Dress Fashions and Gossip in Paris - French Fashion in 1900
"We have done all we can," say the Paris dressmakers, "to make a decided change in the fashions this Autumn. Those who wish to be strictly d la mode must give away their last year's clothes; those who are less particular can find ways of arranging their old dresses without appearing ridiculous."
To anyone who has had time and an opportunity for studying the retrospective exhibition of costumes at the Exposition during the past Summer, the coming change will not be a great surprise. The already somewhat full skirts of last season, and the round waists curved in at the back and straight in front, need only a touch to make them Louis XV., which style, more than any other, the modern gowns resemble. The waists, still very stiff in front, are brought down into a slightly exaggerated point, and the sleeves are worn with a full inner-sleeve of thin muslin or silk which extends to the wrist.
Evening Gowns and Dresses
A pretty evening gown in the newest style is of white taffeta with a small design of pink roses through it ; the only ornament of the skirt is the drapery over the hips. The waist has a fichu of white chiffon which is fastened with an immense artificial pink rose, whose leaves and buds reach to the point of the bodice; the sleeves are close-fitting to the elbow and are finished with a ruffle of white chiffon, which, like the fichu, is edged with pink satin ribbon.
Other handsome evening dresses have a white satin under-petticoat heavily trimmed with pearl passementerie or gold braid, and an-over drapery which divides in front and is folded or puffed on the hips. There is a moderate fullness in some of the sleeves at the shoulder.
A reception dress made in less exaggerated style is of dark-blue velvet, stamped with a small conventional design. The waist and skirt are both slashed, showing an underground of black satin. The upper sleeve is velvet, the lower sleeve satin ; there is a black satin belt three inches high, and a touch of pale-blue chiffon at the collar.
There are still a number of Americans in Paris, and, as during the Spring, the fashionable meeting place for afternoon tea is at the Ceylon pavilion in the Exposition grounds. The building is a simple native hut, and the tea-tables are spread under the trees and served by Indian " boys " in white linen suits ; they have long, black hair rolled into knots at the back of their heads and fastened there with fine round tortoise-shell combs.
Sober cloth gowns have taken the place of light Summer dresses at these Autumn tea-parties; one charming costume worn by the Countess Beauregard was in dark-blue cloth, the graceful over-drapery revealing beneath a skirt of light-blue cloth, edged with a double row of blue-and-gold braid, which was repeated as trimming on the waist.
All the hats this year are very large ; small bonnets are no longer worn, and the custom of going hatless to the theatre is becoming so general that even light evening hats are made of generous dimensions. Taffeta tucked hats, and guipure stretched over a frame as a hat form, are fashionable for Autumn wear ; and velvet and soft felt twisted into voluminous turban shapes, for the Winter.
They are generally of a solid color or of several shades in the same color—purple, for example, trimmed with mauve, or dark red or blue trimmed with lighter red or blue. Black hats are very much worn, and tulle toques in black or white with ostrich feathers, aigrettes, or an Appliqué of black chenille are still too useful to he discarded.
The Ever Popular Corset
The most popular corset at present in Paris is known as the cuirasse Américaine. It is knitted by hand of heavy knitting silk, and is made without bones and with only two steels on each side beside those in the front and back, which are sixteen inches long; the corset itself is nineteen inches long and presents the appearance of a cuirass when laced ; it binds the hips and leaves the chest free, giving a straight line in front and a slightly carved line in the back at the waist.
Society Women Dress to be Seen
It is only during the past two years that French society women have begun to dine at the restaurants on the boulevards and in the Bois de Boulogne, so much frequented by Americans. After the downfall of the Empire in 1871, and the exile of Napoleon III. and the Empress Eugenie, there was no one left in Paris to take the social lead as the Court had done; the aristocrats, the nobility, withdrew to their châteaux, stopping in town only for fleeting visits—which have gradually prolonged themselves into several months every Spring, and a month in the Autumn—en route for the South, where, for lack of an Empress, the Faubourg St. Germain replaces a court and the Rue de la Paix sets the fashions.
At each of the well-known restaurants there is some famous Hungarian leader with his orchestra, the gay red coats of the musicians adding to the brilliancy and festivity of the scene. The tables at d'Armenonville and the Chateau de Madrid in the Bois are arranged under the trees, or on a glass-covered porch, and the driveway winds about these gardens of fashion so that each new arrival is signaled to the critical gaze of her rivals and friends.
The lorgnettes are lifted, costumes inspected; there is a moment of criticism and comment, and dinner is resumed. The dresses worn in these restaurants, at this season, are of light cloth, white guipure, pare taffeta, painted chiffon or soft Liberty silks. Diaphanous hats of gauze or gold tulle balanced by a touch of black velvet or a deep-colored flower in the right spot, complete these toilettes, and the wraps worn over them are of silk or cloth elaborately trimmed with lace and fur, guipure and chiffon, suggestive in shape of the mantles worn twenty years ago.
Fashion Report on the Exposition
During the Exposition there have been three international women's congresses organized and presided over by French women, two of them given official recognition by the Government. The first was a Catholic congress, of which the Government took no notice. It was represented by the aristocracy, the noblewomen whose educations were received in convents and who are opposed to the modern schools for girls, where everything but religion is taught. This congress had a certain distinction which the great names of France could not fail to lend—the Marquise Costa de Beauregard, the Duchess de Grammont, and others ; but its influence was limited to a particular circle.
The second congress was represented by the great middle class or bourgeoisie of France. With the aid of delegates from all over the world, they reported on the condition of women of all countries—in the family, the schools, and in public institutions and charities. They made some attempt at a modification of the laws concerning these matters. Their leaders were, Madame Pegard, who represented France at Chicago in 1893, Mme. Bogelot, who represented France at the Centennial in 1876, Mine. Kergomard, Mlle. Monod, and a number of other philanthropic workers.
The third congress was formed of active thinkers, the younger generation who have been educated to careers, and whose idea is not to palliate pernicious results, but to exterminate their causes. Mme. Durand and Mme. Pognon, the directress of the Fronde, a newspaper edited and printed by women, were the most active members.
Source: The Delineator, Volume LVI, Number 5, November 1900, Page 589, The Butterick Publishing Company, Limited. Paris, London, New York, Toronto.Learn more about Vintage Dress Fashions of 1900