Another amazing article from FIDM! Really great read! I like how they put the garter belt on the outside so you can see what it looks like.
Edwardian era (1901-1910) underclothing was the height of seductiveness, erotic and extravagant. The laborious application of embroidery, lace insertions, and ribbon work onto foundations of silk faille and cotton lawn was excessive for “garments not destined for a public career,” and covered by equally elaborate outerwear.1 The distinctive S-bend silhouette popular during this time complemented the Art Nouveau movement’s curving, sensuous forms and exaggerated lines.
This unnatural shape was achieved by a flat-front corset with a steel busk that dug into its wearer’s abdomen, thrusting her hips backward and arching her bosom forward. The waist was cinched as tightly as possible: the effect was literally breathtaking. In risqué postcards and advertising imagery, female models in various states of undress wore petticoats and pantalets alluringly looped up by garter belts, revealing decorative stockings. Though not actually worn as depicted here (the garter belt in fact would be under the petticoat), these bunched-up layers of pastel froufrou mimic this erotic imagery.
In practical terms, carefully fitted undergarments were considered an essential foundation in the quest to create a pleasing silhouette. In 1900, Vogue cautioned readers to make sure they donned appropriate undergarments before trying on a new gown: “we again reiterate the necessity of being properly dressed and corseted before being fitted, and not being fitted in one set of undergarments and wearing quite a different style after the gown in finished.”2 For those women who were uncertain about the proper fit and combination of undergarments, “the art of wearing your under garments properly is taught by one of the New York corset makers and is certainly worth knowing, especially if one is not slim.”3
The multi-layered undergarment ensemble pictured here features a mix of textures and materials, from cotton lawn to crisp silk taffeta. The cream silk satin corset is worn over a sleeveless chemise. Made from durable cotton, the chemise was a washable layer between the wearer’s body and the less-washable lace and silk corset. Because of their unique construction, corsets were typically purchased, but a woman could make her own chemise. Women’s magazines offered readers free patterns with detailed instructions regarding trim, fabric, and sewing methods. For those without the time or inclination to stitch their own undergarments, hiring a skilled seamstress was encouraged.
Made from silk taffeta, the pink petticoat is trimmed with two lace flounces. Constructed with gored panels, the front lies flat against the body while the back features gentle gathers. This fit facilitated the smooth skirt front and full rear that comprised the S-bend silhouette. Mint green embroidered garters anchor silk stockings. Seen only by the wearer and her most intimate associates, the garters feature a purely froufrou touch—exaggerated, decorative bows. With a dense, lively pattern of blue roses and green foliage, the patterned stockings climb the wearers’ legs as real roses would climb a trellis. For emphasis, the roses are outlined with a black line. Mint green leather indoor slippers, trimmed with ribbon at the vamp, complete the ensemble.
Dressing Gown Iida Takashimaya, c.1900
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
“Pink silk taffeta dressing gown in kimono style with embroidered naturalistic chrysanthemums and butterflies in polychrome silks. Silk plain weave lining, padded hem and pleat in back of robe. Full sleeves gathered at shoulders and trimmed with braided silk cord and tassles. Matching sash of pink silk taffeta with double-sided embroidery of chrysanthemums in green brown and pink polychrome silk with knotted silk fringe. Gown labeled: S. Iida “Takashimaya” Silks and Embroideries. Kyoto.”
Evening Dressc. 1894
Charles Frederick Worth
Ivory silk satin two-piece dress; gigot sleeves; pale pink silk chiffon decoration at neck and bodice; skirt with sunbeam and cloud asymmetry pattern of pale pink silk tulle insertion and bead embroidery.
The clean line of the long skirt and the puffy elephant sleeves were a typical look around 1895. The bold sunray and cloud pattern on the skirt is asymmetrical, a common feature of Japanese art and craft.
During the late 19th Century, the age of Japonism, Japanese kimono and pattern books of kimono design (Hinagata) were brought into the West.
The Japanese motifs and asymmetrical compositions in these examples of Japanese designs were gradually absorbed into Paris Haute Couture as new designs, as is evident in this example.
Inventory Number(s): AC4799 84-9-2AB
MISSES TURNER COURT DRESS MAKERS 151 STREET
White kimono fabric of figured “shibori” silk satin; embroidery of wisteria, chrysanthemum, peony, and Chinese fan motifs in metallic threads; wrapped buttons with Japanese “tomoemon”-like motif on bodice (only bodice and overskirt sur
This dress was remade from a Japanese kimono in London. Some traces of the original kimono seams remain in the textile. The underskirt is missing, but it is thought that an underskirt made of a different fabric was combined with this garment. There are some other indications of missing original ornaments.
In the late 19th century kimonos and textiles from Japan captured of the interest of many people in Western countries. Women in America and Europe made dresses from Japanese kimono fabrics and sometimes unstitched kimonos to make new dresses. They also wore kimonos as indoor wear. They especially favored kimonos for women in the highly ranked warrior families at the end of the Edo Period, like the source material for this dress.
Inventory Number(s): AC8938 93-28-1AB
DOUCET 21 RUE DE LA PAIX PARIS
Ivory silk ”crêpe de Chine”, stencil printed of bamboo motif and hand painted of sparrow motif by Yuzen process of dyeing: silk chiffon fichu: puffed sleeves with chiffon frill at cuffs.
Day dress in yoryu (silk ”crêpe de Chine”) broadloom fabric made in Japan. The lightweight material with typical Japanese motifs has been made into a dress in line with the fashions of the time. This fascinating garment demonstrates the interest that Doucet, the luxury Paris clothing house, had in Japanese influence.
With the Japonisme trend, after the Paris Exposition of 1867, Japanese kimono, or kimono fabric repurposed as dresses or coats became a sight in the 1880s. The export of Japanese silk weaves grew rapidly in about 1887, exporting broadwoven fabric. The textile used in this dress is likely to have been manufactured specifically for export. The yoryu fabric made of this dress uses two different Yuzen dyeing techniques: stencil printing for the bamboo, and hand-painting using gojiru for the sparrows. The combination of bamboo and sparrows is a frequent motif in Japanese arts and crafts.
Maison Doucet opened in Paris in 1875. Together with maison Worth and maison Pingat, it was one of the best-known Paris houses in the second half of the 19th century. Worth became very popular outside France, whereas Doucet was a particular favorite of Paris lady. Designer Jacques Doucet (1853-1929) had a deep knowledge of fine arts, and was quick to pick up the Japonisme trend. In addition to being a couturier, he was known as a art collector, acquiring new art such as Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d ’Avignon before it was appreciated by the general art market, and also collecting Japanese ceramics and lacquerware.
KCI’s collection has a number of examples of clothing by Doucet inspired by Japonisme.
Inventory Number(s): AC10445 2001-4AC
Kyoto Costume Institute Tea Gown
Pink seigou dress; gray jabot and plastron of yoryu (seigou and yoryu are Japanese textiles); Piedmontèse pleat at back; medieval-like hanging sleeves; lining of habutae silk machine-quilted with cotton.
This tea gown was made in Japan to an order for Western market. Its shape is a mixture of details of the 18th century style and the medieval style, which was revived at the end of the 19th century. It is made of taffeta, known as “seigo” in Japan, and embroidered with chrysanthemum flowers in a Japanese embroidery technique known as “nikuirinui”.
A tea gown is an elegant hostess’ dress used as informal, indoor wear from the late 19th century to the beginning of 20th century. Women could loosen their tight corset to wear a tea gown. Many famous fashion houses in Paris introduced luxurious tea gowns decorated with laces and frills, which were more popular than the more practical ones made, for instance, by Liberty & Co. in London. Liberty & Co. was founded in 1875, and started importing and selling silk fabrics and indoor wear from Japan. In 1890 they opened a branch at Yokohama, Japan, where they worked with Japanese manufacturers to manufacture dresses and meet the demand. Although no labels remain, it is highly likely from Liberty & Co.
Inventory Number(s): AC6993 91-12-14
I cannot believe that tomorrow I will see this painting. There are so many old friends waiting for me at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich and strangers I’ve never met.
Being a flight attendant means I’m privy to secrets that people don’t normally share. Desires and dreams, things they want to see or things they are too afraid to see. A lot of things happen when you are 36,000 feet in the air and sometimes people just want to talk. Something I talk to people a lot about are their bucket lists. Places they want to travel, mountains to climb. I have one of those also but the best conversations are the ones where strangers talk about their separate bucket list for art. Things you have to see with your own eyes.
Which is why tomorrow is so exciting for me. I can cross off entire sections. I spent my entire childhood studying these masterpieces and it’s no longer enough to only see them captured in a book. I have to stand before them and on those rare occasions I have to stand and cry before them. Sometimes I have to whisper thank you to them for seeing me through those dark teenage times, for guiding me, giving me strength, and for teaching me that beauty absolutely lies in the eye of the beholder.