House of Rouff
Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Dresses
Wool, silk satin, silk chiffon, silk broadcloth, silk taffeta, bobbinet, tambour lace, Venetian needle lace, silk satin ribbon, silk cord
c. 1905. One-piece cream wool afternoon dress, closing in back, having a slightly bloused or pouched wool bodice overlaid with lace, full-length two-part lace-trimmed bobbinet and chiffon sleeves, and a floor-length gored skirt with a train, trimmed with net inserts, cord, silk ribbon roses, and fronds, by House of Rouff, Paris.
The dress bodice has a structured lining made of a cream silk satin in ten pieces: two center-front panels with a center seam, two side-front panels with one dart each, and a six-panel back with a center-back opening fastened with eleven hooks. All seams and openings are boned, for a total of eleven bones, and the lining does not extend over the shoulders. Above this, the fine cream wool of the outer draped bodice layer reaches only to the middle of the scye at its top edge and over to the natural waist at its hem. It is somewhat bloused or pouched, though by this date the pouched silhouette was shrinking, present mostly at the bust above a fitted waist. Accordingly, the wool layer is made from a single panel that wraps around the torso under the arms to the center-back opening, where it fastens with seven hooks, and controls excess fabric at the waist with three soft vertical pleats on each side of the front before releasing some fullness over the bust even though the lining beneath the bust is still tailored. Where the wool ends, a yoke of fine cream silk chiffon is sewn in place, rising to a standing band collar that is 5.1 cm / 2 in. high in front and 6.4 cm / 2.5 in. high in back, supported by four collar stays and fastened in back with four hooks. Panels of tambour lace on fine cream silk net cover the chiffon yoke and collar and continue into the free-hanging lace drape that extends past the top of the wool bodice. The tambour lace is patterned with leaves and blossoms, some of which have three-dimensional petals added-on. A heavier cream Venetian needle lace in five high points in front, one on each side, and four in back is sewn on top of the tambour and completes the lace fall, ending where the bodice begins to conform to the waist. The lace yoke fastens in back over the bodice with ten hooks. The sleeves are sewn to the lace yoke without fullness at the scye. The upper sleeve, made from the tambour lace on net, ends at the elbow. The lower sleeve extends to the wrist and is made of the chiffon, and is finished with a wide Venetian needle lace cuff.
Rather than a cummerbund sash, the waistline of this dress is visually defined by a large smoothly-fitted assemblage of cream two-twist bobbinet backed by cream silk taffeta that is incorporated directly into the garment. Ten sections of taffeta-backed bobbinet are sewn together with vertical seams at the center-front, side-fronts, sides, and two seams on each side of the back. The top edge of this completed element is sewn on top of the wool, over the bodice pleats, rising to a point just beneath the bust in front before dropping toward the waist at the sides, then rising in back before falling off sharply to the waist at the center-back opening. Its bottom edge extends past the edge of the bodice in front, dropping to a low curved point at center then arching up to the top of the hips at the sides, continuing to rise to the waistline in back. This bottom edge is bordered in front with narrow cream silk satin ribbons pleated into fronds and curlicues, and in back with cream silk two-ply cords. Ruched roses and larger pleated fronds made from wider cream silk satin ribbons climb up from the bobbinet hem, past its top edge, and onto the wool bodice beneath the lace fall with gently swooping arcs.
Three gored skirt panels are added into the dress beneath the bobbinet waistline, one at center-front, ending in line with the hips in front, and two panels that create the rest of the skirt and lengthen into the train. These two panels are sewn together at the center-back seam, leaving a 30.5 cm / 12 in. long opening at the top that is fastened with ten hooks, and also lengthen into the train. The train is broadened at the hem with two large triangular godets. At the waist, for all their width, these two large panels fit smoothly to the body through clever use of design: the panels are slashed for most of their length at the sides and on either side of center-back, with more fabric removed at the waist and less as the slash progresses toward the hem. The slashes curve, split off small branches, widen and narrow and widen once more in organic, fluid lines. They have bobbinet sewn in from behind to set their shapes, and the edges are reinforced with lengths of cream silk two-ply cord. More silk ribbon roses and fronds cascade down the skirt over these slashes, further disguising their real purpose. The center-front panel disguises its seams to the panels on either side of it in a similar manner; they are removed for most of their length and likewise filled in and trimmed. Only at the hem are the remaining portions of the seams visible. The entire skirt is bag-lined with a silk broadcloth lining to protect the cutwork, and a free-floating silk-satin petticoat with a knife-pleated flounce on its hem is sewn to the skirt at the waist alone, providing support and fullness.
The House of Rouff, or Maison Rouff, was one of the prominent Parisian couture houses of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Opened by L. Rouff in Vienna in 1884, Rouff was established in Paris by 1890. Their presence at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and their frequent appearance in American fashion periodicals such as Harper’s Bazaar ensured the couturier’s popularity among American women of means. By the 1920s the design house was in trouble, unable to adapt its signature elaborate ruffles and laces to the changing tastes of the time. Maison Rouff came to an end in 1929 when the designer Marguerite Besançon de Wagner bought it and changed its name—and her own—to Maggy Rouff. Professionally made with a label on waist stay reading “Maison Rouff / 13 Bd Haussmann / Paris”. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn.
Bust: 100.3 cm / 39.5 in.
Waist: 72.4 cm / 28.5 in.
Shoulder: 11.4 cm / 4.5 in.
Sleeve: 61 cm / 24 in.
Hem: 467.4 cm / 184 in.
Length (skirt front): 101.6 cm / 40 in.
Length (skirt back): 157.5 cm / 62 in.
University of New Hampshire Library
Astrida Schaeffer, photographer/curator
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Dresses, c. 1905, Paris, France, One-piece dresses, Afternoon dresses, Wool, Cream (color), Belle Époque, Venetian needle lace, Tambour lace, Maison Rouff, House of Rouff, Back-closing, Bloused bodice, Pouched bodice, Full-length sleeves, Two-part sleeves, Lace trim, Bobbinet, Chiffon, Floor-length skirt, Gores, Godets, Trains (costume components), Silk net, Cords, Silk ribbon, Roses, Fronds, Silk satin, Silk taffeta, Darts, Hooks, Boning, Fitted waist, Pleats, Knife pleats, Yoke, Standing band collar, Collar stays, Leaves, Blossoms, Cuffs, Ribbons, Curlicues, Silk broadcloth, Petticoat, Flounces, Professionally made, Machine-sewn, Hand-sewn