Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Madame Tussaud Day Dress, 1855-57

Day Dress of Silk, Velvet and Passementerie
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Passementerie—the art of making or applying elaborate trimmings—is the heart of 
 this woman's day outfit with its dramatic cascade of the sorts of trimmings-- fringe, braid, gimp, ribbon, tassels and cord--which were so fashionable when this dress was made around 1855. 

At the time, most fashionable garments combined passementerie with applied bands of velvet, complementing the color and texture of the dress.  Take, for example, the fringe on this bodice/  It is comprised of strands of black hand-knotted silk with “poms” of brown chenille inserted to create a tufted look. Identical fringed trimmings on the skirt flounces must have created the effect of rippling waves as the wearer walked.

Passmenterie was also employed heavily in interior design at the time.
  So, picture a woman in the dress surrounded by a fringed and tasseled interior.  She must have blended right in.

This dress and mantle of silk and velvet was actually created in France for Madame Tussaud’s waxworks to adorn a contemporary figure.  We don’t know, however, which figure wore this gown.  Madame Tussaud’s donated the gown—in excellent condition, after never having been worn by a living person—to the V&A.

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