Chantilly lace/tulle gown, c.1905
When combined with black tulle in a gown, black Chantilly lace makes a dramatic statement, since this beautiful lace is associated with romance and mystery. This is the sort of grand gown that you would have worn 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 the 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 (4th picture from bottom) exemplify Art Nouveau design. With its fondness for sinuous curvilinear plant forms, Art Nouveau was at the peak (1905) of its popularity both in the graphic arts and in costume design.
Our opulent gown makes me think of Lily Bart, the tragic heroine of Wharton's novel. Lily would have worn and treasured the gown: its rich, stately beauty reflects Lily's 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 instead of jewelry.
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.