Wednesday, October 31, 2018

DAY 83: The First Dress Change--Day Dresses

If you were fortunate enough to receive Princess Alix's summons to Sandringham House, you had to pack a lot of clothes. Jennie Churchill's first costume each day would be a riding habit (see Day 88: Riding in Style)--but after returning from the stables, reeking of horseflesh, leather, and the damp Norfolk woods, Jennie would hurry upstairs to her lady's maid, Gentry, and undergo a complete transformation. The dress shown here is by Charles Frederick Worth, and dates to 1880.

Sandringham House staircase

Mornings demanded a Day Dress. This blue gown by Worth, for example, is shown both as a lady might wear it indoors, but also with a fur collar, hat and muff, as she might accessorize it for strolling through Sandringham's gardens. Notice the flat skirt front and elaborate rear half-bustle of the 1885 period. Notice as well that the neck is high and tight (Princess Alix's influence on fashion) and the sleeves are narrow and close-fitting. Only the wrists are visible, and when outdoors, the hands, naturally, would be gloved. Jewelry would be held to a minimum in the morning; a brooch on the breast or at the center of the waist. A lady's decolletage was never exposed before the afternoon.

In That Churchill Woman, I describe Jennie hurrying upstairs at Sandringham to change from her riding habit into a mushroom-colored silk gown with bronze trim. This is the day dress I was thinking of--more than elegant enough for writing letters, doing needlework, reading in the library, playing duets with Princess Alix, bowling with Bertie, or challenging Consuelo, Countess of Mandeville, to a match at billiards.

The Day Dress formula hardly changed in summer--although the activities certainly did. More walking out of doors in Hyde Park and country gardens, painting en plein air, conversations in basket chairs under the spreading branches of a great cypress, or simply practicing the piano for hours.  

A Day Dress during the summer months was expected to be less formal and made of softer, lighter fabrics--although prettiness was a must. Notice the flirtatious detailing of this bustle, and the way the bodice pleating leads the eye to the ornament emphasizing the narrow waist. The curving drape of the bustle practically begs the viewer to follow. A come-hither Day Dress, if ever I saw one!

For more images from THAT CHURCHILL WOMAN, visit the  Pinterest board behind the novel. 

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