Paris Dress Fashions and Gossip – November 1903
One soon grows accustomed to the appearance of the Winter styles; a few cold snaps and one is reconciled to plushes, velvets, rough serges, and shaggy furs.
A very handsome coat which combines the heaviest of stuffs is made in dark green plush. It is gathered into the shoulder seams in the back, the sleeves are very full, and a broad stole of Chinchilla fur makes the tour of the neck and falls to the hem in front.
This fur band is broken by insertions of guipure and terminates with a double row of grey silk fringe. The cuffs are also of the fur and guipure.
A very beautiful dress is in mauve crepe de Chine. The skirt has five rows of shirring around the hips, four at the knees and four at the top of the full flounce, which finishes the dress. The particularly chic touch is that each row of shirring is outlined in small jet beads.
The bodice is made with a guimpe of shirring in which the jet is repeated, and from the bust, a flounce of lace falls, shorter under the arms and diminishing to an inch or so in the middle of the back.
A smart dress for morning and afternoon streetwear is of blue stamped velvet. The skirt is in pleats, and the coat is finished with a broad collar of petit gris fur with straps of velvet running over the shoulders.
The hat is of blue satin-felt, with no trimming on the crown and brim, but in front where the hat turns up, there is a blue aigrette.
An excellent way to obtain the proper length for the "new skirt" is to stand on a dictionary or other object about three inches thick, and if the skirt is turned up exactly level with the ground, it will be found to drag slightly all around, front and back alike.
Quantities of ruffles are used on everything: small pipings, shirrings, undulating patterns in gathered bands of chiffon and ribbon, great mixtures of laces, thick, thin, black and white, little bow-knots of velvet, motives of guipure cut out and applied, coarse crepon lace inserted in the heaviest of materials—there is no end to the new combinations which can all be applied in a single costume.
It has become the fashion to wear in the daytime a flower or a bunch of flowers in the corsage. The favorites are orchids and carnations. In the season when these flowers are hard to obtain artificial blossoms are substituted.
Capes, collars, and stoles in fur are indispensable. A certain kind of street dress necessitates the addition of a wrap in fur to make it sufficiently warm, this order nothing has been this season more successful than a model in cloth made with a very tight-fitting jacket which ends in a basque somewhat longer in the front than in the back. It is cut low in the neck and is ornamented with braiding.
The full sleeves are also braided, and the same motives are repeated between the full box pleats which make the skirt. The model for this dress is in polka dotted velveteen.
Loose evening coats are still worn, but for the street, they are made very snug, with long coat tails or basques.
Rough plaid cheviots and camel's hair zibelines are the most popular materials for ordinary street wear.
A dress that created some excitement at the Autumn opening of the races at Auteuil was made entirely of flounces—skirt, sleeves, and bodice. It was in taffetas: a pale straw color.
There was a yoke about the hips and eight flounces, each scalloped at the edge reaching to the floor in a slight train. The bodice had a guimpe of guipure and four flounces which started from the shoulders. The sleeves had seven flounces and a small cuff of the guipure.
The hat is worn with this costume—one unbecoming to any but a very slender woman—was of black plush felt with a large plume which started under the brim at the left and fell over the brim at the right, beginning in the palest tints of straw color and ending in a black tip.
The style this year is to wear only blouses of the same color as the skirt which they accompany. Even the white blouses which were so generally used with skirts of every color should now serve only with a white skirt.
White, by the way, is more than ever worn—white cloth, velveteen, taffetas— for occasions which formerly would have necessitated a dark frock.
Something between a tea gown and a house dress is the following model made in pleated muslin: insertion and a double flounce of lace garnish the hem, and there is a long train. The flounces of lace are repeated in a sort of bertha which goes under the arms.
Over the shoulders, there is a fichu of tulle, and the gown is open at the neck. The sleeves are double, the upper half of lace and the lower half of tulle. The fichu is caught with a large artificial red rose.
For the theatre, it is convenient to have a gown which is at the same time both dark and light and which may be worn for two seasons.
Nothing has had more vogue in this line of gown than black chiffon made up over a white silk lining. The skirt is in accordion pleats and on the edge of each pleat is a line of jet. The blouse, which is made of the same pleats as the skirt, has a very deep guimpe of white guipure.
Belts of suede and leather are worn with ornaments of steel and silver. The suede is cut much wider in the back than in the front, and this gives a graceful curve to the waist.
Ermine is combined with every sort of fur, and a very smart garment is two long ends terminate a cape which hangs to the waist in the back and front. It is made of sable and edged with ermine.
For evening wear white suede gloves are de rigueur. For the theatre and calling, glacé white is correct, but a new fashion has been started for morning and informal afternoon use— tan suedes, any shade from dark to putty color, and so large that they wrinkle over the fingers.
Van Vorst, Mrs. John, “Dress and Gossip of Paris” in The Delineator: An Illustrated Magazine of Literature and Fashion, Paris-London-New York-Toronto: The Butterick Publishing Co., Ltd., Vol. LXII, No. 5, November 1903, p. 685.
Editor's Note: Some terminology used in the description of women's clothing during the 1800s and early 1900s has been changed to reflect more modern terms. For example, a women's "Toilette" -- a form of costume or outfit has an entirely different common meaning in the 21st century. Typical terms applied to "toilette" include outfit, ensemble, or costume, depending on context.