Flower Basket

Helleu, Jules1860/1869

The Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum

This design was created by Jules Helleu or Léon Sault, possibly for Charles Frederick Worth. Many of these fancy dress costumes were built upon a basic bodice and skirt, which speeded up production when making multiple costumes. This design takes a simple white evening dress with a full crinoline skirt and adds to it an overskirt made to resemble a handled basket, turned upside down, and trims the skirt with flowers which spill down the skirt to represent an up-ended flower basket. Although simple by nineteenth century standards, it is an effective design that would have been quick enough for an extremely busy couture atelier to make up.

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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  • Title: Flower Basket
  • Creator: Helleu, Jules
  • Date Created: 1860/1869
  • Location: Paris
  • Provenance: Given by the House of Worth
  • Medium: watercolour and pencil drawing