Dressing a mannequin with the Fancy Dress Costume, the Infanta Margarita after Velasquez, worn to the Bradley-Martin ball in 1897 by Kate Brice, daughter of Senator Calvin S. Brice. Designed by Jean-Philippe Worth.
Fancy dress costume, “Infanta Margarita after Velasquez”
In early 1897, Jean-Philippe Worth received a rush order for a fancy dress costume from a regular client via transatlantic cable. Recreating the costume worn by the Infanta as portrayed by Velasquez through the use of modular components and an accurate dress form maintained for his client, Worth was able to complete and ship his commission back to New York 24 hours later. The gown itself betrays no evidence of its lightning-fast manufacture. Its silken lining and silver lace underscore the high period standards borne by all garments carrying the Worth label.
Please click here for the video of this mannequin being dressed.
In contrast with the extravagant designs normally associated with Maison Worth, the pristine silhouette and tender proportions of this gown demonstrate the restraint of which the house was equally capable. The sculptural clarity of this gown’s lines provides a textbook example for anyone interested in emulating its design.
Imperial Russian court dress, c 1888 (silk lamé moiré, silk velvet, glass crystals, silver sequins, silver foil, silver strips), Worth, Charles Frederick (1825-95) / Indianapolis Museum of Art, USA / Gift of the Alliance of the Indianapolis Museum of Art / The Bridgeman Art Library
Part 1 of 3.
I don’t usually ask this but please make sure to click the links provided below to see the other parts of this costume. Those links are either in bold (if you are on my blog format) or underlined (for those of us who like the dashboard function best). There were so many photos that I could not find the space to post them all and I promise that they are more than worth it!
I had a discussion with a guest the other day who said that fashion was not art. That it was merely “an article of clothing and that there was no skill put forth into the construction of the garment. It simply is or was.”
I set aside the fact that I am currently in my third year studying the construction of costuming and that I am interning in an 18th century Millinery shop (which requires the daily use of my thimble and the technical bits of my brain) and I had to focus on the word use. Was. Was? I can understand why one would assume that the fashion we wear each day might not seem like great works of art but the was had me intrigued.
I had pushed the conversation to the back of my mind but when I came across this gown on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s database my very first thought was Worth was an amazing artist. Then the conversation came back to me again and I started to think about the designers who have spoken to me. Whether it was from behind the panes of glass at an exhibition, from the pages of a book, or even from an online database. look at the great designers, like Emile Pingat and Charles Worth (who tie for my favorite Victorian masters), to the freedom and beauty of Lucile (who in my opinion largely dominates the Edwardian era, only occasionally bowing to Callot Soeurs, Paquin, and Doucet). Were they not artists?
I have always thought of them as artists, but then I began to wonder about the definition of “art”. The Google definition of art is as follows: The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. I most certainly think that costume and fashion fall under that definition.
Then I thought that perhaps those who say that fashion is not art have not had the opportunity to see beyond the pieces of cloth that we just adorn our body with.
This gown is the most perfect demonstration of art, look at the detail of the day bodice balanced by the repetition of the pattern in the evening bodice. Not only that, but observe the gathers, the pintucks, the fringe and the sheer amount of technical detail that went into this piece. They are breathtaking. The skill and mastery that went into this gown demonstrates an almost genius-like comprehension on how texture and manipulation can be used in skilled hands to produce a profound artwork painted in a myriad of textiles and lace. It shows how the proper use of construction and decoration can emphasize the the beauty of the female silhouette. For example, look at how the lines of piping directly control the fall of the train. This gown does not softly whisper to me, it reverberates in joyous celebration as a representation of the complexity that was the Victorian Era.
Each one of those stitches are equivalent to the stroke of a paintbrush or to the hammer of the chisel.
It is my strong belief that Fashion deserves the recognition of being an integral part of the art world. If you were to be so cruel as to ask me to choose the side of art or fashion, I could not make the choice, for they are the same. I would tell you to keep your Great Masters. You may even have my beloved Gentileschi back, because, to me this gown is and always will be a masterpiece.