Dressing Down: Private Life and the Dressing Gown, 1890-1950
Casual to Couture: Mrs. Firestone Prepares for Her Annual Newport New Year’s Day Cocktail Party
It is late afternoon on New Year’s Day, and Mrs. Harvey S. Firestone, Jr. (née Elizabeth Parke) of Ocean Lawn in Newport has found a few spare moments in her library to peruse some sketches of evening dresses recently sent to her by a favorite designer, Christian Dior of Paris. Being an accomplished seamstress herself, she will make some suggestions to Mr. Dior about fabric color and cut before a final decision is made. Fittings in Paris could take many hours until the dress fits perfectly; should Mrs. Firestone not make it to Paris, a dress form had previously been created to her exact measurements to construct her selected dresses. Couture was a cherished form of art to Elizabeth Parke Firestone.
In this vignette, she is wearing a cream-colored silk dressing gown with a pink French lace overlay made by her New York dress designer Bob Bugnard as she prepares to descend to the first floor for her very popular annual New Year’s Day cocktail party. This year’s ensemble, a rose silk satin evening dress and coat by Christian Dior, is accented with shoes by R. Délicata (12, Avenue Montaigne, Paris) and a handbag by Morabito (Place Vendôme, Paris) dyed to match. In the center of the room on a c. 1810 Empire table that once belonged to the French statesman Talleyrand (1754-1838) are the Christian Dior sketches and a photograph of a portrait of Mrs. Firestone by Philip de László (1869-1937). The portraitist de László painted many Newport subjects but was particularly known for his portraits of the English royal family, including The Queen Mother (1925) and Princess Elizabeth (1933). In the present likeness, Mrs. Firestone is holding her favorite “Queen Elizabeth” roses; acres of rose gardens at Ocean Lawn in Newport were devoted to this variety, and the Firestones always had arrangements of them throughout the house.
Photography by Al Weems