#c338 $2,100Chantilly lace/tulle gown, c.1905
When combined with black tulle in a gown, black Chantilly lace makes a dramatic statement. It has long been linked with dignity, romance, and mystery. You would have seen such a grand gown at balls if you had been a member of the elite New York society depicted by Edith Wharton in The House of Mirth (1905).
The gown is noteworthy for two reasons: the unusual addition of colorful floral appliqués; and the use of black velvet bands to highlight texture. The gown is totally lined with écru silk, allowing textural elements—Chantilly lace inserts and appliqués, rows of tucks, and black velvet ribbon bands—to stand out.
The bodice has the full pigeon-breasted front typical of the period. The skirt is cut longer and fuller in back, forming a small train. The boned bodice closes with hooks on one side of the front. The skirt closes with hooks in back.
The black lace floral motifs in vertical columns exemplify Art Nouveau design. With a fondness for sinuous curvilinear plant forms, Art Nouveau was then at its peak (1905) in the graphic arts and in costume design.
Our opulent gown makes me think of Lily Bart, the tragic heroine of The House of Mirth. Lily would have worn and treasured the gown: its rich, stately beauty reflects her high social position at the beginning of the novel; and the striking pink floral appliqués would have been especially suited to Lily's radiant beauty.
Fine Chantilly lace lends an irresistible cachet to high fashion. On a state visit in 1855, the French Empress Eugénie, a paragon of 19th century fashion, dazzled the English court: she was wearing black Chantilly lace without precious stones.
The condition is very good to excellent. The lining of the bodice has several patches and a few minor splits. The skirt lining has had support added at the top where the lining was beginning to split.
It measures: 36" bust, 25" bodice waist, 14 1/2" sleeve length, 16" from shoulder to bodice waist, 28" skirt waist, full in the hip, and 42" skirt-front length.