Queen Victoria (1819–1901) witnessed many technological marvels during her sixty-four year rule of Great Britain. New inventions included the sewing machine, anesthetic, and the light bulb. She also oversaw a vast territorial expansion with colonies that came to stretch around the globe, causing people to declare “the sun never set” on the British Empire. On the death of her husband Prince Albert in 1861, she chose to wear widow’s mourning clothes for the rest of her life. This formal gown was designed for Queen Victoria in 1897, the year of her Diamond Jubilee, celebrating sixty momentous years on the throne. It is made of somber black materials: faille and crêpe. Only a long train and scattered embellishments of silk lace and metal spangles are a concession to required royal grandeur.
Adopt an object from The Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection
Support Fashion Council’s efforts to keep The Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection intact and at the FIDM Museum by “adopting” an item from the collection. Select garments and accessories from this exceptional collection have been chosen for adoption by FIDM Museum curators due to their rarity and high likelihood of being exhibited nationally and internationally. Patrons’ names are perpetually associated with their object, and are included in its unique credit line. Adopt a garment from your favorite fashion era, or honor a friend or family member by adopting an object in their name.
With 1,100 objects, The Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collections offers many opportunities for adoption. The garments and accessories pictured here have already been adopted. For information on other artifacts currently available for adoption, please contact Curator Kevin Jones: kjones@FIDMmuseum.org or 213.623.5821 x3367.
This evening gown is a delicate confection of silk satin, silk tulle, and thousands of hand-tinted and hand-embroidered glass bugle beads. It was once owned by the internationally famous beauty Consuelo Vanderbilt (1877–1964), who at the time she donned this creation was the 9th Duchess of Marlborough. Consuelo had been the wealthiest of the American “Dollar Princesses”—destined after her arranged marriage to be mistress of Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England—the only private palace in Britain. Her magnificent gown is attributed to the French couture house Callot Soeurs, and was likely worn as dinner attire.
These two pairs of eye-catching pumps were undoubtedly custom-made to match evening gowns. Developments in chemistry during the nineteenth century resulted in the invention of bright aniline dyes, such as magenta. The paper labels inside this pair identify H. W. Berenbak as a shoemaker to the court of Napoleon III and include small portraits of the Emperor. Royal appointments were a mark of prestige and resulted in lucrative commissions from nobles as well as those who aspired to royal circles.
The dark blue velvet pumps are embroidered with gilt plate over paper to give loft to the abstract floral designs. Curled and frizzed gilt filaments impart textural contrast to the raised metallic embellishment. Opulent shoes such as these were the finishing touch of women’s gilded age ensembles and were clandestinely glimpsed under yards of ruffled skirt hems.