Saturday, 16 April 2016

Gothic Revival and Fashion

While I was exploring the new exhibition "Shaping the Body" at York Castle Museum, and enjoying the tour given by one of the curators, I thought that one trend from the 19th century was missing: the Gothic Revival! 

Dress, 1816-1821, Design unknown, Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Dress, 1816-1821, Design unknown, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The Gothic Revival is not only an architectural movement but it was used in every aspects of the 19th century life (interior decoration, jewellery, clothing...). The interest on these different aspects of the Gothic Revival is growing, as shown by the popularity of the MOOC created by Stirling University, involving Peter N. Lindfield who studied interior decoration in the early Gothic Revival (pre-1850). Furthermore, in France, since the exhibition at Rouen Fine Art Museum, Cathédrale, 1789-1914, Création d'un mythe, the "néo-gothique" is been more closely studied. A conference has been organised at the Manufacture of Gobelins on "Gothisme et Troubadour (XIX-XXe siècles)", which featured several talks on the "à la cathédrale" style (name given in France to non-architectural gothic creation from the 19th century). 

Evening Dress, around 1890, Charles-Frederick Worth, Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Paris
Evening Dress, around 1890, Charles-Frederick Worth, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.

In fashion, the Gothic Revival movement was inspired by different sources: first, the influence of Tudor dresses and their ruffles and rows of muslin puffs. Second, was the imitation of medieval textiles, copied from clothing or domestic or even ecclesiastical textiles. The diversity of the sources made the designer's work a challenge, as he had to "re-create" an atmosphere of which only a handful of information were known. Some designers turned themselves to architectural vocabulary and added pinacles or trefoil design to clothing items. Therefore, the creations are often not a direct copy but a modern design inspired by the Middle-Ages. Many dresses combined different styles, from Gothic to Tudor, often mixed with Louis XIV fabric.
Waistcoat, Designer unknown, 1830s, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

However, it is worth mentioning that Augustus W.N. Pugin has also created Gothic Revival designs but mainly ecclesiastical clothing and textiles. Many of these items were hand-made by Lucy Powell, mother of Pugin's friend John Hardman Powell who was stained-glass designer.
Chasuble and Stoles, 1848-1850, Augustus W.N. Pugin (design) and Lucy Powell (maker), Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 

A famous designer was Charles-Frederick Worth (1825-1895), he was born in Lincolnshire and studied with a textile merchant in London. He was also an avid visitor of the National Gallery, and particularly enjoyed historical portraits. In 1845, he relocated to Paris and found success. He was also already several prices for its designs at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London. While in Paris, he met the Empress Eugénie of France, wife of Napoléon III, and created designs for her. He also created theatrical costumes for the Empress' masquerade, her annually extravagant bal. His eclectic style was appreciated by the French aristocracy and his company "House of Worth" was a triumph.
Design for a fancy dress, Charles-Frederick Worth, 1860s, Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 


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