…are what it means to be human.
Evening Dress • ca. 1898-1900 • Silk • House of Worth • French • The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1976.258.1a, b)Metropolitan Museum of Art, Instagram, Oct 3, 2022
“A superb example of dressmaking from the House of Worth, this dress exhibits the aesthetic of the last years of the nineteenth century. The fashionable reverse S-curve silhouette of the dress and the dramatic scroll pattern of the textile reflect the influence of the Art Nouveau movement. The striking graphic juxtaposition of the black velvet on an ivory satin ground creates the illusion of ironwork, with curving tendrils emphasizing the fashionable shape of the garment. In order to achieve this effect, the textile was woven ‘à la disposition,’ with the intent that each piece would become a specific part of the dress. With this technique, the design of the fabric is intrinsic to the design of the dress.”
– Collections Database
One gala evening at the VanderHoofenFoockenBerger’s town house in New York City, in 1900, Amelia VanderHoofenFoockenBerger descends the grand staircase, wearing the gown by Worth designed for just this occasion.
One million seamstresses in one million Paris garrets have labored for one million-million seamstress hours at the elaborate black embroidery, created “a la disposition”.
This means that the pattern was not just replicated on a large swath of cloth, because then it would be impossible for the pattern to match up exactly as desired on the finished garment; the placement of the design would simply be random.
Instead, the embroidery has been designed and executed for each separate piece of the garment to create a single, unified design as envisaged by Charles Worth.
This is a very expensive proposition.
How did humankind get to this point? By freeing up the human mind, clambering up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to the point of self-actualization.
“It is quite true that man lives by bread alone — when there is no bread. But what happens to man’s desires when there is plenty of bread and when his belly is chronically filled?
At once other (and “higher”) needs emerge and these, rather than physiological hungers, dominate the organism. And when these in turn are satisfied, again new (and still “higher”) needs emerge and so on. This is what we mean by saying that the basic human needs are organized into a hierarchy of relative prepotency”(Maslow, 1943, p. 375).
Fashion and culture and all those unnecessary things: this is what humans get up to when they’re no longer hungry, no longer homeless, no longer living in fear.
So my suggestion is: let’s feed and house and clothe everyone, remove the hunger and homelessness and fear, and then mankind will be released from the pressures of survival.
Then we’ll have who knows how many gowns by Worth. And lots more besides.
Who will you be voting for, and why?