Design for a fancy-dress costume

Helleu, Jules1860/1869

The Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum
London, United Kingdom

This design for a fancy dress costume was created by Jules Helleu, possibly for Charles Frederick Worth. The subject is unclear, but may represent a theme such as Summer or Flora. The draped green net and silver tissue dress is abundantly trimmed with quantities of artifical flowers and large brightly patterned butterflies, and is paired with unusual green sandals.

During the 1860s, Empress Eugenie of France threw a number of extravagant masquerade balls which required the guests to wear elaborate and inventive costumes that were made up by Worth and other Paris dressmakers. Worth, a relative newcomer, became the Empress's favoured couturier at the end of the 1850s. This made him extremely fashionable, and the rest of the ladies of Eugenie's court also bought gowns from him - and so too did their husbands' mistresses, and anyone wealthy enough to afford Worth's very high prices. As a result, Worth was under great pressure to produce vast numbers of unique, one of a kind costumes and gowns, often at very short notice. This is one of a large number of similar designs and sketches that were given to the V&A as part of the archive and reference collection of the House of Worth, making it extremely likely that it was originally designed for a guest to wear to one of the Empress's magnificent balls.


  • Title: Design for a fancy-dress costume
  • Creator: Helleu, Jules
  • Date Created: 1860/1869
  • Location: Paris
  • Provenance: Given by the House of Worth
  • Medium: watercolour and pencil drawing

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more


Google apps