Woman's Two-Piece Day Dress: Bodice and Skirt

Worth used a brightly brocaded floral silk to soften the austerity of the black silk faille. Curved seams give the bodice an hourglass shape, which is accented by satin-edged triangular inserts of the brocade at front and back. Full hips are enhanced by a puffed overskirt, bordered in front by iridescent beaded fringe over the brocade center panel. The floral fabric is most dramatic down the back of the skirt, where it emerges from under the bodice's bustle tails to flow into a graceful train.

Designed by Charles Frederick Worth, English (active Paris), 1825 - 1895

Geography:
Made in France, Europe

Date:
c. 1878-1880

Medium:
Silk faille and brocaded silk lampas weave trimmed with lace, silk satin, and beads

Dimensions:
Bodice Center Back Length: 27 inches (68.6 cm) Skirt Center Front Length: 41 inches (104.1 cm) Skirt Waist: 24 inches (61 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Costume and Textiles

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
1996-19-7a,b

Credit Line:
125th Anniversary Acquisition. Gift of the heirs of Charlotte Hope Binney Tyler Montgomery, 1996

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Label:
During the late nineteenth century, American women flocked to Charles Frederick Worth's salon. The couturier cultivated the persona of an artist, modeling his image on that of Rembrandt, complete with a beret, a floppy, knotted silk scarf at the neck, and a loose, fur-trimmed coat. A contemporary, George Augustus Sala, described Worth as a man "who combines the suavity of a Granville, the diplomatic address of Metternich, the firmness of a Wellington, and the prompt coup d'oeil of a Napoleon."

Additional information:
  • PublicationGifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    The art of haute couture emerged in the 1860s, largely through the artistic invention and promotional skills of Charles Frederick Worth. The first great Parisian couturier, the English-born Worth gained the patronage of Empress Eugénie and attracted clients from around the world, including many wealthy American women who saw a visit to Europe as an opportunity to acquire an expensive wardrobe from Maison Worth. Fashion magazines featured and advertised his designs, and characters in novels even dreamt of owning one of his dresses.

    Worth, who began designing dresses in 1857, was in partnership with Swedish businessman Otto Bobergh until 1870. Five of the eight garments in this important gift date to the last years of that successful partnership. Obviously made for a young woman, the dresses are youthful in style and, for the Gilded Age, fairly restrained in trimming and fabric. Their pristine colors range from lavender and various pinks to acidic apple green and sickly greenish yellow.

    Three dresses from the mid- to late 1870s illustrate Worth’s talent for complex combinations of colors, textures, and trimmings. In this example, Worth used a brightly brocaded floral silk to soften the austerity of the black silk faille. It also shows the design and construction features Worth used to emphasize the ideal feminine figure. Curved seams give the bodice an hourglass shape, which is accented by satin-edged triangular inserts of the brocade at front and back. Full hips are enhanced by a puffed overskirt, bordered in front by iridescent beaded fringe over the brocade center panel. The floral fabric is most dramatic down the back of the skirt, where it emerges from under the bodice’s pert bustle tails to flow into a graceful train. H. Kristina Haugland, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary (2002), p. 69.