Charles Frederick Worth (French, born England, 18251895)
Gift of Mrs. Philip K. Rhinelander, 1946 (C.I.46.25.1a–d)
The silhouette suddenly deflated in the 1870s, from a broad dome to something more akin to a right triangle. This silhouette developed in part because of the need to absorb the voluminous skirts, which had been worn over the domed cage crinoline. The solution was to pull the excess fabric behind and create a bustle which was elaborated with trimmings and supported with steel or cane hoops that projected backwards from the body. The waistline during this period was still in approximately natural position, but the torso overall had taken on a new shape in the advent of the spoon busk. Curved outward over the abdomen, the spoon busk allowed the fullness of the belly to be expressed below a compressed waist. The rounded lower torso in combination with a supported bust above formed a curvaceous hourglass silhouette.
Worth rarely scrutinized or adapted forms from the East. More often, he was an instrument of a Western taste that was projected globally via imperialism; for instance, he is said to have created 250 dresses on commission from Empress Eugénie for her appearances at the opening of the Suez Canal in 1868. But in this unusual example from his oeuvre, he emulated Middle Eastern enamels. The gown was worn by Mrs. William De Forest Manice, the donor's grandmother, at both the French and English courts during the reigns of Napoleon III and Queen Victoria. When worn on such occasions, the dress had a detachable brocade train, since destroyed.