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Woman's Dress, 1893–01

Woman's Dress, 1893–01

Description
This dress, designed by the House of Worth, was worn by Alice Jane Earl Stuart, who was born in Lafayette, Indiana on October 23, 1850 to Adams Earl and Martha Jane Hawkins. Her father was a wealthy man and very important in the history and development of Lafayette, becoming president of the Lafayette and Chicago Railroad Company. At age 17, Alice left home to attend the Rockland Female Institute in Nyack, New York. On December 20, 1876, she married Charles Benedict Stuart, who became the founder of the Stuart law firm in Lafayette, Indiana. Their only child died at birth. The Stuarts were very wealthy as well, and Alice was one of the most prominent women of Lafayette and Tippecanoe County, working for many organizations of social welfare and improvement.
From surviving letters Alice wrote to her parents from school, she mentioned how important clothing was to her. As evidenced by this Worth dress, Alice was said to have a preoccupation with stylish apparel. Alice visited a cousin in Washington, DC on several occasions and attended a reception at the White House on one trip. She also traveled abroad many times, and it was probably during one of these trips that she had this dress made to order from the House of Worth, which was famous for creating beautiful gowns such as this one. Charles Frederick Worth was notable for his use of lavish fabrics and trimmings, and his son Jean-Phillippe, who followed the same aesthetics as his father, may have designed this dress. Alice Earl Stuart died on July 27, 1937 at Earlhurst, her family home in Lafayette. Although Earlhurst has not survived, this portrait of a young Alice Jane Earl Stuart is in the hands of a local doctor who owns the land that belonged to the Earls.
The House of Worth, which was the longest running fashion dynasty and the arbiter of women’s fashions for more than a century, was founded by Charles Frederick Worth, who was born in Lincolnshire, England on October 13, 1824. As a young man, Worth worked as an apprentice and clerk for two textile merchants. He relocated to Paris in 1845, and in 1858 he co-established his own dressmaking salon, Maison Worth at 7 rue de la Paix, Paris. Although his sons, Gaston-Lucien and Jean-Philippe, took over their father’s business after his death on March 10, 1895, they had been an indispensable part of the House of Worth long before he died. In 1954, the couture house was sold to Pacquin, and the name continued until the 1970s. Parfums Worth, which was created in the early twentieth century, is still in business. Besides dressing royalty and famous actresses, Worth was immensely popular among wealthy American patrons.
This elegant two-piece dress is constructed of pink satin and brocaded silk. The bodice of pink silk satin has a square neckline in front that is rounded at the back. The center front portion of the bodice is covered with pink chiffon, and four pleated chiffon ruffles with a lace ruffle inserted between two of them frame the neckline in front and extend down to the center front of the bodice. Additional ruffles are inserted at the back neckline to form a multi-layered ruffled collar effect. Reveres are cut in one piece with the bodice fronts using the fabric selvedge as the reveres edge. The reveres, similar to lapels, are covered with net and lace appliqué with decorative rhinestones. The bodice has side seams and is cut in three parts at the back. The back is covered with the same lace as the reveres. The short satin sleeves that are lined with pink satin are extremely full and pleated into the armholes with fullness at the top of the sleeve created by elaborate folding of the fabric. The sleeve openings are trimmed with three pleated chiffon ruffles tacked to the sleeves at intervals to form a decorative trim. A wide ruche of pink velvet lined with pink taffeta forms a cummerbund effect at the lower edge of the bodice closing at the left front. Two decorative velvet bows trim the closure. All inside bodice seams are finished and boned, with additional boning at the center front and either side of the center front. The center front of the bodice closes with metal hooks and eyes. This pictured label with the words “PARIS C Worth PARIS” is woven into an inner waistband tacked to the inside boning at the back waistline. The gored skirt of brocaded silk satin is slightly trained at the back, with box pleats creating fullness at the center back. A back opening closes with a large hook-and-eye. The skirt is completely lined with pink taffeta with a stiff interlining and an additional partial pink taffeta lining that is narrower than the skirt and tacked to the seams. A pink dust ruffle finishes the hemline.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
Dress, 2-Piece
Object Type
Main Dress
Woman
Dress
Entire Body
Date made
1893 - 1901
1893-1901
maker
Worth
used by
Stuart, Alice Jane Earl
maker
Worth
made in
France: Île-de-France, Paris
France: Île-de-France, Paris
used in
United States: Indiana, Lafayette
Measurements
overall:;
ID Number
CS.264090.001
catalog number
264090.001
Credit Line
Mrs. Stuart Clauser
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Costume
Clothing & Accessories
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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