Dressing Down: Private Life and the Dressing Gown, 1890-1950
The Dressing Case
At 8:00pm, our lady of the house is preparing for a Gilded Age dinner that will be followed by an 11:00pm ball. In this vignette, she is delayed in her robes while her younger sister, still in her day dress as she is skipping the pre-ball dinner to be with her young children, has been admitted to hasten her preparation, or perhaps to trade gossip from the day’s activities. The scene is set against a backdrop depicting Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt’s bedroom at Marble House. In the foreground, the anxious friend awaits near a grey painted, velvet upholstered Rococo Revival side chair by Jules Allard et Ses Fils of Paris, designed for Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedroom. The lady of the house, unconcerned with her tardiness, fumbles through a c. 1860 Belle-Epoque era ormolu-mounted ebonized kingwood dressing case by Giroux et Cie of Paris in search of a large button hook. This dressing case was received by Miss Maude Gwendolen King on the occasion of her wedding to Mr. Edward Maitland Armstrong on September 12, 1901 and is from the collection at Kingscote, a Preservation Society property. The case is haphazardly placed upon a matching bedside table from Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedroom at Marble House. Jules Allard, who created the two pieces of furniture on display in this case, was known as the fashionable decorator of the Gilded Age. He furnished four of the Preservation Society’s properties -- Marble House (1892), The Breakers (1895), The Elms (1901), and Rosecliff (1902) -- and completed multiple other prestigious commissions in Newport and in New York.
Photography by Al Weems