Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Dress Worthy of Wharton

Literature has been a heavy influence on my sewing this summer, and my 1890s author of choice is Edith Wharton.  To be fair, Age of Innocence and House of Mirth both take place decades before (although written in the 20th century), but my association between Newport and the '90s means that in my head that is when they are set.
I need a new 1890s ballgown this summer (I am really starting to panic about my sewing), and while I certainly do not have the time to embroider as beautifully or as extensively as this original Worth gown, I am totally in love with the rhinestone butterflies.  Rhinestones I can do--I have, in fact, been known to attach them while in traffic on the way to an event--so the plan is to adapt the butterflies into a more finish-able format.  But really, I am also in love with the lace and the sleeves and the shape...the '90s say elegance beautifully, especially when done by Worth.

Worth butterfly gown, 1898 (Met Collection)

While reading Age of Innocence (for which, by the way, Wharton was the first female to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize) I was delighted by this quote about the etiquette of Worth dresses, which I thought I would share.

"In my was considered vulgar to dress in the newest fashions; and Amy Sillerton has always told me that in Boston the rule was to put away one'e Paris dresses for two years.  Old Mrs. Baxter Pennilow, who did everything handsomely, used to import twelve a year, two velvet, two satin, two silk, and the other six of poplin and the finest cashmere.  It was a standing order, and as she was ill for the two years before she died they found forty-eight Worth dresses that had never been taken out of tissue paper; and when the girls left off their mourning they were able to wear the first lot at the Symphony concerts without looking in advance of the fashion.'
'Ah, well, Boston is more conservative than New York; but I always think it's a safe rule for a lady to lay aside her French dresses for one season,' Mrs. Archer conceded." (p260)

Isn't that hilariously fabulous?  So really, all of Newport was actually a year or two behind the I shouldn't really wear this dress until I attend a 1900 ball.  That's alright though, I think I fall into the 'vulgar young girls' being criticized here anyways--so I shall just be forward, and shiny!

1 comment:

  1. I loved the butterfly dress the first time you showed it to me! Psyced to see photos!