Back before the summer the Gemeentemuseum in the Hague announced a new exhibition on 19th century fashions. It’s named ‘Mr. Darcy to Eline Vere, Romantic fashion’ and has as subject the entire century of fashion. I was very exited, because although many Dutch museums have historical fashion, it’s rarely on display. The exhibit opened the beginning of October and I went to see it a couple of weeks later. There is also a lecture every Sunday on various topics, which is really nice. I took loads of pictures (it was allowed!), and I’d like to share some here. Some are a bit blurry, because photography conditions weren’t always great (too dark), but I hope the beauty of these pieces comes across. This museum does not have its full collection photographed and online, so there’s no option to see the dresses except for in the exhibition. I’ll probably go back at least once more while the dresses are still on display (it lasts till March, so plenty of chance). To everyone living close by enough I strongly recommend the exhibit. The pieces are beautiful, they are very prettily arranged and there’s lots of them! The dresses are mostly arranged by theme, which can be era, but also colour or purpose. For this reason, not all dresses are shown chronologically and I think that for people unfamiliar with the changes in silhouette that might be a bit confusing. For me the only downsides of the exhibit were that this chance in silhouette was not really shown off very well, and that some pieces could only be seen from the front. The set-ups were really well created though, with appropriate settings, beautiful back-drops and they even had a room of ball-gowns twirling around on moving pedestals. Especially great because you could see these dresses from all angles. There were also some movie costumes included, most noticeably costumes from the 1995 version of Pride & Prejudice.
In this post, I’ll start with the theme ‘white’. Some of the white and ivory dresses, along with my thoughts. I’ll probably do more posts in the future, but I’ll also try to upload all the images on my pinterest for anyone interested. By all means click through to see the full-scale images.
I’ll start with some Regency dresses. There were many beautiful examples, including some gorgeous white muslin dresses. I think this one was my favorite ‘little white dress’. The embroidery especially was lovely. The dress was made of very thin white cotton, the sheerness shows very well in the sleeves. The neckline seems to be gathered along a very thin cord tied in the front. The bodice is shaped with 3 small darts, and seems to have a waistband sown on the inside at the bottom. Maybe to strengthen the connection to the skirt? The darts also show in the waistband, so it doesn’t seem a separate strip of fabric. The sleeves are the classical puff with gathering on top of the shoulder, and they seem to again be gathered onto a cord at the arm-hole, though it’s difficult to see. The hem seems a couple of cm wide and is decorative, as the double fabric shows clearly due to its thinness. And of course, there’s more beautiful embroidery. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see the back of this dress to photograph it.
Next is another regency dress, but this time combined with an off-white spencer. The spencer is made out of a lovely textured fabric. I didn’t make a photo of the info tag, so I’m not sure of the fabric type. It closes in the front with hooks and eyes, and has a small collar. The spencer has at least two darts to give the shaping.The whole garment is decorated with corded strips, which run on the collar, on top of the closure, around the bottom, around the puff sleeves and around the lower sleeves. The sleeves have a faux-puff with a longer sleeve. The dress is again of thin white cotton with dotted embroidery all over, and an increase in dots around the hem. The skirt seems flat in front, but is gathered in the back and closes with strings in the back above a slit in the center-back of the dress.
Aside from the muslin regency dresses, there was also a large collection of silk dresses in different colors. The next two are not pure-white, but so lovely I wanted to include them. These show the more luxury dresses, for grand balls and court occasions.
The first of these two was of a pale gold silk, an evening gown with train. The bodice has a square neckline gathered over a string with a ribon belt around the waistline. The sleeves are short puffs which are gathered and pleated along cords on three different points. I can’t work out the back closure exactly. The hem of the train is beautifully decorated with ribbon trim folded into triangles and pleated triangles.
Of this second dress I don’t have a good image of the front, but in a way that doens’t matter because this dress is all about the train. It’s a gorgeous silk ivory court dress, with a subtly patterned fabric. The godice laces in the back and is quite low. The sleeves are regular puffs, but with metalic trim and netting around the bottom. The skirt is gathered very narrowly at the back and flows out into a very long train. The train is embroidered around the hem with the most gorgeous metal (I think gold) trim. The embroidery is in a leaf pattern, and if done on netting which is again attached to the dress. This netting might be original, but I also saw that they restored some items before the exhibition and used netting to reinforce materials, so it might be a restoration effort. (I don’t know enough about period embroidery to decide this)
Although the majority of pale dresses were regency, there were some beautiful examples from other eras as well. From ivory regency, to Ivory mid-century.
This silk dress is 1850’s, with a three tiered skirt in a gauze fabric. At the bottom of each tier there is a swirly embroidery pattern. The sleeves are short, and a bit of a mystery to me. They seem to be made of several layers of swirly fabric. The bodice has a low v neckline and a deep v at the bottom front. In the center, there’s a pleated gauze pattern. I think it’s a lovely example of creating a visually narrow waist.
Aside from Ivory, there was a slight blue/white theme in the mid-century dresses.
I believe this dress is late 1840’s early 1850’s, but I’m not entirely sure. It’s made of thin white cotton, and very interestingly seems to have a blue petticoat beneath the skirt. I don’t know if this is original, but it does make the skirt embroidery stand out in a lovely way. The front of the dress has an almost shawl-like effect, with the fabric being pleated over the chest and stitched down at the waist. The sleeves are 3/4 and unadorned. The skirt is two tiered and decorated with flower embroidery. I’m not sue of the closure as the back was hard to see, but it seems like there’s a little bow at the back on the waist.
The second blue white dress is ca. 1855 and an evening dress. It has a two-tiered skirt with blue stripes and dots as decoration. The skirt is gathered in tiny pleats to the bodice. The sleeves are short and wide in 2 layers. The bodice comes to a point in the front and is piped along the edges. It seems to close with hooks and eyes. The bodice has two darts on each side, and what’s really interesting is that you can see the boning in the bodice through the sheer fabric. It seems to have boning along at least one of the darts, and in the center front.
To end this (long) post, I’ll jump to the end of the century, to one of my favorite dresses of this exhibition. It’s off-white, and has so many gorgeous details. The bodice center has a collar and flower applique onto sheer pleated fabric. Over this, a shawl-like construction is draped and pleated which ends in the waistband and has lace insets and borders. When looking from the side, the closure is just visible. The long sleeves have an upper and lower part, both with tiny pleats and more lace insets. The skirt has a solid base with lace insets and flower embroidery, and becomes more decorated towards the bottom. There’s curved lace insets, pleating, gathering, etc. And yet despite everything going on, it’s still elegant.