M969.1.11.1-4 | Dress

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Maison Soinard, Paris
About 1868-1869, 19th century
Fibre: silk (taffeta, fringe, tulle), cotton (lining); metal; bone; Sewn (machine & hand)
Purchase from Mme Roch Rolland
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Dress (85)
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The puffed skirt is the new important stylistic element in this garment. The basqued bodice is short-waisted and has a low wide neckline edge with pleated tulle and embellished with a flounce of pleating under which fringe is attached. A flat bow is superimposed at the shoulderline on each side. The short puffed and gathered sleeves are edged with a ruche of pleated tulle. There is a draw-tape at the neckline in front, and a front closure with five self-covered buttoms. The underskirt is gored and pleated to the waistband at front and sides; at the back it is gathered to the band. There is a deep gathered flounce at the hemline, topped by a smaller one of pleated fabric. The gored overskirt is also pleated or gathered to the waistline. It has an apron front created by gathering at the sides near the hemline which results in puffing : this area is marked by a bow at each side. The back is longer than the front and is gathering at the center near the hemline which again creates puffing : a third bow is found here.The bouffant form at the sides of the skirt was reffered to at the time as a panier. The base of the overskirt is trimmed with a pleated flounce and fringe. The date is substantiated by those of Caroline-Virginie de Saint-Ours-Kierzkowski's honeymoon in Europe and her documented Paris visits in 1868 and 1869, which determine when she bought the gown with the Paris label. Caroline-Virgine de Saint-Ours-Kierzkowski was fashion conscious. In a diary written during her European honeymoon in 1868-1869 she remarked on the dress of New York women, finding them, to her taste, over-dressed. In London, she commented on her enjoyment of window-shopping. And while visiting Paris, she wrote of La Messe des Élégants at the Église de la Madeleine : she wryly observed that at this late mess, people seemed to be moved more by the display of the toilettes than by the service. (Excerpt from: BEAUDOIN-ROSS, Jacqueline. Form and Fashion : Nineteenth-Century Montreal Dress, McCord Museum of Canadian History, 1992, p. 34.)

Keys to History

The discourse on the benefits of physical activity was directed more to men and children than to women. Doctors perceived women as vulnerable, believed them to be too frail to take part in sports. It was thought that women who did sports became over-agitated, and that this impeded their ability to have children. Women were thus generally urged to take up passive activities such as reading and sewing. According to Victorian ideology, men and women evolved in different spheres: women, as protectors of the home, were expected to confine their interests to the domestic sphere.

  • What

    Fashion in the Victorian era clearly reflected the constraints placed on women, in particular, on well-to-do women, who dressed for appearances.

  • Where

    This dress, very much in style at the time, came from the renowned Parisian dress shop Maison Soinard.

  • When

    What was considered the height of feminine elegance in 1870? Puffed sleeves, tight waists and duscreet necklines in keeping with the moral standards of the era.

  • Who

    This dress was acquired by Caroline-Virginie de Saint-Ours for her honeymoon in Europe in 1868-1869. Caroline-Virginie de Saint-Ours was the daughter of the Quebec politician François-Roch de Saint-Ours (1800-1839) and the wife of the Polish-born military officer Alexandre-Édouard Kierzkowski (1816-1870).