Paris Fashions July 1888
Early summer, which by the grace of poets has been dedicated to youth, is held by our pleasure loving Parisiennes as the gayest of all the seasons of the year. Races, receptions, dancing, and music keep up a brilliant round through the day and night.
All the leaders of society have till lately been in town, receiving and gracing every gala gathering. To hospitable and splendid entertainments two or three thousand invitations are sent out by such hostesses as the Duchesse de Doudeauville, the Princesse de Sagan, the Baronesses Adolphe and Gustavo de Rothschild.
Theatrical Gowns and Dresses
The theatrical season is now drawing to an end, and at its close appears to strive to eclipse the brilliancy of its opening.
On all sides opportunities offer for the display of that taste in dress of which Paris is the fountain-head.
The great houses are at work deep into the night, manufacturing original costumes for races, poetic dresses for the nightly balls, graceful wedding trousseaux, or splendid wardrobes for the leading actresses preparing to set forth on foreign tours.
It is impossible to do more than describe a few of the most picturesque specimens from that motley pageantry of apparel.
Sarah Bernhardt, who handles chiffons with the touch of genius, has revealed what can be done with stuffs and color to enhance the personality of the wearer.
The costumes in which this supreme artist has lately appeared in Adrienne Lecouvreur, Francillon, Fedorah, Therese Raquin, and La Dame aux Camelias, were principally designed by Laferriere.
One of these, for Francillon, was a delicately radiant dress of white brocade woven with silver and gold and strewn with a pattern of wild roses. The long train was lined with moss-green velvet; this upper dress opened over a skirt of tender rose-color, veiled with interlacing draperies of rose and green crepe de Chine.
Another harmonious dress was of beige plush embroidered in silver; the pink satin lining lent a soft brightness to the warm grey tones of the plush. The polonaise, edged with blue fox, opened over a skirt of pink crepe de Chine.
For Fedorah there was a gown of amethyst velvet, lined with Pompadour Pekin, the pink ground strewn with violets. Another violet dress was composed of the mingling tints of purple velvet, faille and plush, and many other kindred tones.
The ball-dress for La Dame aux Camélias was of white satin lined with pale sea-green, garlanded with white roses and gleaming with silver. The dressing-gown for the death-bed scene was of creamy clinging foulard and soft lace, opening over pale pink faille veiled with white lace.
Jane Hading, who in art is the divine Sarah's suave and tender rival, has set out for America, carrying in her trunks twenty-two costumes, also designed by Laferrière, for her parts in Frou-Frou, Le Maître des Forges, Mile, de la Seiglière, La Dame aux Camélias, L’Étrangère, etc.
For the unhappy Dame aux Camélias, whose dresses furnish unfailing inspiration to our artists in stuffs, there was an opera-dress which was a poem in pink and silver.
The pink watered silk dress was made with a corselet of silver and a straight skirt, which, opening in front, displayed a jupe of silver-spotted pink net, veiled with a cloud of silver embroidery, caught up high with four knots of pink ribbon.
The ball-dress was white satin, covered with lace, fastened here and there with clusters of camellias, which were also placed on the low body draped with lace.
The pretty country gown was a picturesque arrangement of maize crepe de Chine and Mechlin lace, the skirt flounced, the upper dress daintily gathered. The wide sleeves carried the mind back to fashions dear to Marie Antoinette when she played at being milkmaid in the garden of Trianon.
The dressing-gown, in which the frail repentant Dame aux Camélias was to breathe her last, was composed of soft white crepon; wide sleeves slashed with Valenciennes lace; a loose mantle of ivory-white vigogne lined with cream satin.
A boa of sable fur completed what is graphically called " le peignoir d'agonie."
For the sprightly heroine of the Pattes de Mouche there was a piquant Pompadour costume. The upper dress, made with a Watteau pleat, was a soft brocade of many-colored flowers sprinkled over a cream ground, lifted over a satin petticoat veiled with lace.
A very harmonious costume was of fawn cashmere embroidered in heliotrope silk, the skirt deeply pleated, a band of heliotrope velvet laid upon each pleat; the polonaise made in the Russian style, with epaulettes of embroidery and sleeves of velvet.
For Le Maltre des Forges, a picturesque girlish costume in Louis XV style, of Bengaline shot green and pink, the straight redingote and skirt embroidered with ecru silk.
For the great scene after the wedding, an admirably simple bridal dress of white satin, edged with a flounce of lace and a fringe of orange-blossoms.
For the birthday reception, a dress well suited to become the pale beauty of Miss Hading—a blue gown scintillating with golden beads, the redingote polonaise of the blue brocade opening in front and at the sides to show the petticoat of shimmering beads, the transparent sleeves also covered with the glitter of golden beads.
A lovely dress destined for L'Etrangere was black and pink. The redingote polonaise was made of black velvet, opening in front to show a petticoat of pink crepe de Chine, hemmed with three rows of scallops.
Heavy black and pink fringes, through which shone gleams of pearls adorned the dress, the draperies of which were caught up here and there with pink knots.
A gown of sapphire-blue Sicilienne clinging to the figure was made absolutely simple; a necklace of many-colored Egyptian beads, and a mantle of blue plush embroidered with beads, completed a costume not the least beautiful of those many characteristic dresses.
The most splendid gown was a tea-gown for the mysterious heroine, of delicate lime-leaf-green silk brocaded with moss-green velvet flowers; the upper dress, edged with sable, opening over a petticoat draped with lime-green Bengaline.
We pass over the fresh and picturesque dresses destined for Mile, de la Seigliere, to describe the exquisitely simple Parisian costumes manufactured for Frou-Frou, that pathetic type of Parisian grace and folly.
A gown of soft amethyst lampas, the front draped, the sides open to show a petticoat embroidered in silver, the sleeves of silver embroidery.
A bizarre costume was of gold net, with redingote polonaise of cherry faille, covered with Eastern gold and black embroideries.
Another visiting-dress consisted of a polonaise of delicate twig-green Sicilienne, draped over a skirt of ecru silk, veiled with embroidered net of the same shade.
The dresses for L'Aventuriere were the most resplendent of all those designed for Miss Hading. Among these was one of brocaded velvet of that peculiar shade of green known as vert antique, looped with heavy gold cords over a petticoat of faded pink brocade.
A soft, creamy-white woolen gown made by Mile. Oringoire, draped with Grecian simplicity over an ivory white silk under-dress, afforded a pleasant contrast to the magnificence and glitter of the other costumes.
As we are on the theme of theatrical apparel, we must not omit to mention the gorgeous dresses worn by the beautiful young actress, Mile. Bartet, in the role of Adrienne Lecouvreur.
In the second act, where Adrienne appears as the Sultana Roselane, the costume, copied from a picture by Vanloo, was splendid for colour, and was marked by an elegant simplicity of line.
The gown was of white satin, fringed with gold and adorned in the front of the bodice with Eastern embroideries. The large mantle of orange plush was edged with sable; a diadem of gems gleamed on the turban of white gauze, the high aigrette of which was a jeweled plume.
There was a charming Louis XV dress, all tender rose-colored satin, touched with delicate green trimmings of silken fringes and passementerie. A mantle of the changing hues on the pigeon's breast, and a picturesque hood, bordered with a thick ruché, completed this pleasantly toned costume.
Adrienne's ball-dress was of white satin, the front finely embroidered with garlands of roses, framed on either side with panels of gold embroidery mingled with green humming-birds.
We have dwelt on the description of these stage dresses, for in their picturesqueness they suggest how an artist can effectively use a beautiful and original arrangement of color and line to harmonize her individuality with that of the character she personifies.
We must now turn from the pageant of theatrical costume to note that of fashionable attire displayed at the various gatherings of le bean monde.
Race Course Dresses and Hats
On the race-course, in the carriages rolling along the verdant alleys of the Bois de Boulogne, may be seen floating silks beflowered or striped; rustling and gleaming taffetas, made up according to the modes which reigned in Thermidor.
Dressmakers, today, seek inspiration from the portraits, and even from the caricatures of the Directoire ladies, and copy the startling juxtapositions of tints, the exaggerated wasp-like or curtailed waists, the enormous hats that were the rage in the early days of the first Empire.
Canary-yellow and pale blue, yellow and green in their shrillest tones, are now, as then, the favorite combinations of color.
The hats are audaciously high, beribboned and beflowered; green ribbon of the shade at the heart of a lettuce, mingling with clusters of roses, is an admired hat trimming.
Dressing for the Grand Ball
At balls, the gleam of jewels, the poetry of flowers, the harmony of mingling tints, have never been used to finer effect. All that French taste can do has been lavished upon costumes worn at the nightly gatherings in the salons of the aristocracy.
All entertainments, however, paled in splendor and picturesqueness before the fancy ball given by M. Cernuschi, in the magnificent Buddha gallery of his hotel. This superb mansion is a museum of Eastern art.
Thither flocked, on that memorable occasion, all the beauties and all the wits, the queens of song and of the drama, mingling with the queens of society, with the railway, copper, and silver queens then congregating in Paris, and with them might be seen numerous illustrious strangers.
Two thousand guests, in splendid and original costumes, eddied around the colossal bronze statue of the Buddha meditating, in the great Japanese gallery. Some ladies wore costumes copied from pictures.
A Russian lady, Mme. Bernaardaky, was Vanloo's representation of Catherine the Great, stepped out of its frame, the painted jewels kindled into flame, the Empress alive and animated. Diamonds and sapphires blazed about her and crowned her head with varied light.
Mme. Pasta, the actress, wore a Russian head-dress studded with diamonds and pearls of unique size, and for the occasion put on the splendid thick white silk robe and train, edged with sable, in which Carolus Duran painted her four years ago.
The great painter himself was present, as an Indian chief; his daughter appeared as a dainty Japanese lady. Ladies who seemed to be walking pictures painted by Gainsborough, or to have lagged out of the early days of the French Empire, or to have just come from playing at being rustics with Marie Antoinette in Trianon, were there, with gems flashing on their hats and about their delicate throats and wrists, round their waists, and on the buckles of their dainty shoes.
From gems sparkling in the maze of dances, it is delightful to turn to the contemplation of jewels given away for the succor of suffering children. Mme. Andre, better known as Mile. Jacquemart, the distinguished portrait-painter, has sold her jewels,estimated at twenty-four thousand pounds, for the sake of founding a dispensary for the children of the poverty-stricken district of the Gobelins. No conditions hamper the gracious sweetness of this act, save that the management of the dispensary be given to the Sisters of Charity.
Around the windows of M. Boucheron, the great jeweler of the Palais Royal, crowds gathered to see those strings of pearls, those matchless opals, that regal necklace belonging to the late Queen Marie Amelie of large rubies and diamonds, which a noblewoman was parting with, for the sake of ministering to afflicted little ones.
A Fashionable Wedding
The wedding which was the event of the season was the marriage of the Due Decazes with the daughter of the Duchesse de Composelser. The corbeille de mariage might have been a gift of the fairies.
It contained triple-rowed diamond and pearl necklaces, diadems, a ducal crown, bracelets, rings, brooches; it held a store of the prettiest and most elegant chiffons, wrought in linen, lace, and silk.
The petticoats were assorted to the dresses, the under-petticoats in surah, the upper-petticoats in satin trimmed with lace.
The dresses all came from Worth; and as the bride wanted to wear mourning as deep for the loss of her step father as if she were in mourning for her own father, the costumes designed for her by the supreme artist in dress were symphonies in white, grey, and lilac.
The wedding-dress was of thick white silk, the round train and petticoat very gracefully draped, the front of the skirt cut out in rows of scallops, fringed with orange-blossoms, and edged at the hem with a thick wreath of orange-blossoms, the bodice draped with white crape, fastened with orange-blossoms; a diadem of the same flowers, and a net veil, completed a bridal attire of rich simplicity.
Among the ball-dresses was a spring-like gown of mauve Ottoman, the front garlanded with sprays of lilac, veiled with crepe, the back flounced with crepe; the low bodice trimmed with a fichu of crepe, and a long spray of lilac.
Another dress was of white satin, striped with interludes of net, a drapery of net in front caught up at the side with bows of white satin, flounces of net and satin at the back; the simple satin bodice trimmed with braces of net fastened by bows of satin; the wide satin sash fastened behind.
A grey and silver brocade Court dress was made with a touch of mediaeval picturesqueness. The low bodice, embroidered in silver, was edged with grey marabout feathers, scintillating with silver.
Another bodice of grey velvet accompanied this dress; it was made in the style of Henri II, with a fraise at the hips, and a waistcoat and revers of brocade; no sleeves, but epaulettes of silver braid placed at the shoulders; around the upper edge of the bodice, foamed a line of marabout feathers.
Two richly sober dinner-dresses deserve to be mentioned. One was of black satin, the simple skirt adorned in front with interlacing draperies, through which jet gleamed. Two bodices also accompanied this dress; one low, the other opened in the shape of a V.
Both were draped with a fichu of net and jet; the sleeves were of net. The second dress was of grey satin, the skirt simple. The low bodice was trimmed with old point lace; the high bodice was of black satin with grey sleeves.
Three afternoon visiting-costumes were models of coquettish elegance. One was of black Bengaline, made in the Henri II style, with white faille waistcoat veiled with black lace, and brightened with trimmings of jet.
Another was of smoke-grey broché, the skirt gracefully draped under a redingote of Henri II style, the sleeves of which were slashed. Silver braiding and fringes formed the trimmings. The deep cuffs and chemisette were of English point lace.
The third costume was of silver-grey Ottoman; the skirt draped with fan-shaped pleatings alternating with stripes of white watered ribbon. The Directoire coat was made with collar and cuffs of white watered silk; a large sash of black watered ribbon, and a cravat of Chantilly net, completed a quaintly picturesque costume.
In morning-dresses, black, grey, and silver reappeared. One, of slate-grey cloth, was made with gathered polonaise, crossed at the side with stripes of black velvet embroidered in silver, the cuffs and collar of black velvet and silver, the skirt trimmed with circling stripes of velvet.
Another morning dress was of a lighter shade of grey; the bodice, embroidered in silver, opened over a chemisette of grey watered silk. The skirt draped in front and plain at the back, was trimmed on one side with a revers of grey watered silk; a black watered silk scarf was knotted at the side.
Among the pelisses was one of grey drap de soie, made with a waistcoat of black velvet, and trimmings of silver braid.
Lovely Bonnets and Hats
Lovely bonnets and hats were to be worn with this brilliant array of gowns and cloaks. One was of Tuscan straw, lifted at the side with a tuft of roses just beginning to fade; it had black velvet strings.
A dainty capote was of black lace with cream-white strings and an aigrette of white roses; another was of ivory-white Sicilienne, with roses of the same tint.
From Virot came a round hat of white Chantilly straw; the crown low, the brim straight and advancing over the forehead, lined with fancy thread straw; a light torsade of silk muslin wound round the crown, a tuft of feathers, pistache-green shot with white, and a cluster of reeds placed in the front, the back of the hat lifted with satin ribbon of pistache-green shot with white.
A Trianon hat of Leghorn straw was lined with fancy straw, the crown covered with clouds of white net, and trimmed with a panache of pink feathers shot with white and bows of pink watered ribbon.
A sunshade of fancy straw, decked with flowers and knots of ribbon, was another pretty trifle placed in this lucky bride's corbeille.
Johnstone, Violette, “July Fashions: Paris,” in The Woman’s World, Cassell & Company, Limited, London, Paris, New York & Melbourne, Volume I, No. 9, July 1888, p. 429-432.
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.