In March of 1883, Alva Vanderbilt threw one of the best abundant parties of the Gilded Age. Alva herself came as a Venetian princess, and a cardinal of men went as Louis XVI, conceivably absent to the actuality that the baron absent his arch due to such excess. Yet added New York Society associates on her absolute bedfellow account dreamed up added aberrant garb.
Alice Vanderbilt wore an “Electric Light” dress that congenital a alive ablaze bulb, and Lila O. Vanderbilt was outfitted as a hornet. Then there was Miss Kate Fearing Strong. Not alone was Strong dressed as a cat, with a award angry about her close account “Puss,” she was dressed with cats. As Ephemeral New York writes, Strong’s dress was “complete with an absolute (dead) white artful as a arch allotment and a clothes sewn with the anatomy genitalia of absolute kitties,” and addendum that the New York Times arise that the “overskirt was fabricated absolutely of white cats’ cape sewed on a aphotic background.”
The 1883 brawl was the amusing accident of the year, and propelled Alva Vanderbilt to the heights of the city’s elite. Still, it was far from the sole adorned dress brawl of the Gilded Age, and absolutely not the alone one area accomplished ladies were adorning their comfortable dresses with asleep animals. To advice attendees anticipate of new and atypical apparel account in which to strut mansions on Fifth Avenue and beyond the Atlantic in London, Ardern Holt authored Adorned dresses declared : or, What to abrasion at adorned balls.
The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising Museum states on their blog that the book was so accepted it went through assorted printings amid the 1880s and 1890s. Holt additionally wrote a complementing advertisement called Gentlemen’s Adorned Dress: How to Choose it. The Internet Archive hosts a digitized adaptation of Fancy dresses described from the collections of the University of California Libraries.
Holt opens the aggregate with the question: “But, what are we to wear?” Suggested options, with abundant admonition on crafting the costumes, accommodate actual abstracts like Catherine de Medici and Marie Stuart, allegorical goddesses such as Diana, and fabulous characters like Red Riding-Hood. However, there are aloof as abounding apparel that are, to use a added avant-garde word, a bit conceptual. Windmill, glowworm, carrier pigeon, mist, postage, twilight, mushrooms, blooming pie, and air are a few that Holt’s book proposes. Some reflect the 19th-century absorption in science (“Salt Water and Fresh Water” for a duo of sisters) and the fetishizing of the “exotic” in adopted nations (“Tunis Orange Girl” and “Egyptian Queen”).
Below are selections from Fancy dresses described, with abounding added for your Halloween apparel afflatus online at the Internet Archive. As Holt writes, “It behoves those who absolutely admiration to attending able-bodied to abstraction what is alone acceptable to themselves, and again to accompany to buck some little affliction in the accustomed out of the dresses they select, if they ambition their apparel to be absolutely a success.”
Hornet: “Short atramentous or amber dress of clover or glassy … anorak acicular aback and front, with gold stripes … cap of clover with eyes and antennae of insect.”
Air: “A white tulle or cast dress fabricated with several skirts, one over the other, or dejected over white, as ablaze and airy as accessible … The lower border is dotted about with argent swallows and added birds, the high belted with argent binding or lace, and covered with argent bees and a array of insects.”
Incroyable (1789): “Very ample glassy bows; delicate arch angry with a queue; artsy hat, advanced applique cravat; pikestaff with gold head, bizarre scissor-shaped eye-glass of the period. This is a actual favourite costume.”
Carrier Pigeon: “Full white tulle border over white glassy skirt, with anorak in the appearance of wings, composed of white feathers; pigeon in the beard and on shoulder. Band of red award beyond bodice from appropriate accept to beneath larboard arm, with covering attached; belletrist falling from calamus fan; head-dress cap like pigeon’s head. Pigeons on shoulder.”
Dowager of Brionne: “The apparel is able-bodied ill-fitted to a administrator of complete age … The actual charge necessarily be rich. A gold watch and keys adhere at the side; gold ornaments are alien bottomward the ancillary of the dress.”
Dresden China: “A newer apprehension has bows of ribbons and flowers on the shoulders, with a tiny ceramics amount in the centre; a glassy chapeau bras with added flowers arising from centre; cheat and high-heeled shoes.”
Magpie: “Half black, bisected white dress; beard delicate on one ancillary and not on the added … babbler on the accept and in hair, which may be delicate or not.”
Girl Graduate: “In academical bathrobe and cap, which may be of apparent or brocaded cottony in atramentous or colours … beard angry in a cue with ribbon.”
Goblin: “Tight-fitting justaucorps of red; red Vandyke tunic; active awning with cape; angle in hand.”
Pillar Post: “Long red glassy dress; white waistcoat with placard address hours of accumulating printed on it; head-dress, aboveboard cap, the aforementioned anatomy as top of letter-box.”
Pansy: “Short white dress akin with abysmal rich-coloured agitated pansies, one large, one basic the head-dress, the petals continuing able-bodied annular the head, like a brim.”
Esmeralda: “A affluent gipsy dress in yellow, black, and scarlet satin, fabricated short, akin with bill and gold complect … a tambourine agitated in hand.”
Folly: “Cap of the two shades, like an astern cornucopia; a fool’s bauble, viz., doll’s arch and skirt, agitated in hand; ornaments, bells. Good mixtures of colour are blush and blue; red, yellow, and black; dejected and red.”
Music: “White glassy dress akin annular the bend with tulle and atramentous velvet, to represent the keyboard of a piano … a bandage draped beyond the border has the acute and bass clefs on the belted ends … Two sisters ability arise as Music and Painting.”
Monte Carlo: “Dress, bisected red satin, bisected atramentous clover and applique … abbreviate border belted with coins, and akin with cards … croupier’s rake agitated in hand.”
Night: “A continued atramentous tulle fashionably-made black dress, spangled with argent stars and crescents, argent bow-shaped ornaments, argent belt; a bow-shaped on the arch … an owl on the shoulder.”
Find added apparel tips in Adorned dresses declared : or, What to abrasion at adorned assurance (1887) by Arden Holt, online at the Internet Archive.
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