Paris Dress Fashions and Gossip – December 1903
No more black and white! For many months society has been wearing black, white and the two combined. One reason for this total disappearance of colors from ladies' gowns is that the courts of Europe, England, and Italy particularly, have recently and for long periods been in mourning.
Two years ago in London, any touch of color gave something of a shock, so accustomed had the eye become to the lugubrious blacks and whites.
But now for colors!
Bright green velvet exactly the shade of emerald is a favorite for heavy reception gowns. Purple of a rather dark plum order is often chosen, blue and brown are more worn than they have been, and there is a new reddish color which goes by the name of "seaweed."
For house dresses the favorite is yellow. Blue of the bright pale shade is also chosen. For indoor parties, such as receptions, card clubs, lunches, etc., it has become a fashion to wear an inner coat of light silk or satin which matches the gown and then to throw on over this, on leaving the house, a long cloak of fur.
A charming costume of this sort is made in "putty" colored cloth. The skirt has eight flounces cut en forme and not hemmed. The jacket is in one piece and, being bias in the back, makes a single box-pleat which, together with the edge of the flowing sleeves and the collar, is trimmed with a broad band of guipure.
The hat accompanying is of dark brown felt and has a large bird of paradise feather which sweeps down on the hair in the back. The straight coat of moleskin has a very deep collar that forms two points in the front and two in the back. This collar is trimmed with sealskin bands, edged with a fringe in grey and pale green silk chenille.
All the hats are not large, by any means. We have reached the turning point, and while there are extravagant head coverings, there are also—by far the more chic—very small turbans which perch on the top of the head in an old-fashioned way.
These turbans are made in ostrich feathers or fur, and for trimming, they have a full aigrette at the left side.
Whatever the shape and style of the hat worn, remember that to be chic it should be lifted rather high from the head. This high effect is obtained by a barrette of velvet inside the crown and also by wearing the hair high.
Collarless dresses have been adopted by those whose freshness permits them to expose that part of the neck which is a calendar to one's past years.
There are quantities of new and pretty modifications but none so radical that the last year's gowns may not be changed and made to follow the fashion. The shoulders are more and more drooping; the sleeves are more and more voluminous, owing to the addition of double capes that start from the end of the shoulder seam and fall to the elbow or below.
The skirts are ever fuller and ever shorter, although they do not clear the floor. The long skirts of last year must be rounded off. Trains have disappeared, except for full dress, when it is scarcely possible to have a train long enough.
Princess dresses are much worn for large dinners and balls. They are made of heavy silks or satin, and the use of artificial flowers on both skirt and waist in general.
For smaller and less formal evening parties, thin materials, such as nettings, embroidered tulles, jetted gauzes, and the spangled chiffons are de rigueur.
The fichu-finish is convenient for demi-ensemble gowns, as it leaves the waist slightly décolleté and is suitable for the house or the theatre, as it may be worn appropriately with a hat.
Among the newest fur coat or wrap models are the following: For the theatre and occasions where one needs only a slight extra wrap a charming cape design is made in chinchilla bordered with a ruche of passementerie that follows the scallops around the edge of the cape and the two long ends, which reach to the knees. These scallops are also bordered with a deep fringe of silk, and there are several ornaments in chenille on the tabs.
Another model is an enormous cape with sleeves. It is made of ermine and elaborately trimmed with guipure. With either of the capes, it is the custom to wear an artificial rose pinned at the right side.
A third garment is the one which will perhaps be the most worn, as it serves for every sort of occasion. It is made of moleskin, and while it is belted in at the waist, it reaches to below the knees. The only trimming is a fancy guipure or fur collar in points. It falls to the waist in front and is very short in the back.
An extremely elaborate costume for receptions is made in two pieces: a skirt of green velvet with two bands of sable fur, one at the hem, the other separated from it by a deep band of black guipure. Both lace and fur are trimmed with garlands of small roses made of pink mousseline de soie.
The jacket coat is loose in the back, which is formed by a large double pleat trimmed on each side by a band of the fur. The neck is finished with a rolling collar, and garlands of roses are a dainty decorative item on the sleeves as on the skirt.
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. 6, December 1903, p. 903.
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.
Note: We have edited this text to correct grammatical errors and improve word choice to clarify the article for today’s readers. Changes made are typically minor, and we often left passive text “as is.” Those who need to quote the article directly should verify any changes by reviewing the original material.