The couturier Charles Frederick Worth (1825-1895) is often credited with designing and popularizing the large-scale, complex floral designs that appeared on women’s dress silks in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. His relationships with silk manufacturers, nurtured during his time as a salesman at the Parisian dry goods and ready-to-wear emporium Gagelin in the 1850s, likely allowed him to work closely with these firms to create custom designs for his carefully constructed evening gowns and opera coats. By the 1880s, Worth-style silks were produced by a number of companies in France, England, and the United States, while the swagged skirts of fashionable dresses allowed for these textiles to be displayed to maximum effect.
Known as a velours au sabre, this panel from a woman’s dress of about 1880-85 is not a true velvet, but, rather, was woven in a complex technique in which the pattern is warp printed prior to weaving, while the pile effect was achieved by hand-cutting the warp floats in the areas required by the design. It is trimmed with deep chenille ball fringe, which, would have added a jaunty touch to the wearer’s luxurious evening toilette.
An identical panel of this velvet is in the collection of the Museum at F.I.T. (P91.22.1).