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Paris Dress Fashions and Gossip - February 1904

Fashionable Women in Paris 1904

By Mrs. John van Vorst

The season for getting clothes is at a lull, and we have now arrived at the far more important stage of wearing well what we have. Too much emphasis cannot be laid upon the necessity of proper dressing.

It is possible by the mere way in which one turns the wrist in fitting on a glove, to make it look well or ill cut. It is possible by setting the hat a trifle too far back, or a bit too far forward, to appear ridiculous, while a person having exactly the same model and wearing it properly will acquire that peculiar style which French people call “chic.”

Gradually from the floor, where the fullness of skirts a short time ago lay in folds, gathers and pleats are working their way upward.

The feminine silhouette from looking like a flower inverted on its corolla, with a tiny calyx at the top and innumerable petals at the blossom’s edge, now begins to look more like that of our ancestors who so left their mark upon the styles in 1830.

Sleeves, for example, in the very newest and most audacious gown have their fullness at the shoulder, and by this inversion, the “Renaissance” becomes the “leg o’ mutton.” With skirts also, the fullness is lifted from the floor to the hips, where it lies in folds and gathers.

There is hardly a woman under forty who is not loath to see the carefully acquired lines of her figure thus gradually enveloped; it has taken so long, such exercise and so much self-denial to do away with hips, and now, with the gauging and tucks in the “new skirts,” one might as well have hips as not.

Put in this position by the Winter mode, an American beauty, who is married to a French nobleman, has been bold enough to make the promise that she will continue to wear tight-fitting skirts and set, rather than follow, the fashion.

The result is a new gown called the “Sylphide.” It is made en princesse. The back, perfectly tight from shoulder to hem, has a broad emplacement at the neck and is trimmed with bands of guipure where it spreads out in a train on the floor.

In front, the cloth of which the gown is made is drawn across and fitted so closely that it is difficult to discern the opening at the side. To mark even further the simplicity of line, there is a series of passementerie ornaments falling from the right shoulder to the knee, and except for the collar of guipure which crosses over the sleeves there is no trimming.

The general change brings with it a multitude of smaller changes; already corsets are higher in the bust than last year, shorter in the hips and smaller at the waist.

It makes sense that if the fullness of our gowns is to be at the hips, we must make our waists smaller to look as though we had any figures at all and that necessarily, our waists being narrower, our hips must be broader.

Collars are always worn remarkably high and snug, though some of the rather exaggerated and picturesque gowns are slightly open at the neck.

There is very little trimming up and down on bodices, as the movement is all across from shoulder to shoulder, long and loose, to a few inches above the belt. A charming gown which illustrates this movement is made in white Liberty satin.

The whole empiècement is made of tucked satin alternating with guipure dyed a reddish color, the first row of guipure coming near the neck and the last over the shoulder.

Underneath, the bodice is tucked all the way around, and there is a series of small tucks on the upper part of the skirt and at various distances to the hem, interspaced with guipure.

The long or three-quarter coat has been replaced by a sort of garment loose in the back and made with a sort of double pleat which gives the fullness.

Hats are of every size and shape. One of the half-season models is made of white felt, a large sailor hat with a very flat crown and the brim covered with a wreath of purple roses.

Another hat is high, with a mass of ostrich feathers; another bends low over the face, and its wide brims are trimmed with six entire birds, three on each side, as though in full flight.

More even than dotted veils are worn the lace veils which were the fashion a generation ago, in white with patterns in black, black thread lace, and black with an appliqué pattern.

The same general movements are followed in evening dresses, and the low sloping shoulder effects, with fichus and ruffles of lace, are most becoming.

Voile de sole is one of the prettiest new materials. It is a very thin silk nun’s veiling and is particularly adaptable for informal evening dresses.

Orange is a favorite color. Old green is another.

All sorts of braiding in gold and silver are worn. Ornaments applied in chenille and plush are held in place with circles and arabesques of a braid.

Nothing in the way of trimming is simple; and, yet, for purely utilitarian purposes and streetwear, there was never a time when a woman could be so simply, so conveniently and so smartly dressed.

For demi-saison, walking dresses of cheviot will be worn, and the long coats will still have vogue, with coattails which, instead of falling straight in front, slope away from the belt line to the knees. Boleros are either very short and full or else fitted well down to the waist.

Even for dinner dresses red, varying from begonia and geranium to the palest coral, is very popular.

Handsome brocades are much used for mantles and half season dresses—not the old-fashioned one-color brocade, but new designs in soft and brilliant colors over a satin ground.

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. LXIII, No. 2, February 1904, p. 187.

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.

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