London & Paris Fashions May 1906
By Mrs. Eric Pritchard
Although we live in a socialistic age, and many of us plead for a simpler life, the frocks of this season are more beautiful than any of their predecessors.
Of course, the modern designers of fashion cull their ideas from the best modes of the past that made history beautiful.
A beautiful creation in rose-du-Barry velvet, old-world, hand-made embroideries and soft taffetas of softest make finished with some fine point-de-Venise, is a faithful reproduction of the Court dress of Marie Antoinette.
Now when such a model as this is copied in cheap fabric and crackling silks, it loses the whole of its beauty and meaning, and the woman of limited means, therefore, does better to favor some more straightforward style.
I am glad to see that, in spite of the glories of the new Paris, Vienna, London, and New York fashions, there is still a craze among Englishwomen for extremely well-cut, simple, tailor-made garments.
These are not at all expensive, because they wear well and cleanly, and look their best until the end.
Except for girlish muslins, pretty, dainty linens, cotton, and fresh prints, I do not recommend cheap clothes. This month and next are the two in the year when fashion is to be seen at its best.
There is a delightful freshness about it, as well as the charm of novelty, and above all the hope of summer before us.
As the fresh green of the early summer is preferable to the darker foliage of August, so is the appearance of spring gowns and unquestionably of spring millinery quite the most enchanting of all fashions.
Perhaps it is in millinery that the most significant changes are seen. Milliners have become more consistent of late and have remained faithful for a long time to the small hat.
Paris has now decreed that we shall wear much bigger headgear, and here and there we see some rather large and stunning reproductions of old picture hats. However, the majority are of medium size.
Moreover, still, the small, neat toque retains its sway. A chat with Paquin of Dover Street has convinced me of the significant change that has come over headgear.
I was particularly struck by the beautiful effects in coloring produced by this firm.
For instance, a pale-yellow Manilla straw of mushroom shape, tilted off the hair with a curious bandeau, was trimmed merely with beautiful shadings of green peau-de-soie ribbons, in every possible tone, from brightest bottle to darkest emerald—the former, by the way, is a return to the sixteenth century.
The back fitted on the coiffure with two curiously made rosettes and had long streamers at the back—quite a mode of 1832. They make a significant feature of millinery at 39, Dover Street.
An excellent little toque that seemed tossed together with waves of brown tulle had no further trimming beyond an old buckle and a beautiful Vieux rose osprey.
Then there is a small Gainsborough hat, chiefly composed of black tulle, trimmed with wonderfully shaded and plaid ribbons and a band of dull silver.
A lovely green chip was swathed in purple tulle and wreaths of shaded heliotrope, while under the brim, resting on the coiffure at the back, were clusters of vivid sweet peas.
I do not think floral decorations play an essential part in millinery, hut there is a whole craze for ribbons of every sort and kind. Tulle, ever the most lovely fabric for summer wear, is used in every imaginable shade, and this is deftly mixed here and there with beautiful flowers.
Peacocks’ feathers on a tulle toque seem a favorite Parisian trimming. Curious peacocks’ feathers, which in many cases are only recognized by the eyes, and long ostrich plumes of thick fiber, play the most critical part in trimmings.
In sketch one our artist has drawn some of Paquin’s hats. In the left-hand comer is a beautiful hat of wine-colored Manilla, adorned with shaded roses and a beautiful aigrette.
The neat little hat with a floral mount and a tulle bandeau is an ideal model for wear in g with tailor-made, while the remaining sketch is in the palest green chip with a wreath of shaded Pompadour roses, the brim lifted by an aigrette and two great ostrich plumes.
With simple country frocks, and for morning wear in town, delightful is the burnt-straw shapes, trimmed with black and plaid ribbons. Black and white striped ribbon is also a charming trimming for morning hats.
Double plateau shapes made of the lightest Manilla straws are merely trimmed with bows of plaid ribbon. I like a trimming of good ribbon on a simple hat—a well-made bow or chou of a plaid ribbon is a smart finish to one’s serge, linen, or cotton frock.
Of course, there are two distinct styles of hat. The French invariably go back to that worn well forward, with a tremendous amount of trimming at the back, but fitting well on the coiffure, whereas the “Princess” styles show the pointed toque, tilted back and off the face.
English people are rather fond of the hat worn off the face, and the American and French nearly always wisely shade the eyes.
The tricorne, the Watteau, and the mushroom shapes, the sharp, pointed, elongated toque, and the very wide Dolly Varden hat, are all to the fore; and as they are all entirely different, there is no excuse for any woman not being able to suit herself with the most charming, the lightest, and daintiest millinery we have seen for some time.
Ere I leave this subject, I must say a few words about veils. The Early Victorian lace veil and gauze “float" with spots in all colors, chenille-spotted veils with wide borders of lace, and very fine Russian meshes in all colors, are worn with equal impartiality, though most of the smartest hats are worn without veils.
Dress of the Hour
So now to consider the dress of the hour. Many of the simple models are extremely attractive. Pretty, light shades of cloth of softest texture and a sheeny surface will hold their own on many occasions, such as luncheons, receptions, etc. These are still cut en princesse and heavily embroidered.
White—a real blue-white —is the favorite, mixed with beautiful specimens of coarse lace and embroideries. How curious it is that this Irish crochet continues to be, year after year, the rage!
We see it in the newest and shortest of boleros and the longest of polonaises. A long coat of Irish crochet makes a beautiful afternoon gown, with an underdress of crepe-de-Chine or silky éolienne.
Fashion in colors, after white, is more or less a matter of individual fancy. Vieux rose, pale rose— indeed, pink of every shade is undoubtedly worn. There is a distinct feeling for shot colors and rather brilliant notes of blue.
These are sure to follow in the wake of the curious “dead” tones, puce and purple, plum and grey, which have predominated during Lent. Though grey, particularly in the new silky crepon, will continue to be a very favorite shade this season.
Shot grey or grey embroidered in silk and silver makes a lovely afternoon frock. A charming example is shown in fig. 2. This is composed of grey crepon, with a deep flounce headed by a ruching, and a bolero bodice treated in the same way.
The stole-shaped pieces, caught down with dull silver buttons, are of shot grey taffetas, and the vest of chiffon is embroidered with silver thread.
The corselet skirt in cloth, as well as in soft Duchesse satin and swathed crepe-de-Chine, is still to be seen here and there, but it is no longer considered quite the best style.
The “Princess” frock still reigns supreme for smart weddings, as well as for evening wear. It is made in the new soft make of shot satin Duchesse, and in moiré antique, quaintly embroidered in silver and gold, softened with quantities of old lace.
Spots, Checks, and Wide Stripes
Spots, checks, and wide stripes are the leading features in Paris, and for the summer they will use the most lovely painted muslins, gauzes, and spotted chiffons.
These spotted or patterned chiffons are something new and make charming, simple afternoon frocks. Foulards, too, are always useful, and will perhaps be more to the fore than taffetas.
Simple Afternoon Gown
A simple little afternoon gown of spotted foulard is shown in fig. 3. This has a big purple and white spot on a white ground and is made with a simple crossover bodice tied with a knot of purple velvet, which also finishes the sleeves.
The tucked yoke is of pretty fancy white lace—dead white being far more de rigueur than cream and “dirty” lace shades.
The Subject of Skirts
Skirts have altered but little; they mostly show long, flowing, graceful lines, and big tucks are a favorite finish—that is to say, for afternoon frocks. Robinson & Cleaver are showing, at their lovely new premises in Regent Street, some very charming Paris models.
One is in pale blue silk crepon and has a keynote pattern at the hem in what closely resembles a silk stay-lace! The effect is novel and peculiarly attractive.
This frock is cut en princesse, but the severity of this style is diminished by loosely falling revers of embroidered lace and chiffon, the clear keynote pattern is also introduced on the bodice and prettily puffed elbow sleeves.
Another fascinating frock was of deep champagne—colored voile: here a very elaborate corselet skirt was tucked and trimmed with coarse lace insertions, leaving a panel down the front.
The bodice, which was also trimmed with coarse guipure, was softened with a finer make of lace and showed some gold thread work and tiny gold buttons.
Robinson & Cleaver are showing delightful examples of cloth frocks: one, in a small black and white shepherd’s plaid, had a bodice made entirely of fine guipure lace strapped with the cloth, each strapping being piped with pale blue silk; an intense pale blue silk band encircled the waist, and the sleeves were slashed with lace held in with strappings.
Charming, again, are the plain cloth gowns for country wear with the new basque coat: some are loose and fly-fronted, others are tight fitting and cut away to show a check or spotted waistcoat.
Alpaca, especially in white and very pale champagne shades, is much in vogue: it is useful for traveling and is very smart for morning wear.
The gowns are mostly tailor-built, and of a simple order, made with a bolero or basque coat, and worn with pretty Irish crochet blouses or white batiste, and even coarse linen morning shirts.
So, talking of coarse embroidered linens, there is no doubt we have gone mad over these, and during the summer we shall see many examples in frocks as well as blouses.
One is always safe in having a skirt and blouse of coarse brown linen embroidered in a large design, and these, neatly made, are quite inexpensive.
For country wear and the Park in the morning, nothing is sweeter than one of these linen frocks worn with a suitable hat and a smart en-tout-cas.
The London Corset Company is making a distinctive feature of these linen embroidered frocks from 45s. – a most moderate price for a smart little gown.
They are also selling, at 28, New Bond Street, W., model gowns in cloth, silk, etc., at extraordinarily low prices. Then, for garden-parties, they are showing “Princess” dresses in hand—embroidered muslin and lace, and all kinds of lovely petticoats for day and evening wear.
This firm is noted for their blouses, and the daintiest Parisian confections are always to be found there. In fig. 4 our artist has sketched two examples.
That, in the left-hand corner, is just a simple linen shirt worn beneath one of the London Corset Company’s attractive little Zouaves in muslin, embroidery, and lace. These boleros may be worn over any blouse and are a most attractive novelty.
The other blouse shows a square Zouave effect and is composed of embroidered muslin. Dainty little muslin blouses may be had from 10s. 11d., and net blouses from a guinea.
The newest neckgear to wear with linen shirts and frocks is a rabat of folded linen lightly embroidered, and another novelty is a velvet ruffle which ties at the back with long ends hanging down behind.
Superior Street Wear
“Empire” frocks when deftly treated can be very effective and will continue to be worn with slight alterations, although “Princess” styles are first favorites. Beautiful embroideries of every sort and kind are used for the high waisted bolero or bodice.
A glamorous gown suitable for an opening day at the Academy is sketched in fig. 5. It is of softest Vieux—rose cloth, with a bolero of curious hopsack linen closely covered with embossed rose velvet.
A jabot of old lace finishes the neck, and the little inner vest and collar are of palest yellow cloth, finished with queer onyx buttons. This is accompanied by a becoming hat of soft white crinoline, with a cluster of rose-colored roses, and a shaded pink and white feather.
What a change has come over bridal gowns of late! It is no longer necessary to have stiff, hard, unbecoming satins. As a rule, however, people like white satin, but of soft make, and further softened with quantities of tulle and lace.
Mr. Konski’s clientele will be glad to know that he is making evening and bridal frocks as well as smart race-gowns, etc.
A charming wedding-gown sketched at 49, Conduit Street, is shown in fig. 6. It is in soft white Duchesse satin, cut en princesse, with a short tunic effect of pearl and silver trimming.
The bodice is of Brussels applique, and the same beautiful lace appears on the skirt, outlined with true lovers’ knots in the softest satin ribbon. The chemisette is of gathered chiffon, finished with a dog-collar of pearls.
Mr. Konski has many charming models on view now, and I would take this opportunity of reminding our readers that this is a perfect time of year to buy furs.
As is well known, Mr. Konski is an authority on all matters relating to furs, and his selection of Russian sable skins is always worth a visit.
Evening Dress for Young Girls
Evening dress for young girls is particularly charming this season. Pompadour silks, embroidered muslins, and nets, with raised ribbon designs, are all popular fabrics, while silver and pearl trimmings are much in vogue.
Tulle, and net of such an exceptional quality that it looks like tulle, though it is much more durable, are also preferred materials. White and pale shades of pink are often used.
Ball Frock for a Debutante
A sweet ball frock for a debutante is sketched in fig. 7. This is in soie-de-Chine of the palest shade of shell-pink with a chemisette, fulled becomingly in, of white tulle caught with clusters of little pale-yellow Bank-shire roses, which again appear on the festooned tulle on the flounced skirt.
A great deal of panne and chiffon-velour is being worn by older women, cut in “Princess” effects and outlined with lovely embroideries. All kinds of traditional trimmings are used in the way of ruchings, gaugings, and frills, as well as plain bands of velvet, stitched bands of cloth, etc.
In fig. 8 we have an example of a delightful check costume trimmed with bands of plain cloth. This is in a green color of a somewhat subdued tone, cut with a “Directoire” coat and plain, full skirt.
The short sleeves and the fronts of the coat are adorned with braided buttons, and the little turned-down collar is of embroidery. The front is of lace intermingled with a bit of dark green velvet ribbon.
All the Trimmings
Raised designs of chenille and ribbon work in beautiful colorings appear on many of the new evening frocks, and these are particularly attractive on such ethereal fabrics as chiffon and tulle, net and point d’esprit, occasionally intermingled with a little gold or silver thread.
Another pleasant note in trimmings consists of silver- or gold-tissue ribbon run through old lace tuckers and undersleeves. Magnificence is the order of the day for the wealthy, whereas women of limited means can create for themselves charming simplicity at a small expenditure.
Pritchard, Mrs. Eric, “London & Paris Fashions,” in The Lady’s Realm: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine, London: Hutchinson and Company, Vol. XX, No. 1, May 1906, p. 109-119.
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