Acquired from the costume designer Shirley Russell
The loose structure of this summer afternoon dress hides the mature feminine attributes – an ample bust and hips and a tiny waist – that would have been evident in the clothing of a previous generation, albeit shaped by a corset. Despite its more androgenous and juvenile character, the dress is softly pretty and romantic in a style associated during the early 1920s with the couturières Jeanne Lanvin and Madeleine Vionnet. The choice of fabric and the machine-embroidered decoration evokes the past – the lively motifs of the organza dress of around 1830, or those of the mid 19th Century beetle wing stole, for example. (See Related Items).
The apparent simplicity of the cut of the dress belies the skill of its construction. The faggotted embroidery bordering the bodice panels and the narrow tulle frills have been stitched by hand. Unlike earlier dresses, this example is completely unlined, requiring a petticoat or underdress to be worn beneath.