This light pinky peach dress covered in ruched bows and with full crinoline-supported skirt epitomizes the early 1860s ball gown. With delicate detailing and a simple color palette this garment is sophisticated yet effortless–perfectly in line with the fashions of the day.
This striking plaid ensemble designed by Elizabeth Keckley for Mary Todd Lincoln was on the cutting edge of fashion, but also in good taste – embracing the latest French trends while relying on a distinctively American plaid and minimal trimmings in light of the ongoing Civil War.
Elizabeth Keckley, a remarkably successful dressmaker, built her career upon exacting technical standards, graceful clean lines, and an understanding of Parisian fashionable trends. She is well known for her work for the political elite of Washington DC, particularly for Mary Todd Lincoln. Keckley was one of the first African American women to publish a book and was an impassioned activist who created a relief organization for newly freed enslaved persons.
This lush purple velvet dress designed by Elizabeth Keckley for Mary Todd Lincoln features both an evening and day bodice paired with a wide crinoline skirt. The ensemble, worn in 1861-62 while Lincoln was First Lady, reflects fashionable dress trends of the time.
This 1863 gown, worn by Mary Todd Lincoln, is an exquisite example of fashionable dress from the early 1860s. With its elegant fabric and thoughtful details, it reveals more about the wearer and the creator, Elizabeth Keckley, an accomplished seamstress who is integral to the history of African-American fashion.
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.
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