Worth Velvet and Satin Court Gown and Train
French, circa 1888
Comprising a skirt of pale lilac satin, three bodices, one each for court, evening or ball, and day wear, each shaped with attenuated front and back points, and a 10 1/2 foot court train of cut and uncut velvet voided to lilac satin, the velvet pattern of yellow and white lilies with olive green leaves, the train lined with the green velvet, shaped at sides, fastening at waist with rolled velvet waistband, the skirt straight at front, with short train and separate bustle bow and bustle understructure, self bow and spangled silk tulle trim, decorative tabs at hem alternating with the tulle, elaborate lace underlayer, the court bodice of the velvet, with lace-up back, low decolletage, purple jewel trim at one shoulder and white feather at the other, the ball bodice of the plain satin similarly styled and trimmed with spangled tulle, the day bodice with long sleeves, stand collar with modest round neckline, lace-up front and tulle trim, each bodice with original silk string laces, skirt waist 25 inches, petershams 23 inches, each bodice with signature label woven in petersham: C.Worth/Paris.
Each piece in nearly pristine condition, silk tulle deteriorating, some removed from each piece, tulle and possible other trim removed from skirt.
The dress belonged to Esther Maria (Lili) Lewis Chapin 1871-1959, the great-great granddaughter of George Washington's sister, Elizabeth Washington Lewis, 1733-1797. One of her great grandfathers was Col. John Stevens 1749-1838, Treasurer of the State of New Jersey from 1776-1779, who established the first ferry service from Hoboken to New York in 1774. His son, Edwin Augustus Stevens (1795-1868) founded the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, which opened in 1871.
Esther's father, Col. Edward Parke Custis Lewis (1837-1892) was the American Minister to Portugal under President Grover Cleveland from 1885 to 1889. It is towards the latter part of this period that Esther, age 17 or 18, was presented to a European court wearing this gown and train. Although there are no records of the event, it is likely she would have been presented in the Drawing Rooms of the English court to Queen Victoria.
Presentation at court was an honor bestowed upon young ladies at the highest level of Society. Sartorial regulations were carefully defined and rigorously adhered to. In past decades, feathers were unacceptable, but by this period they were allowed if placed judiciously on the bodice, as on this dress, not the head. A tulle headdress with long veil floating on top of the train was the head covering decreed de riguer.
Additional Notes & Condition Report
Any condition statement is given as a courtesy to a client, is only an opinion and should not be treated as a statement of fact. Doyle New York shall have no responsibility for any error or omission. The absence of a condition statement does not imply that the lot is in perfect condition or completely free from wear and tear, imperfections or the effects of aging.
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