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Design for a fancy-dress costume

Sault, Léon1860/1869

The Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum

This design was possibly created by Leon Sault for Charles Frederick Worth. While many of the fancy dress costume designs from the 1860s in the Worth archive are based on evening dresses with low cut necklines and short sleeves, this is unusual in that it is based on a fashionable day dress from the mid-late 1860s with a long-sleeved sacque jacket, in blue silk trimmed with gold fringe. The skirt is drawn up at the side to reveal an elaborate heraldic design on the underskirt surrounded with roses and gold iluminations. Leon Sault was a fashion and theatre designer and illustrator who later became a magazine editor, publishing some of his fancy dress costume designs as part of a series titled "L'Art du Travestissment" (The Art of Fancy Dress). His designs included characters such as Mephistopheles and embodiments of concepts such as Astronomy.

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.

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Details

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

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