirt: Full; floor-length with train; applied tulle band from knee to hem, pleating at top and bottom edges; deep, pleated hem ruffle; applied pearls at train hem. Sash: Cream satin; center back bow and streamers; tulle overlay, beads, pearls, and swansdown (reconstructed from original design) at ends. Evening bodice; fitted, waist-length at center front with deep busk point, graded basque; off-the-shoulder neck, pleated tulle edging; sleeveless, ruched satin and shirred and puffed tulle bands at armholes; pearls, swansdown (reconstructed from original design), and tassels at cutaway edges, neck, and hem. Garment structure The evening bodice front has seams from the armholes to the front edges. The side panels are devoid of horizontal waistline seams. Its busk point is finished with double piping and boned with three stays. The off-the-shoulder neckline is trimmed with a decorative satin band embellished with pearls and beads on tulle. Pleated tulle is applied to the neck edge. Ruched satin and shirred and puffed tulle bands trim the armholes. The graded front is embellished with the same decorative bands as the chapel bodice; swansdown and beaded fringe are applied at the edges. The tulle overskirt (reconstructed from physical evidence and period plates) is pleated at the top and bottom with a tulle ruffle applied to the upper edge. Starting in the mid-1860s, Worth favored the use of silk tulle as either a major decorative element or as neckline trim. Regrettably, due to the inherent perishable nature of the material, very few garments have survived with their original trim intact; here the skirt overlay has been replaced by man-made maline. Worn by Clara Howard at her marriage to James Flower in 1869. Gift of Mr. Pierre Lorillard Barbey, Jr., 1972.

Cream satin; cream tulle; swansdown; crystal beads; glass pearls; crystal bead tassels
Chapel bodice:
Center front length: 13¾”
Center back length: 10”
Waist measurement: 25”
Evening bodice:
Center front length: 14 1/3”
Center back length: 15½”
Streamer: 5 ½” X 23½”; 5 ½” X 24”
Afternoon dress

Background Departing from the round and dome-shaped skirts of the 1860s, Worth swept their residual volume backward and poured it over a tournure or bustle. That unwieldy silhouette, originally introduced at the end of the 17th century, would define fashion throughout most of 1870s and ’80s. Many Worth clients, unwilling to abandon costly but outmoded garments, brought them back to Worth, who combined their contrasting materials into fresh, new incarnations. This afternoon dress is one such example and features a “fan train,” which was introduced by Worth and cited in an 1873 edition of "Harper’s Bazar. " Description Bodice: Fitted, waist-length, two deep basque points at center front and center back; V-neck, organdy ruffle; pink silk mock vest with narrow shawl collar; tan overlayer, pleated, crossed tan silk bands at bust, silk ribbon rosette at center front; elbow-length sleeves, pink silk turned-back curved cuffs; detachable organdy undersleeves with eyelet embroidery; fringe at hem. Skirt: Floor-length, flat front with train; Center front panel with alternating rows of pink silk, tan silk, and fringe, ribbon rosettes on either side of center front hip to hem; gathered tan silk side panels extending into bustle and train, rust ruffle at hem, pink silk lining; pink silk underskirt, pleated ruffle. Garment structure The bodice is boned to the waist is extended by two basque deep points at center front and a single point at center back. Smoothly fitted, its waistline unseamed, it has long vertical darts on the front and seams from the armholes to the hem on the back. The flat-fronted floor-length skirt dramatically contrasts with its back-thrusting and hitched trained bustle, arranged to reveal its pink silk underskirt. In an unusual departure, Worth’s lean front and full back are “…cut in a new and admirable fashion which combines gracefulness of effect with great economy of material,” according to "Harper’s Bazar," December 19, 1874. Like most designs of this period, machine stitching is used on the primary seams, with secondary elements such as the stay pockets, the seams joining the cuffs to the sleeve, bindings, and finishing details stitched by hand. Worn by mother of the donor. Gift of Mrs. Henry Martyn Alexander, 1940.

Tan silk; pink ribbed silk; brown fringe; tan and pink silk ribbon; white organdy; white eyelet embroidery
ca. 1876
Afternoon dress

Background The combination of Lyon-milled, historically referenced florals with period details came to define the work of Maison Worth. This afternoon dress exemplifies the atelier’s proclivity for 18th-century inspired design in its lighthearted combination of pink and white rose sprig meanders, ecru bobbin lace tablier, and lace engageantes. Description Bodice: White satin brocade; boned, fitted, elongated-waist length, center front point, tails; sweetheart neck, pink satin yoke, lace fichu over pink satin; elbow-length sleeves, double-layered lace engageantes; pink satin bows at bust and sleeves; pink satin edging at hem; center front button closure. Skirt: White satin brocade; floor-length with train; lace over pink satin center front panel, pleated ruffle at hem; open either side center back, tiered lace flounces over pink satin insets, curved tab hem; pink bows either side center back. Garment structure This afternoon dress illustrates Worth’s ability to integrate different textures, patterns, and cut. The brocade, a seemingly simple small-scale rosebud/sprig pattern, in fact comprises at least four different sub-patterns woven in the matching background color. The fine-quality machine-produced Valenciennes is used abundantly not only in the shirred drape at the front, but also for the four tiered flounces tucked under the brocade on either side of the back skirt. A plain pink satin underlayer is used to highlight the rosebud pattern on the lace panel at the front, on the train and on the pleated hem ruffle. A single lace dust ruffle peeks out from under the rounded tab hem of the brocade train. Worn by either Mrs. Benjamin Talbot Babbitt or by Mrs. Frederick E. Hyde. Gift of Richard H. L. Sexton and Eric H. L. Sexton, 1962.

White satin with floral brocade; pink satin; pink satin ribbon
Label: Worth / 7, Rue de la Paix / Paris (on waist stay)
ca. 1876
Afternoon dress

Background Relying primarily on its pungent aniline-derived colors for impact, this otherwise unadorned asymmetrical design illustrates Maison Worth’s ability to reserve its battery of decorative pyrotechnics for evening use. This gown showcases the confidence and precision that could produce equally spectacular daywear, as illustrated by its swallowtail-cut basque and crisp, knife-edged bustle. Description Bodice: Boned, fitted, waist-length, hip-length basque tails; band collar, lace ruffle; elbow-length sleeves, ribbon rosette at sleeve ends, engageantes; pleated integral self belt; center front button closure. Skirt: Floor-length with train, overskirt, open at front, pleated and gathered in back, flat, center front underskirt panel, self ruffles at hem, fringed taffeta swag at front from right hip to left knee; purple, fuchsia and lace ruffles at train hem; fuchsia lining. Garment structure The bodice fastens at center front with buttons and hand-worked buttonholes. It extends to the waist and is finished with a pleated cummerbund band. Long pointed tails extend below the hips and are edged with a corded piping. A small weight is concealed between the tail layers to hold them in place. The band collar is trimmed with a shirred strip of machine-made lace hand sewn to the inside. The same lace is used to trim the elbow-length sleeves, which also feature a large self-fabric rosette. Lined with fuchsia silk, the rosette’s eight loops are sewn to reveal both sides. The asymmetrical skirt has an overskirt that is open at the front. On the right-hand side, the overskirt turns back to show the contrasting facing. The overskirt is pleated and gathered in the back. The train hem is finished with knife-pleated ruffles in purple, fuchsia, and lace. The underskirt panel is flat at the center front and trimmed with a self-fabric ruffle over a fuchsia ruffle at the hem. A separate swag, fringed with purple silk and small fuchsia beads, is inserted between the two skirts at the front from the right hip to left knee. Worn by the donor's mother. Gift of Mrs. William Raymond, 1952.

Purple taffeta; pink machine-made lace; fuchsia, navy blue, and purple silk fringe; purple reversing to fuchsia taffeta ribbon; fuchsia taffeta lining
Label: Worth / 7 rue de la Paix / Paris
Center front length: 12¼”
Center back length: 13½”
Waist measurement: 24”
Center front length: 38½”
Center back length: 65”
Waist measurement: 27½”
Hem circumference: 109”
December 1878
Wedding dress

Background The Victorian formula for the virginal white wedding gown—orange blossoms and tulle—is challenged here by the rich cherry clusters of the dress made for Annie Schermerhorn. The silk tape fringe and elaborate pearl embroidery underscore an elegance closely aligned with the house’s ball gowns. Although wedding protocol closely delineated the rare exceptions under which one could re-wear a wedding gown—foremost being presentation at the Court of Saint James—the opulent beauty of this design must have presented countless temptations for a repeat wearing. Description Bodice: Boned, fitted, deep center front busk point, basque tails; square neck with stand collar, cream chiffon fichu, pearl appliqué; fitted, elbow-length sleeves, inner side satin, outer side net, pearl appliqué, knotted cream satin bands over net creating slashed effect, net frill at shoulders, ivory satin cockade at outer elbows; center front button closure. Skirt: Floor-length with train; draped at center front hip, swagged either side center back, fringe at ends; chiffon flounce, pleats at hem. Garment structure The bodice has a center front closure with self-fabric covered buttons and thread buttonholes; the square neckline has a stand collar with cream chiffon fichu and pearl appliqué. The lower edge is finished with a single satin piping. The seam allowance of the piping covers the raw edges on the wrong side. The bodice has a plain weave silk backing with boning casings sewn by hand and hand overcast seams. The skirt front is backed with silk taffeta. Two layers of self fabric were used to create the bustle. The outlining fringe is hand stitched. There is a pleated chiffon flounce at the hem and a dust ruffle around the entire skirt. Worn by Annie Schermerhorn at her marriage to John Innes Kane, December 12, 1878. Gift of Miss Fannie M. Cottenet, 1932.

Ivory and gold satin damask; cream net; cream satin; imitation pearls; ivory silk fringe; tan chiffon
Center front length: 12 ½”
Center back length to the bottom: 21¼”
Center back length to bow: 18”
Waist measurement: 22”
Center front length: 41½”
Center back length: 69”
Waist measurement: 24½”
Hem circumference: 149”
Visiting dress

Background The tiny proportions (well under five feet) of his client did little to deter Worth from combining a wide range of textiles, trims, and finishes in the fabrication of this visiting costume. The bell-shaped skirt departs from the exaggerated bustle silhouette of the time, culminating in a slimly-seamed center-back cascade embellished by the color contrast of its crenulated hem. The dress epitomizes the verticality of the princess line. Description Redingote style, striped satin over lavender mock underdress; floor-length with slight train; bell-shaped skirt, flat in front, fuller in back; center front lavender panel, brocade mock sash crossed at right hip, draped either side of center front, brown and purple fringe at ends; lavender stand collar, integral brocade cravat; striped satin overdress, inverted pleats either side of center back, looped lavender ribbons, lavender fringe; stand collar; long, fitted sleeves, split at wrist, mock brocade undersleeve, pleated organdy cuff ruffle, lace edging; striped satin tabbed hem; center front button closure. Garment structure The dress is contoured with long vertical darts and is seamless at the waist. The floor-length overskirt hem is tabbed in a reprise of Worth’s mid-1860s designs. The 8½”-wide double dust ruffle is sewn to the underside of the hem on both the front and back of the skirt. The dress is lined with silk taffeta. The sleeves are hand sewn into the armholes and trimmed with narrow self-fabric piping, a wider brocade mock undersleeve and a pleated organdy cuff with lace edging. The edges of the seams are overcast with thread by hand. Worn by mother of donor. Gift of Mrs. Fritz J. Frank, 1940.

Brown self-striped satin; dot pattern floral brocade; organdy, lace, and ribbon trim; silk fringe
Label: Worth / 7, rue de la Paix / Paris (stamped in gold on the waist stay)
Center front length: 50¾”
Center back length: 67”
Waist measurement: 23½”
Hem circumference: 71”