#2635 $1,400 Reserved
Stern Brothers beaded devoré velvet coat, c.1913
Stern Brothers Department Store was an important fixture in the fashion world of the early 20th century. Customers were greeted at the door by an elegant doorman in a top hat. The Store's wealthy customers received the carriage trade treatment.
Like Bloomingdales or Lord & Taylor in our time, Stern Brothers meant high end fashion, whether the piece was imported from Paris or made in New York by Stern Brothers. Our exquisite coat is an exemplar of Stern Brothers' high style fashion.
The coat was made from dreamy, slate blue devoré velvet. This hue has a haunting beauty, reminiscent of the variegated hues of the ocean on a stormy day. (Think of the seascapes of the great British painter, J.M.W. Turner.)
The floral pattern of the velvet is cut to a ground of matching silk chiffon covered with sparkling beads. The coat is lined with gold satin and closes in front with a hook concealed under the braided tassels.
I love the long, slender cocoon shape with comfortable, wide, three-quarter-length sleeves. This magnificent coat would be as sensational over a over a modern slip dress as over a Fortuny Delphos gown. It is a coat for the great occasion.
Although velvet was first made from silk in the Middle Ages, the devoré technique was invented in France around 1810. The process uses a chemical gel to dissolve (devoré) cellulose plant fiber, leaving shadows of silk chiffon amid deep velvet pile. Devoré velvet became all the rage in the 1920s and is making a comeback, e.g., the Valentino 2011 Haute Couture show in Paris.
For many of the Paris designer pieces, the original label was removed and replaced with the Stern Brothers label. Whether produced in New York or Paris, the Store's pieces were always top drawer. Customers did not hesitate to pay the high prices. Stern Brothers' cachet derived from their infallible sense of style.
This brings to mind the Japanese artist who specialized in drawing roosters with ink on paper. A rich man wanted to buy one. The artist drew a rooster for him in one minute and charged a high price. "So much for one minute's work?" asked the rich man indignantly. "No, not for this one, but for the 20,000 roosters I had to draw before I could do it in a minute," said the artist.
The condition is almost excellent. The label is lightly soiled, and the neckline trim shows gentle wear. These are minor flaws.
It measures: 40" bust and waist, 42" hip, about 19" sleeve length, and 48" center-back length.