Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Victorian Transformation Dresses by Gail Carriger

During Sophronia's time, Transformation Dresses or Robe à Transformation came into fashion. The Robe à Transformation is an ingenious idea where by switching out the bodice portion of the dress the whole outfit can be reused for a different time of day. (Although probably not withing the same 24 hours.) Here are a few examples . . .

1855 Robe à Transformation  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The above outfit is the kind of thing Dimity might wear. It goes from a walking dress to a ballgown for evening. On can imagine how lovely the ruffles would flutter in the breeze strolling though Hyde Park, or on the dance floor as she whirls around with a partner.

 1859-1860 Robe à Transformation  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Because this one is a little more plain, and the neckline more reserved, I would say this is intended for a younger lady, or a pious older spinster. The height of the neckline also suggests a dinner dress, rather than a ballgown, for the evening option, but it's hard to say with confidence either way. This is something Agatha might wear.

 1875 Robe à Transformation  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The above is something a little later in time that perhaps Felicity Loontwill might covet. This one is a ball gown and a day dress that might make for an admirable picnic outfit.

The concept of a Robe à Transformation ties, in my head, to the idea of a dress wit a matched over jacket. Here is something of that ilk for Primrose to wear on a long cold dirigible ride.

 1894 Carriage Ensemble  Charles Fredrick Worth,  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I love this next one from the Gibson Age because it really looks like a completely different outfit as a elegant dress and as a walking ensemble.

 1905 Robe à Transformation  The Minnesota Historical Society

This idea never did die. Think about today and buying a modern suit. Often a lady can get a skirt or trouser option (sometimes multiple different kinds of skirt and trousers) and then a jacket and sometimes also a vest.

 1954 Ensemble  Christian Dior  The Chicago History Museum

The above ensemble is transformed simply by the addition of a matched shrug.

Here are a few transformation outfits from my own collection...

Black Dior 1950s

 With the jacket.

 Two variants on without the jacket for day and evening.

Blue Print 1950s

 With the jacket for daytime events.

 The jacket up close.

Without the jacket and with a capelet for evening.

Black & White Check 1950s

 The dress alone and with the jacket.

 Playing my own transformation game with various layers.

Black & Red Flowered 1950s

 With and without the over shirt.

 With Victoria in Barcelona an no over shirt.

At Passion & Prose with a full outfit.

A funny thing about transformation dresses, both now and then, is that the evening portion tends to be less well covered, which is fine if you are dancing up a storm or milling about the convention party rooms but can get cold. On the flip side the more well covered option is daytime appropriate. This actually works in my favor most of the time as I get cold easy and most event spaces have the AC cranked up.

I think I have a particular love for this kind of dress because its so versatile and with one purchase there are countless variations. This is also great for traveling light.

Retro Rack is also on facebook where I post additional images and fashion thoughts.

1 comment:

  1. Love love love your sense of style. I need to develop a sense of style. I'm sitting here typing in jeans and a t-shirt that reads "This is my lazy shirt." Hmm. Oh well.


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