A beautiful late 19th century or early 20th century Victorian or Belle Epoque blue and white silk evening gown with lace and velvet trim and train. I have included an illustration of two 1890s Belle Epoque Paris evening gowns that have many similarities with this dress. The dress consists of a front hook and eye fastening, tightly fitted bodice with low front square neckline edged with black velvet and a wide gathered lace collar. The velvet that edges the neckline continues down each side of the front bodice. The 3/4 length sleeves are ruched and gathered and drape slightly over the wide cuff which is edged with the same velvet and lace as the neckline. The bodice is lined with natural polished cotton with a few short stays, and thick underarm pads. The stays are interesting as they appear to be made of strips of whale baleen rather than bone or metal. The skirt has a thin waistband, a hidden opening at the back with hook and eye closure, and is slightly gathered at the center back for fullness and possibly for a very small bustle. There appear to be gatherings on each side in the photos, but this is where I have the skirt pinned in to fit the dress form. The skirt fits flat across the hips with only slight gathering at the point of closure at center back. More likely, this skirt was intended to be worn with an S-shaped corset characteristically worn in the Belle Epoque which made the derriere stick out. The skirt has the wider black velvet trim than the bodice, which starts at a low point in the front, sweeps up over each side of the skirt and then drops down onto the back train where it crosses over. The skirt is further adorned with pleats on either side which are stitched down as far as the velvet and then open below the velvet. The skirt is also lined with same polished cotton as the bodice but in the form of a trained petticoat, the edge of which has a small attached ruffle. The fabric of the dress is lovely - a light weight fine silk with a lovely sheen and a swirling pattern of china blue and white dots on white or china blue ground. The wide lace is exquisite with floral elements and a dragons tooth edge, and looks hand made to me. The dress is designed to be worn with a corset, and has a tiny waist. The detailed approximate measurements of the dress are as follows:
bust (pit to pit) 44"
center back neckline to waist 14"
shoulder to shoulder across the back 12"
length of sleeves 14" including 7" of lace trim
waist to hem 38 1/2" front 51" back
length of train 12.5"
The dress is pinned in significantly on my size 4-6 Victorian mannequin - I think the garment is about a size 8 but the waist is tiny and the bodice is small across the back - probably due to corsetting. The garment was designed for a petite woman of about 4.5' in height - there is about a 4" hem in the skirt that could be let down if desired. However, the roomy bust and hips indicate that the woman that this gown was made for was quite voluptuous, but the gown would look fine on someone with smaller bust and hips than the maximum afforded by the dress, as shown on my model. The garment appears clean, although I did not launder it. The underarm pads appear to have been unused. The silk is strong and soft with no sign of shattering and no stains that I could find. There are no hook and eyes to attach the bodice over the waistband of the skirt, and no sign that there ever were any. As can be expected with a garment that is 140 years old or more so there are some minor signs of age and wear including the following:
there is some wear of the silk satin waistband where the skirt fastens - this could be reenforced from the inside and would not show on the outside. It does not currently show because it is under the waistband of the bodice.
there is a band of eyes on the left side of the bodice, but the band from the right side with the hooks is not attached to the lining of the bodice and has a couple of hooks missing - I am including a few matching hooks and eyes to use on the restoration of the dress
there are some loose threads and a few small breaks in the brides of the lace, but these are not noticeable in the fullness of the gathering
there may be some pinholes in the silk, but I did not find any. If there were any they would be hidden in the pattern and folds of the dress and by the underlining.
the velvet ribbon on the skirt where it ends at the back is cut diagonally on one end and straight across on the other - I do not know if this was intended or an oversight. The ribbon also needs a few stitches to attach it to the skirt on one small area.
the lace on the bodice front is slightly longer on one side than the other (where it meets at the front). Lace from these types of dresses was usually removed for laundering and may have been reapplied with this slight irregularity. The lace could be easily shortened with a couple of stitches in place.
there is some organic spotting and discoloration of the natural polished cotton lining on both bodice and skirt, but this looks like age rather than staining and the complete lack of staining of the underarm pads and the lack of wear on the bottom edge of the petticoat supports this.
there is a small amount of color fading which can be seen by comparing to the silk showing on the inside seams or inside the closed pleats on the lower skirt, but this is minor. The blue color is still rich and vibrant, but just a little lighter than it was originally.
None of these minor issues detracts from the elegance of this Belle Epoque evening gown, which is in an wonderful state of preservation for its age. A lack of wear on the bottom hem edging and the underarm pads indicates that this garment did not have much wear. Perhaps this was a wedding dress, or perhaps a special occasion dress. It is absolutely gorgeous, petite and elegant, and what a great showpiece for decorating a Belle Epoque or Victorian bedroom. Perfect for display, this gown is strong enough to be wearable with only a few stitches of restoration required, if one were of petit stature. This is NOT a reproduction. This is an original, late 19th century Belle Epoque or Victorian, blue and white silk evening gown with train and lace and velvet trim, only from Antiquarius Antiques. Scroll down to see more pictures of this lovely dress, as the pictures are part of the description.
|1908 Fashion Plate|
Although the fabric might be late Victorian, the dress itself is Edwardian. The straight waist, the puff, pleated, and 3/4 sleeves all indicated the Edwardian construction.