19th Century

Jeanne Samary and her dress

Interestingly, while numerous paintings of the late 1870s and early 1880s show women in low cut, almost sleeveless natural form evening gowns, like the one worn by Jeanne Samary, and fashion plates also show this style of gown, very few examples these gowns have survived.

Were they cut apart and modified for later styles?  Did they become so soiled at balls that they were not worth saving?  Did women tend to have only one evening gown, and a selection of reception dresses (the ones with low square necks, and 3/4 length sleeves) ?  Is it because wedding dresses were reception dresses, not ballgowns, and wedding dresses represent a disproportionate amount of the extent historical garments?

Whatever the reason, I can only find one extent ballgown for every 10 reception dresses, so here are the ones I can find.


Evening dress, 1879, Indiana State Museum

I’m infatuated with the orange/goldenrod colour of this dress, and the bodice is very similar to Jeanne’s dress in some ways.  And the skirt, well, how can you not love metal embroideries of daisies!?!

Looking at the additional views of the dress (click on it to link through), I can’t help wonder if whoever dressed the mannequin haven’t given it a bit too much of a bustle, but otherwise is is fabulous.


Evening dress, 1880

I’ve already mentioned this dress in the early planning stages of the Juno gown.  I love the way it combines the more artistic and unconventional aesthetic style with the traditional Victorian evening silhouette, and the draping is vaguely reminiscent of Jeanne’s gown.  I still plan to make this someday.


Ball gown, 1876, Metropolitan Museum of Art

This dress is fascinating because it shows such a tradition of styles, leading up to the type of dress that Jeanne wore.  The last vestiges of the bertha are still seen, but the horizontal lines of the skirt have begun to show.  On a side note, why, oh why, has the Met decided to show it on a crinoline!  It’s clear it’s meant to be slim around the legs, with the folds of the train hiding where the pleat lines end!

With only three sleeveless evening dresses of 1878ish identified, I got bored and branched out:


Evening shoes, French, ca 1880, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Not a frock, I know, but aren’t these adorable, and don’t they look like they would go perfectly with Jeanne’s dress as shown in the painting?

And finally, this is not an evening dress, nor would it go with Jeanne’s dress, but it had a few elements that reminded me of it:


Wedding dress, Moyen, ca 1880, Metropolitan Museum of Art

The ruching of the skirt may be how Jeanne’s dress was constructed (though I’m happy with my interpretation as a perfectly plausible recreation), and the train seems very similar.  For another wedding dress of the same period with a different ‘possibly Jeanne-ish’ skirt, check out this one.


  1. I love that orange / goldendron colour too, have done for longtime, what is it about colours like that, they are so full and have a depth, kinda earthy I guess. I was interested where you got the goldendron term from I have not heard that before. Yellow was big in the Art Nouveau movement wasn’t it.

    • Ooops! Goldendron is me trying to smush together goldenrod and rhododendron. Why, I have no idea! The proper term is goldenrod.

  2. I love the idea of goldedendrons! Wouldn’t they be gorgeous!! Also love goldenrod 🙂

    • Well, I would like rhododendrons a LOT better if they came in goldenrod yellow. As they are, rhodo colours are so blatant and lacking in subtlety.

  3. Madame Ornata says

    Oh I really like the goldenrod 1880 and the pearl coloured 1876 gowns. I am fond of the styles from this period and would love to make a dress from here one day. I remember the yellow from the first time and thought how stunning it was. You shoud definately make it. I’ll keep an eye out for other examples.

  4. Oh I quite like Rhodies but there is only so much hot pink a gal can take, admittedly!
    Is it just me or is Goldie rod reminiscent of a mantua? Obviously being sleeveless is not why, but the fitted bodice and then the fabric folding to the back like that…

  5. Momi I am so bored, I thought I’d do some digging too. Found one on this page, which in itself is interesting but no info about where the gowns are kept. There is an ealry 1870’s gown worn by the First Lady of that time:
    Also a worth one in the Met, only a back view but it has a similar shape:
    http://www.metmuseum.org/works_of_art/collection_database/the_costume_institute/dress_house_of_worth/objectview_enlarge.aspx?page=1&sort=6&sortdir=asc&keyword=1880 dress&fp=1&dd1=8&dd2=0&vw=1&collID=8&OID=80035810&vT=1&hi=0&ov=0
    I have another theory about the lack of extant gowns; it would have been a tome when people made alternate bodices for reception and evening and maybe the evening ones didn’t survive as often?

    • Thanks Mrs C! The first link doesn’t work – only takes me to the dreadful blog page. And I knew about the second one, even found it while searching, but slipped up at the last point and forgot about including it! Silly me! Thank you for the reminder!

      I don’t know so many cases of reception and evening at this era – usually reception and day. I’m actually wondering if they added sleeves to evening dresses to make them reception worthy.

    • OK, I got the blog to work! I can find quite a few from the early 1870s, but it’s earlier than my ‘brief’. Love some of the other gowns though! Helen Tafts dress – swoon! And Florence Harding and Grace Coolidge’s dresses (though I want to slap whoever described it as ‘flapper style’) are drool worthy. They are all in the collection of the Smithsonian.

      • Yup there was one from earlier, more 1874, but it was similar, but the whole collection was so fascinating to see together I couldn’t resist. Good to know wher ethey are properly! 🙂 Naughty blogger for not giving that info though!

  6. Oh, I adore that gold 1880 dress. I’m looking forward to you recreating it so I can learn a few tips!

  7. Signe says

    LOVE that 1880 gold dress! I’m trying to recreate it but I’m having trouble getting those folds to fall like that… Any tips??

    • Sorry, I’m not sure which of the two golden yellow dresses you are talking about. Certainly with both of them the trick to the folds is using the absolute right fabric.

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