Fashion News from Paris – November 1909
Margaret Alice Friend
New Costumes Worn at the Grand Prix d'Autumne
The topsy-turviness, the anarchy of nature during this year of 1909 has seemingly reached its apogee.
Driving down the Boulevard St. Germain a few days ago, I saw many of the chestnut trees that line the Boulevard in full, gorgeous bloom. A wonderful sight, in late October, that, in startled perplexity, made me pinch myself to know I was not dreaming.
Though the lovely costumes prepared for the Grand Prix d'Autumne were sacrificed to our usual rain torrents, a series of golden days has made life well worth living.
Dazzling sun and mildest, softest air marked the Sunday races following the Grand Prix d'Autumne, and then new costumes were worn a-plenty.
Wonderful Furs Enhance Silk Gowns
To a quite prodigious extent fur is worn. It trims everything—garments, gowns, and hats. Fur is altogether fascinating, with silk textures lending new beauty and splendor to the soft satins, ottomans, and moires so much in evidence this season.
I saw, that beautiful Sunday, a costume of moire antique silk and taffetas combined, made with a short plaited skirt and a hip-long coat.
Trimmed with coarse black braid, the taffetas formed a straight-hung, plain tablier in the skirt, and the side, underarm pieces, and long sleeves of the coat were of taffetas; also the long revers of the coat, and all decorated with the braid.
Of a deep shade of “bois de rose,” the costume was charmingly topped by a cavalier hat of black plush, trimmed only with a great cocarde of old gold galon. The furs worn were spotted hermine. banded with black and lined with soft black satin.
The New Moire Fluide
The French dealers give several names to the material of this costume. Besides “moire antique,” it is called “moire fluide.” Probably the different names have their significance to the trade, for the markings vary.
Seen that day was a second moire costume, this time of the new cerise—a soft, deep, delicate pinky shade, charming with black furs and a hint of black in its trimming.
The skirt was ever so little dragging, with a beautiful movement of drapery at one side of the front, held by an immense cocarde of black moire silk.
Worn without an outer garment, the charming corsage revealed itself in all its grace of matching mousseline de soie, and long silk revers delicately touched with black.
Between deep, close sleeve caps and high, tight cuffs, fell elbow puffs of mousseline de soie; and there was a softly wrinkling belt of the moire silk, giving a princess effect to the silhouette.
The pretty woman in this costume wore black furs and a huge hat, covered smoothly with black velvet. Bicorne in form, there was no trimming — the latest caprice in hats — save a bunch of black feather pom-pons, set in the dent directly in the middle of the front.
With a black silk costume, trimmed with the new silk braid, yet as thick as one’s thumb, a large hat, covered smoothly with moire silk, was worn; effective, with its trimming of a wide band of chinchilla fur, laid at one side into a large flat bow.
Trimmed in a similar fashion, but with the band made of the down of peacock features, was a hat covered with black satin.
A Costume of Heliotrope Satin
Soft heliotrope satin made an elegant costume with a half-long coat. Skirt and coat were trimmed elaborately with a narrow, fiat silk braid, set in clusters, of many rows, in effective places, each row ending under a tiny button covered with gold lace and laid over black satin, a most elaborate trimming effect achieved with little effort.
The high Cossack's turban that topped this costume had for trimming a great wheel rosette of moire silk, bound with black fur.
Combining silk in several weaves was a charming hat topping golden tresses. In big cabriolet form it was covered smoothly with taupe-colored watered silk; binding the edge of the brim was a thick velvet ruche of a darker shade.
The crown was wound with mousseline de soie of a much lighter shade, and, finally, there were large roses with foliage, made of pale shaded pink silk, holding the mousseline scarf at one side.
A large, round turban, with an immensely full crown, the weight of it all falling towards the back, after the dernier cri, made of smoke-gray satin, was trimmed with a border of skunk fur, clasped with a gold plaque and pendant of a sparkling green stone. This is the latest fancy in the adornment of hats, displacing the ornamental hat pin worn so long.
A Trio of Charming Gowns
After the races, that day of belated summertime, the tea rooms in the Bois were as gay as in June. Sitting at one table, a group of three women was all gowned in silk. The first wore, with a skirt of black silk that dragged an inch or two, a long coat of gray moire, trimmed with black silk.
There were wide crossing revers of it, deep cuffs, with a wide band that, falling from the waistline, simulated hip pockets. All these accessories were edged with silk braid, and there were immense flat buttons of gray moire set inside wide, deep rims of black silk. With one arm thrust through her great soft muff—like a pillow—to the elbow, she dragged as she walked to her seat, a long hermine stole.
A manteau of the new blue—bleu corbeau, nearly black—ottoman, silk-lined with pale blue satin, was bordered with black fox fur. There was a wide shawl collar of it, and deep cuffs to the full sleeves.
Heavy black silk passementerie cords, twisted into huge ornaments, dragged and held to one side the loose, ample folds. Her furs were white, also, and she wore a turban of shaggy white felt, faced with black velvet and trimmed with a tall aigrette.
Of soft black meteor, all unlined, dragged into marvelous folds, twisting here and there and finally tying on each side with long tasseled ends, was a fascinating garment, worn with a gown of pearl gray crepe de Chine.
The only trimming to her hat, all soft velvet folds, was one of the ornaments described above; set a little to one side of the front, the pendant touched her eyebrow.
Silks of Another Century
I have had, since my last letter, the pleasure and privilege of turning the leaves of several great albums containing samples of ancient silks, veritable relics of historical costumes, bits of gorgeous silks woven especially for queens and the favorites of kings.
These albums, a priceless history of the modes of centuries, precious documents, clasp inside their covers bits of splendid brocades, moires, pekins in white and colors, ottomans with great cords or fine ones, and plain and changeable taffetas, thick, soft and lustrous; and silk gauzes, light as air, woven with gold and silver threads, all splendidly preserving their color, their luster. Each bit is marked with the famous name of the wearer.
Such books abound in the public bibliotheques of Paris and are easily accessible by permission. I am told that in the safes of the great silk manufactories in the silk centers of France similar albums are carefully preserved.
It is this sort of artistic and historical background that has kept, and will always keep, Paris the mecca of all seeking knowledge of such things, and the inspiration for original designing.
Never do I remember such beauty of modern silk weaving as has been shown me this season. In color, in finish and, in design, they are of astonishing beauty, rivaling those of ancient make I have described to you, and excelling them in softness.
Enchanting beyond description is white moire designed for a court costume. Shining like water under sunlight, the beautiful surface gleams through a tunic of square meshed silk gauze, bordered with a deep embroidery of pearls, white jet tubes, and great, sparkling cabochons.
Part of the corsage and the odd sleeves are of the embroidery, with a twist of white satin, and of satin, the belt is fashioned.
A Gown of the Louis XV Period
For another charming costume, over soft, pale green silk, is hung a tunic of white gauze, painted with great mauve roses and lilies.
Flowing full and long from around waistline are breadths of thick, soft satin, woven with beautiful bunches of pale pink flowers, circled by garlands of narrow blue ribbon, shaped into large Louis XV. bows.
In the shaping of the skirt, not a flower is profaned by the scissors. On the corsage, smaller flowers adorn it, back and front. Soft Mechlin lace shadows neck and arms.
Less splendid, but no less charming, are evening gowns of softest mousseline de soie, stamped or woven in garlanded borders encased in black lines. Hungover satin of the prevailing tone, the flowers stand out wonderfully.
To ornament the corsage of a white or pale-colored silk gown, are large roses, made of black mousseline de soie with great, golden centers. They strike a strong, but harmonious, note.
An artistic evening outfit is evolved from two or three shades of golden—brown tulle or mousseline de soie. The shades must be carefully studied, and the material. It is trimmed with gold and bronze passementerie, done on gold tissue. No jewelry should be worn with such a costume.
A New Fabric, “Zebiline de Soie"
In the showrooms of one of the great designers of the Rue de la Paix I have lately seen a new texture called “zebiline de soie.” Thin, soft, and light in weight, it has a charming downy surface that heightens its seductions.
In appearance, it somewhat resembles the new woolen cloths called “sable,” as handsome, as desirable as satin. The new brocades are heightened in beauty by gold and silver threads woven into the design.
The broche designs in black are fancy, not. Much liked. They have an air of old age, displeasing to the majority of women.
There are lovely two-toned-effects in brocades, used mostly as linings to fur garments, muffs, and stoles; but up to the present moment, plain-colored silks and satins are preferred for linings.
Even in the simple, old-fashioned dinner and evening gowns, copied from the 1830 modes, the changeable taffetas effects are preferred to brocades. There are lovely striped silks; but stripes, except as linings, while greatly admired, are passed over by the majority when selecting a costume.
Brocades for Evening Costumes
Handsomely striped silks are lovely for evening costumes when veiled with chiffon or tulle, and, with brocades, are confined to evening wear.
Though among the new silks presented for autumn and winter wear, there is every color, and shade of color, under the sun, capricious, fanciful womankind adhere to black for street gowning.
In any assembly of smart women, nine out of ten will wear a black costume or one of a dark color, such as taupe, smoke-gray and the new color—bleu corbeau.
However, with their handsome trimmings, their facings of a different texture, and their colored linings and, when the outer garment is dropped, the beauty of the corsage trimmed with a charming mélange of lace, embroidery, and colors, there is no lack of variety.
Some New Satins
Few silks are presenting a perfectly smooth surface. Like the new woolen materials, they are corded, ribbed and watered in a variety without end. The new satins are of a texture so lovely it is a pleasure to touch their shining, glossy surface.
They continue in the highest favor. Nothing in silk touches them in popularity. In satins, rightly or not, I include the different weaves that come under the head of satin-faced crepe.
Soft and lustrous, their wearing qualities are endless. Gowns of these beautiful textures are simply made, hiding nothing of their beauty of the material.
Plain skirts, fulled a little at the round waist, or draped in long, clinging lines, in upturned breadths, or skillful knots at the back, look extremely simple of achievement, yet skilled hands and fertile brains are necessary to their success.
For such skirts crossing folds form the corsage, with loose puffs hanging from the elbows to shape sleeve. White and cream lace, woven or embroidered with gold, silver, and bronze, trim them and add to their beauty, and narrow bands of fur and threadlike lines of it increase it further.
The pretty silk cashmere and the ordinary crepe de Chine are used in quantities in the make—up of the simple afternoon “dresses” returned to favor after several years.
Shaped low in the neck, with short, or half-long sleeves, they are becomingly worn with white guimpes or guimpes of colored tulle laid over white and trimmed with a little embroidery.
Belts of Satin and Taffetas
They are belted with matching taffetas or satin, and the skirt is often faced knee-high with the same. A “dress” of this genre of bleu corbeau silk cashmere has its short skirt closed diagonally at one side of the front, in line with the closing of the simple corsage, tightly belted with black taffetas.
The large, flat buttons of the closing are covered with black braided mousseline de soie and attached to large false buttonholes simulated with coarse black braid.
Black tulle, braided with gold and silver, edges the small, round cut of the neck and the edges of the short sleeves and wristband that confines the plain black tulle of the elbow puff. Marked with great chic is such a gown, in all its simplicity.
Wonderful Gown Seen at the Paris Theatre
The premieres at the playhouses mark the beginning of the season of Parisian gayeties. At the first one of the year, Mlle. Carlix was so lovely in two outfits one was puzzled to decide in which her blonde loveliness was most vivid.
Of geranium mousseline de soie was one, with light touches of black on the corsage; the other, a draped robe of champagne-colored silk, with lace and embroidery to match.
Charming details were a delicate movement of drapery, and a large Louis XIII collar of Venice lace edged with zibeline.
Seen in the foyer, between acts, was a superb manteau of ruby satin, veiled by Russian violet mousseline de soie, and trimmed with gold lace and sable fur, and hanging gold tassels mingled with sable tails.
Friend, Margaret Alice, “Fashion News from Paris,” in Silk: Published in the Interest of the Buyer, New York: Robert H. McCready, Vol. 3, No. 1, November 1909, p. 59-63.
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.