The Idea and Inspiration:
I wanted to make a late Victorian dress with classical inspiration for my ‘Pompeii to Paris: Fashion’s Classical Inspirations’ talk & collection. A pale yellow 1880s draped silk Aesthetic dress featured in the book and exhibition Goddess, the Classical Mode, immediately jumped out at me. The draping on the dress so clearly referenced the draping on classical statues, I had the perfect silk gauze in black to do it in, and I wanted Julia of the Perfect Victorian Figure to wear it.
But she liked this Worth dress, from the Brooklyn Museum Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
And I had to admit, it was pretty striking. I also saw a huge benefit in making and discussing a typical Victorian evening dress, and how classical inspiration still influenced the more fashionable, conservative, middle-of-the road women’s wear, not just the avant-garde Aesthetic movement and other highly artistic fashions. The deal was sealed when I found the perfect fabric for it. So the idea was born to create a Worth inspired 1889 dress with a classical twist. The peacock blue duchesse silk satin inspired a peacock motif, and a link to Juno, the Queen of the Gods in classical mythology.
I initially constructed the dress based on the single available image of it, the one above. After the initial dress was done, further images became available, and I revamped the dress, and completely re-did the train.
Fabric and Materials:
Peacock blue duchesse silk satin, lined in dark blue cotton twill, Plastic whalebone bodice boning. The initial incarnation of the dress has drapings of silk-cotton crepe chiffon, custom dyed to match the dress, and peacock feathers:
When I revamped the dress I found the silk-cotton crepe chiffon did not drape enough, and was not transparent enough, so after considerable searching for the right fabric I custom dyed silk tulle, and added trimmings of custom-dyed vintage velvet leaves, fabric flowers and peacock feathers.
Research and Resources:
Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1860-1940
English Women’s Clothing in the 19th Century: a Comprehensive Guide. Cecil Willett Cunnington. Pages 337-341
Bustle: (post coming soon)
The Dress Diary: