ca. 1900 Worth cape

This is the description that came with it from a vintage clothing seller, "c343

Silk brocade evening cape attributed to Worth, c.1900

 This important evening cape was attributed to Jean-Philippe Worth by a museum curator friend of its previous owner. Charles Frederick Worth, the father of modern couture, ran the House of Worth until his death in 1895. His talented son, Jean-Phillipe, joined the firm as a designer in 1875. The cape does not have a label but has all the attributes of fine French couture.

The feather pattern in the silk brocade supports this attribution. On page 69 of The Opulent Era by Elizabeth Ann Coleman, we read "Among the most commonly repeated motifs [of the House of Worth] are stripes, feathers...chestnut and oak leaves.... " The large feathered shapes in this magnificent silk brocade are filled with small stylized oak leaves.

The color of the silk brocade is silvery gray. The taffeta lining, visible through the open work of the yoke, is pale peachy beige. The brocade panels of the yoke are connected with silk cord macramé.

The yoke is bordered with ivory satin appliqués decorated with silver sequins and bronze beads—see the detail pictures below. I love the ivory pleated chiffon ruffles that line the stand-up collar and cascade down the front. The cape closes with loops and large matching satin buttons.

The major elements of the design intimate high social status (royalty or aristocracy): the rich silk brocade; the subtle silvery gray hue; the pleated ruffles; and the oak leaf clusters, seemly more than decoration, though not specifically identifiable as the insignia of a noble family. When we think of grand couture for royalty and aristocracy, we think first of the House of Worth, which supplied court dress for 50 years to the European aristocracy.

In 2004 I consulted with a major authority on French couture, who said that written provenance was all to the good, but that the garment itself speaks louder than the provenance. As for the attribution to Worth by the museum curator, the piece itself—construction, dating, materials, design—all these together are the most important elements in determining attribution. The label is secondary. The cake is more important than the icing on the cake.

 The cape is 48" from the shoulder to the hem."

ca. 1900 Worth cape

Keywords:  1900, cape, high enclosing neckline, ruffles

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