Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Dress In Curtsies & Conspiracies ~ Robe à Transformation


In Curtsies & Conspiracies Sophronia receives a Robe à Transformation at a key moment in the story. In the book the description is basically of this dress (1865), only I simplified and modified for the correct time period over 10 years earlier (1851).

Ballgown
1865 Robe à Transformation The Metropolitan Museum of Art1 copy

Visiting Dress

Walking Dress

 I love the idea of transformation outfits SO MUCH. It's thrifty and practical and appeals to my sense of efficiency. I suspect Sophronia feels the same way. So, for your edification, here are is a timeline of transformation dresses. The purpose of each version is my best guess based on style and custom of the day.

"You needed a breakfast outfit, something fancier for lunch, followed by the tea gown, and then the heavy artillery fro dinner that night. And if you were just away for the weekend, you tried not to wear the same outfit twice, which meant that for a simple three days in the country you could go through about fifteen different outfits."
~ Daniel Pool

Day Dress
1856 Robe à Transformation The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Day dresses are the simplest form of a dress meant for the late mornings and lounging about the house, shopping, and running errands, that sort of thing.

Dinner Gown
Dinner dresses have elaborate necklines and shorter (but not too short) sleeves. They might also have been worn to the opera or the theater.

Ball Gown
1858 Robe à Transormation The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Ball gowns have the lowest necklines and usually quite short sleeves, they can also usually have fancy hems.

Walking Dress
Walking dresses were slightly more covered up than visiting dresses, high necklines and slightly shorter hems (with the exception of 1870s and later promenade gowns).

Dinner Dress (probably mourning)
1861 Robe à Transformation   The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The sleeves on this one give me pause. They are long for a dinner dress (draping in food) but someone in mourning would not attend a dance so it can't be a ball gown. My guess is the modesty of mourning demanded risk at the plate.

Visiting Dress (which means it's a receiving dress)
Ladies in mourning did not pay calls, but they did receive close family and intimate friends. Because of its length this can't be a walking dress, indoor only and black velvet? Receiving is my best guess in the second year of mourning. (Receiving and visiting dresses would both be called visiting dresses, they serve the same purpose.)

Ball Gown
1864 Robe à Transformation   The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Color and style suggest this was for a younger lady.

Visiting or Walking Dress

Ball Gown
1865 Cream Robe à Transformation  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Visiting Dress
Because of the low neckline it could be a dinner dress for a married lady proud of her assets. But I think it was meant to be worn over a high necked long sleeved chemise for visiting instead.

Ball Gown
1866 Robe à Transformation  1866  Musée Galliera de la Mode de la Ville de Paris

Promenade Version
Because of the non-removable train on the skirt, paired with long sleeves, the only possible explanation is a promenade gown. Possibly for a seaside resort or even the riviera, given that this is a French gown.

Ball Gown
1872 Robe à Transformation  Charles Fredrick Worth,  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dinner Dress

Ball Gown
1888 Robe à transformation  Charles Fredrick Worth,  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
 Dinner Dress

Visiting Dress
1893-1895 Robe à Transformation  Charles Fredrick Worth,  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dinner Dress

Dinner Dress or Ball Gown
1895 Robe à Transformation  Worth,  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Presentation Gown
Presentation gowns were extremely elaborate, with trains, but modest coverage for presentation in honor of the gravitas of being seen at court.

Dinner Dress
1900 Robe à Transformation   The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Ball Gown
 Because of the elaborate lace and bead work yet comparative modesty of the cut of this dress, I'd say it is for an older married lady.

Dinner Dress
1902-1905 Robe à Transformation   The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Visiting Dress

The switch to Ensemble pieces after WW1...

1930 Ensemble  Jessie Franklin Turner  The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Midsummer Madness  Edward Molyneux, 1937  The Metropolitan Museum of Art


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2 comments:

  1. Thank you, that was very informative and beautiful. I knew the concept, but hadn't heard the term robe a transformation before.

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  2. In love with these dresses!

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