French devoré velvet dress, c.1925
Collectors are often drawn initially to the beauty of antique textiles. Although modern technology has given us practical fabrics, we have lost the aesthetic appeal of the wonderful textiles used in the early 20th century. Our handmade French dress is a treasure of textile art.
The dress is fashioned from luxurious mink-hued silk velvet cut to a matching ground of silk chiffon. The medieval-style pattern features medallions and large, stylized flowers set with quatrefoils and trefoils in an overall grid of branches.
The simple chemise style, uncluttered with many seams and construction details, is the perfect canvas to display the magnificent textile. Indeed, the flowers seem to cling to the branches so densely one above another as to leave no part of the "tree" undecorated, like the tassels wreathed about the crook of a Rococo shepherdess.
The only embellishment—other than the superb textile itself—is a beaded semi-rosette on each side at the hip. The petals of the rosettes are lined with blue silk. The skirt is slit open to the rosette on each side. The dress has no closures.
The devoré method reminds me of the fresco technique used by early Renaissance painters. In both methods, the surface decoration becomes an integral part of the underlying substrate. In the early 20th century, devoré velvet was generally reserved for the finest garments, like this splendid dress wrap and the opera coat I recently sold.
Although velvet was first made from silk in the Middle Ages, the devoré technique was invented in France only about 100 years ago. The process uses a chemical gel to dissolve (devoré in French) cellulose plant fiber to leave shadows of silk chiffon
The condition is excellent and wearable.
It measures: 44" bust and waist, 48" hip, and 47" from shoulder to hem. The 3"-wide hem can be let down if greater length is desired.