Detail in Dress: 1850 to the Jazz Age
April 1st -
August 1st 2006
Fashion defines who we are and thus,
by examination, who we were.
scope of this exhibit, from mid 19th c. to early 20th century,
encapsules one of the most dramatic periods in social and thus,
can be seen as you would observe the cover of a book, where silhouette
simply defines a shape or we can look closer and see the historical,
social and moral implications, that defined what we wore.
can not escape the time capsule of context. In the mid 19th c, when we
observe the ever widening skirts and hoops we see isolation and limited
interaction between people and partners.
When we observe the structural elements of these costumes we see a contrived beauty and social correctness.
50 years the female form defined by correctness would be released from
its wire cage, as were women themselves with the suffragette movement.
Now in control of their own destiny, costume would express this
freedom, the female form no less beautiful without the mold.
When we observe the elaborate tailoring, detailing and handwork we see a society which cherishes human skills.
we observe the fine and delicate fabrics which defy laundering, we see
a society of class separation where only the new was fit to
We see a society where dress reflected obsessive focus.
proper morning dress...the proper afternoon dress...the proper evening
dress, all specifically contoured and all requiring staff assistance in
era of opulence.
Social activities, primarily expressed in the context of dance,
followed the proprieties of interaction. The formal dances of the 19th
c. carefully choreographed to separate partners giving way to the
Castle Walk of the Titanic Era where closeness demanded the radical
change in costume.
Fashion once implied evolution, changes not radical, but rather
constantly testing the limits of acceptance if not structure. The
omnipresent hoop skirt would grow wider with each season till width
would be modified by shape, as the “bell” curve became the
new fashion. Likewise the bustle would emerge from a subtle pad to
extraordinary feats of engineering, as it became the providence of the
cartoonists. At the same time the shoulder migrated from the soft
sloping transition to the arm to the extraordinary
“leg-of-mutton” shape which diminished the arm in favor of
the minimal waist.
we witness these changes we can not deny the human interaction, not
just as the form for the costume but as the creator of the costume.
Detail and embellishment would reign as each garment became the object
for embellishment. Rouching, pleating, ribbon work, couching, lace,
passementerie...all elements to support the individual personality of
costume was tailor made, time and detail was noticed, not just what was
seen when worn but what was only seen by the maker and the wearer.
Pride in craftsmanship motivated by the human spirit became the soul of each work
Museum of Lace and Textiles lacismusuem.org