Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Worth's Magnificent Gilded Age Fashion Now Online

Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Isabella/Susan* reporting:

The Museum of the City of New York has just given us Nerdy History Girls (as well as all other lovers of history, fashion, impeccable stitching, Gilded Age New York City, Edwardian London, and fin-de-siecle Paris and all-around gorgeous clothes) a most splendid gift: they're presenting their incredible collection of couture clothes by master designers Charles Frederick Worth (1826-1925) and Mainboucher (1891-1976) in an online exhibition. No matter where in the world you live, if you have internet access, you can visit Worth/Mainboucher: Demystifying the Haute Coutureand wow, do I hope you do!

Hands down, this is the very best presentation of historical fashion that I've yet seen online. The clothes are beautifully photographed, most with multiple views. Click on the close-up feature (that little magnifying glass), and you can view each piece in astonishing detail, with every exquisite stitch and seam distinct. Ever garment has an accompanying short history, plus actual garment measurements and technical details outlining fabric content.

While those of you who enjoy sleek 20th c. elegance will relish the Mainboucher section of the site - he dressed such style-setters as the Duchess of Windsor, Babe Paley, and C.Z. Guest - my own taste runs more to the lavish, often fanciful, 19th c creations of Worth. For nearly seventy-five years, Worth's Parisian atelier was a mecca for wealthy fashion-conscious ladies from Europe and America, and his one-of-a-kind gowns exemplify the luxuriant excess of Gilded Age New York in the time of the Astors and Vanderbilts.

The ice-blue ball gown c 1886, left, includes many of the features that make Worth gowns so special. Masterful draping, an eye-catching combination of fabrics (including uncut velvet, satin, chiffon, glass beads, lace, & silk plush!) that create an interplay of textures, and dramatic asymmetry all help create a gown that would make the wearer stand out even in the most crowded ball. (Here's the link to the page for the complete description and more photos - and don't forget that magnifying glass feature!)

But modern 19th c ladies required fashion beyond the opera house and ballroom. Once owned by a princess, the c 1890 coat, right, was designed for ice skating. Rich brown wool duvetyn is trimmed with mink, and lined with blood-red silk that would have showed through the back vent as the skater glided by. Wouldn't you love to add this to your own wardrobe for blustery days? (Here's the link to the coat's page.)

Photographs courtesy The Museum of the City of New York.
*Wondering why I now have two names? Here's the scoop.


Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Oooh, I'm so excited! I love Worth's clothing and Mainbocher. The Met had an exhibition a few years ago that had some wonderful Worth gowns. It just made me want to reach out and touch them but I would have been escorted none too gently out of the museum.

Shelley said...

Such exquisite clothes! How wonderful of the museum to appreciate the pleasure of seeing things close up. Thanks so much for sharing.

Robin's Egg Bleu said...

Well, my plans for this morning have been squashed! I'll be spending it oogling this eye candy instead! Thanks so much for the link!

Peter Fox Shoes said...

Thank-you for the link on this wonderful exhibition. The photographs are gorgeous and the information is so interesting. Looking through this provided a wonderful escape from an otherwise busy day.`

Mara Allen said...

Wow, so beautiful. I wish they'd sometimes include men's fashions, too, even if they weren't as varied. I think they were beautiful, too.
Thank you for the link.

Madame Weebles said...

I definitely have to go and see this exhibition--Worth's dresses are unbelievably gorgeous. I don't know much about Mainboucher but I guess I'll learn!

Vic said...

Thanks for this fabulous link! Love Worth's beautiful gowns.

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