Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Dresses
Silk chiffon, silk satin, lace and net
1910-1915. One-piece black silk chiffon-draped cream silk satin dress, closing in back, with a cream lace bodice, three-quarter length lace sleeves and elbow-length black chiffon kimono over-sleeves, and with a floor-length draped skirt appliquéd with black lace elements, by Jean-Philippe Worth for House of Worth, Paris.
The dress originally had a more complete structured foundation bodice of cream silk satin, but at some point the top of this has been cut away to the waist leaving an unfinished upper edge. What remains extends past the waistline to cover the top of the hips. This layer is made with two panels in front with one dart each and a center seam, and six panels in back with a center-back opening. Two pieces of boning remain, but all seams and the openings were originally boned. The floor-length skirt is made from the same fabric in two gored panels joined with seams at the center front and center back, and it is sewn to the foundation bodice above its hem, at the natural waistline. The skirt has a weighted hem. The rest of the dress is designed as a play of light and shadow with textured lace and sheer black chiffon in various deliberate layers above the cream silk satin.
The first layer above the foundation bodice is made from a cream silk mixed lace that is pieced together like a puzzle and stitched to form a continuous fitted shell without side or shoulder seams, extending from the waist in front, over the shoulders and onto the arms, and down to the waist in back. It has a three-piece cream chiffon backing made with shoulder seams and sides seams. The lace bodice has a scooped neckline and a center-back opening with twenty-one hooks, and is trimmed below the bust in front with 15.2 cm / 6 in. wide and 7.6 cm / 3 in. high stepped rectangular black lace Art Deco appliqués. The lace draped over the arms forms the top segment of kimono-style sleeves, with no scye; the sleeves are lengthened with cream silk bobbinet and an insertion of tape lace just above the sleeve hem.
Over this, one 74.9 cm / 29.5 in. long and 41.9 cm / 16.5 in. wide panel of sheer black silk chiffon is draped diagonally over each shoulder and partway down the arm. For the bodice, this creates soft shifting folds of black, ending in a V at the center front and center back that frames the lace. For the sleeves, once the fabric under the arm is trimmed away, this forms an elbow-length kimono-style over-sleeve with no shoulder seam or scye, finished with a 31.8 cm / 12.5 in. long continuous seam from the sleeve hem down the bodice side seam to the waist. This chiffon layer is embellished on each side with two 8.3 cm / 3.25 in. wide stripes of insertions, made from doubled strips of the same fabric, with one stripe wrapping around the arm near the sleeve hem and the other flowing along the diagonal drape at the shoulder.
A second layer of chiffon, 73.7 cm / 29 in. long, drapes diagonally over each shoulder from the waist at center front and center back. These 22.9 cm / 9 in. wide panels are each softly pleated along their length to a width of about 11.4 cm / 4.5 in.
The bottom edge of a pleated black silk chiffon waistband sits at the natural waistline while the band itself rises into the bodice. It is unattached in back from the right edge of the opening and it hooks in place with one hook in the middle of the left back panel and with four hooks at the left side seam. At center front, it is trimmed with two of the Art Deco black lace appliqués which are sewn together to form one larger element.
The sheer black silk chiffon overlay of the skirt is gathered to the waist and has a more elaborate draped construction involving five pieces. The bottom of the skirt is covered by a single 157.5 cm / 62 in. long hem panel of chiffon with a deep doubled hem that wraps around the entire skirt, widening from 41.3 cm / 16.25 in. high at center front to 52.1 cm / 20.5 in. at its center-back seam. Above this is a narrow trapezoid at center-front, 8.3cm / 3.25 in. wide at the waist and 14.6 cm / 5.75 in. wide at its bottom edge. Six Art Deco black lace appliqués are spaced down the length of the front, with one hiding the horizontal seam between the center panel and the hem panel. The center front panel joins the side panels with 50.2 cm / 19.75 in. long seams, which are finished as vertical tucks that turn them into deliberate design elements. The two side panels, which form the rest of the skirt, lengthen dramatically from there to a 101.6 cm / 40 in. long seam at center-back. Rather than trailing on the ground, the bottom edge is caught up to the inside and sewn in place along the top edge of the hem panel with more of the Art Deco appliqués hiding the join.
Professionally made, with a woven label reading “Paris C Worth Paris” on the waist-stay ribbon. A secondary label sewn into a seam identifies the dress as “Worth #88379”. Charles Frederick Worth founded the design house bearing his name in Paris in 1858, and with it helped usher in the age of haute couture. Often credited with being the first designer to sew labels into his garments — labels literally woven with his own signature — Worth’s larger-than-life persona, business and publicity acumen, and design sensibilities helped make the House of Worth (Maison Worth) the couturier of choice for the aristocracy and royalty of Europe. The cachet of owning a Worth wardrobe made his label popular among the wealthy in America as well, though by the 1890s competing designers such as Paquin and Doucet were finding their own success. Upon Worth’s death in 1895, his son Jean-Philippe became head designer, and he in turn handed the reins to his own son, Jean-Charles, in the 1920s and 1930s. The Worth design dynasty ended with great-grandson Roger’s retirement in 1952. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn.
Bust: 86.4 cm / 34 in.
Waist: 76.2 cm / 30 in.
Sleeve (from neck): 54.6 cm / 21.5 in.
Hem: 157.5 cm / 62 in.
Length (skirt front): 94 cm / 37 in.
Length (skirt back): 99.1 cm / 39 in.
University of New Hampshire Library
Astrida Schaeffer, photographer/curator
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
Dresses, 1910-1915, Paris, France, One-piece dresses, Maison Worth, House of Worth, Jean-Philippe Worth, Art Deco, Bobbinet, Chiffon, Black (color), Sheer, Overlay, Silk satin, Silk, Cream (color), Back-closing, Lace, Tape lace, Kimono sleeves, Tulle, Scooped neckline, Waistband, Natural waistline, Floor-length skirt, Appliqué, Step pattern, Boning, Gores, Hooks, Pleats, Tucks, Weighted skirt hem, Haute couture, Professionally made, Machine-sewn, Hand-sewn