Last week’s 1750s Robe a la Francaise was far better received than I had anticipated. I thought the muddy colours and square shape would put people off. If they weren’t enough, there was the lacklustre presentation and dreadful wig.
Despite all those, you found the back pleating sufficiently swooshy, and the fabric sufficiently luxurious, to keep all your ratings at 6 and above. The ratings averaged out at 8.3 out of 10. 8 (or 8.5) was the most commonly rated # for the dress, so for once the ratings reflect the general reaction.
This week: A ca. 1900 day dress
This week I’ve chosen something in a nice bright, bold colour: a ca 1900 day dress in deep blue printed silk:
The silhouette of this dress, with its drooping bell sleeves, not-yet-excessive pigeon breast, and gored skirt with ruffled hem, is absolutely typical of fashionable 1900s dress. The S-curve has yet to reach its most outrageous proportions, but is definitely in evidence. The only throw-back is the sleeve heads, which retain a slight fullness.
The delicate but elaborate trims and ornamentation are also pure Edwardiana. The rows of tiny pintucks are interrupted by lace insets, creating rhythms of vertical and horizontal lines. The vertical lines converge at the centre front and centre back of the dress, drawing the eye in, and emphasising the wearer’s small waist. French knots creating textural polka dots on the lower sleeves and collar. The knots reverse the white-on-blue colour scheme of the primary floral fabric. This ties the sleeves back into the garment, and bounces the eye back and forth between the different colours and textures.
When the wearer moved the hem ruffle would have fluffed around her feet. The slight train would have swooshed an attractive ‘follow me’. The lighter lower sleeves would draw attention to artistic hands. Imagine them folded demurely at the front of the dress, or gesturing in conversation. The fullness of the lower sleeves would enhance the impression of small, delicate hands.
The most work the hands in the sleeves might have done in this dress was fancy-work or flower arranging. This ca 1900 day dress is definitely the gown of a woman of leisure: and not just for everyday wear either. The combination of silk fabric, vivid colours, and delicate white details would have made this extremely difficult to launder and care for. I’ve called this a day dress, but it could equally be described as a reception gown.
Those troublesome (for the maid) vivid colours show the transition from late Victorian fashion to Edwardian. The fabric and print are both lighter and more delicate than those typical of the late Victorian era. However, the rich cobalt hue is more robust than the delicate half-shades and pastels that were the predominant fashionable colours in the first decade of the 20th century. The geometricised florals may be surprisingly modern too our eyes, but weren’t unusual at the time.
The lace trim was most likely a closer match to the blue of the silk when the dress was made. It has probably simply faded or colour changed differently over time. The greenish tone it has taken on is a common effect of dye change. Despite that, it is possible that it was originally this shade. Particularly when it came to lace, the Edwardians were not fixated on matching exact hues. It’s possible they thought the slight variations added to the overall effect of textures and layering.
What do you think? Do the swooshy skirts and subtle details make you swoon with delight? Do you like the combination of delicate and bold? Or do you think it a dress divided: pulled between eras and design details? Or does it just not work for you for another reason?
Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10