In my last post we discovered that the white roses at the hem of the Peacock dress are not, in fact, original, but are replacements made by the milliner Reslaw Hats in the 1950s. We also saw what we think are a few of the original roses.
These are a wonderful find, it’s priceless to see size, shape, fabrics and method, but there’s still a missing piece of this puzzle. If I’m going to recreate the Peacock dress exactly as it looked when it was packed in a case in the Paris workroom of Jean-Philippe Worth and shipped to India, I’d like to see more than the present day remains of the roses. What did they look like as new?
We could look at the portrait (top of this page), but as we discovered in the last post, those bold strokes (which don’t tell me a great deal anyway) were painted in 1909, when the dress had already been in storage for six years and Mary was already gone.
The painting was undoubtedly completed with the help of the photographs taken of Lord and Lady Curzon on the night of the Coronation Ball, but those photos are rather overexposed, leaving the roses as no more than an expanse of white. Can we do better?
We can. If you move in costuming circles, you’ll know about the V&A’s recent book The House of Worth: A Pictorial Archive, which documents the vast and extraordinary collection of photographs that Worth routinely used to document its seasonal offerings.
Here is just one of the books of ballgowns from 1902 that were the source material for the recent book; just one of multiple photo albums recording front and back shots of every outfit designed by the House of Worth.
Special commissions like the Peacock dress are not there, but that’s ok. Did those white roses appear on any regular house designs in 1902? In the silent study room, I had to squee very quietly when I turned the page and found this.
Bingo! Now THAT’s more like it. This is a brand new dress. It’s product photography, showing the gown as it was meant to be seen – at its best, as new. *This* is what I’m going for with the roses.
Wanna see more Worth gowns that have been hiding in this book since the early 1900s? Front shots, back shots, detail shots? Because I might have taken, oh, a few other photos as I turned the pages… 😉