During the 1860s, the cage crinoline allowed women’s skirts to reach their apex in size, while menswear relaxed into wide, easy cuts. Advances in technology, such as the sewing machine and aniline dyes, and the rise of Parisian couture, beginning with the House of Worth, changed the fashion landscape.
This gold-colored silk afternoon dress with its green bows and ruffles that help to emphasize the back of the silhouette was on trend in 1866, but its coordinating trompe l’oeil jacket was very fashion-forward.
In Winterhalter’s 1865 portrait, Empress Elizabeth of Austria (known as Sissi) wears a white satin evening dress covered with thousands of silver foil stars shimmering under the layer of tulle. The dress, thought to be designed by Worth, follows fashionable trends of the era, but also has singular touches, like the stars, befitting her status as Empress.
In The Hesitant Fiancée, Auguste Toulmouche steps away from his usual depiction of beautiful yet idle women Emile Zola described as “Toulmouche’s delicious dolls.” He refines his style by painting a more complex subject–one of an arranged marriage that the bride clearly rebels against, as evidenced by the subject’s direct gaze. Despite the shift of the subject matter, Toulmouche keeps to his standard of painting lavish gowns and luxurious backdrops.
This 1863 dress has a simple and standard silhouette for the period—buttoned bodice, wide sleeves, full skirt—but is made fashionable by the floral embroidery, sash, and “Mexican blue” color.
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