This design was possibly created by Jules Marre for Charles Frederick Worth. It is an extremely theatrical design with the skirt decorated with the rigging of a sailing-ship sinking in stormy seas. The skirt also has rocky crags depicted around the hem, and wind heads blowing on the upper part. A cloak of stormy black tulle layered over blue tulle suggests storm clouds and torrential rain, and the wearer wears a coral necklace. Her pose and angry expression embody the vengeance of the tempest which caused the destruction of the ship against the rocks.
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.