Evening dress, 1883. Charles Frédérick Worth, France.
“Light blue white floral silk moiré. Bodice has scooped neckline, pleating at shoulders, 3/4 sleeves. Lace trimmings at neckline cuffs; additional light blue faille trimmings at cuffs. Center front button closure. Skirt has pleated front panel. Large light blue faille bow near bottom hem. Large bustle uses blue white moiré on proper left side and blue faille on proper right; bustle extends to become a train. Skirt hem trimmed with lace pleated blue faille.” (Object number 1980.256.3a-b)
I freely admit there are aspects of past fashions that I either don’t understand or can’t appreciate from the uninformed perspective of my 20th century eye. Sure, a lot of the extant high-end garments we see today are testament to the high-end designers of the time and, seeing what the current high-end designers send down the runways, I understand that designer styles of the past were the purview of select few, just as they are today.
But (no pun intended)…who would want a huge, heart-shaped bustle appended to their backside? A nineteen-year-old in love, that’s who.
Object history and curatorial statement from the Chicago History Museum: Worn by Mrs. Henry Nelson Tuttle, née Fannie Farwell. The young Fannie Farwell was only nineteen in 1883 when she traveled by horse-drawn carriage, train, and steamship to Paris to have this gown made for her by Charles Frédérick Worth, the “father of couture.” In the late nineteenth century, many wealthy families took grand European tours that involved visits to the best European fashion houses. These visits were often scheduled at the beginning of the trip to allow for the many fittings that haute couture garments required.