Gift of Irene Lewisohn, 1937 (C.I.37.44.1)
Introduced around 1900, the S-curve silhouette was the result of ongoing controversy about the health effects of corsets. The "health" corset which was the base of this silhouette was designed to take pressure off the waist by shifting the force of the corset down onto the abdomen through the use of a straight center-front busk. The result of the innovation was to throw the chest forward and the derriere backwards into an almost birdlike configuration. Adding to this impression was the "monobosom" wherein support for the breasts corralled them into a low-slung single mass of flesh that was covered in day wear, but on display at night. Further emphasizing the S-curve, fabric in the front of the dress fell straight to the ground but was gathered over the back of the dress, adding greater mass over the pushed-out buttocks.
Upon the death of a member of the royal family, an announcement of court and national mourning would be made. Clothes worn by Queen Alexandra, such of this evening gown, during the coronation year following the death of Queen Victoria combine the formality and opulence required for court functions with the strict rules of mourning. Shades of gray and purple were permitted only after the initial period of deep mourning had passed.