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  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    1869-1870 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Vignon, M (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Ribbed silk trimmed with satin, faced with cotton, brass

  • Museum number:

    T.118 to D-1979

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Vivid magenta-coloured silk gives this dress a rich and flamboyant appearance. It was probably dyed with one of the new synthetic colours produced from the late 1850s onwards, although intense hues could also be created using natural dyes. The artificial forms of magenta were very popular and a battle for patents began as dyers sought to distinguish their inventions from those of their competitors. In reality many of the dye samples from different manufacturers looked exactly the same, and it was only the exotic names, claims on colourfastness and improved visual quality that set them apart. Other disputes arose over the health risk posed by the wearing and production of garments coloured with synthetic dyes. In the early 1870s a German chemist found traces of arsenic in fabric dyed with magenta, which could leak out in washing, rain or perspiration. There were also reports of serious skin conditions caused by exposure to aniline dyes, and a dye firm in Switzerland was forced to close in 1864 due to arsenic pollution.

Brightly coloured fabrics also led to words of advice from the fashion magazines. The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine of March 1868 recommended that there should be no more than 'two positive colours in a lady's toilet' and that 'very bright tints' should be toned down with white, black or grey to prevent a gaudy appearance. Two shades of the same colour were considered very fashionable, particularly if the trimmings were of a contrasting fabric. (In this example, the difference in colour between the thread and material may have become more evident over time.) Satin bows and pleated bias-cut trimmings complement the ribbed silk of this dress perfectly, while delicate puffs of tulle inserted into the sleeves soften the impact of the dramatic colour. These details reveal the skill of eminent couturiers such as M.Vignon, the maker of this gown, who was also patronised by the fashionable Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III.

Physical description

Dress made with two different bodices, skirt, peplum and bow made of magenta-coloured ribbed silk trimmed with satin.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)


1869-1870 (made)


Vignon, M (designer)

Materials and Techniques

Ribbed silk trimmed with satin, faced with cotton, brass

Marks and inscriptions

Printed in gold on waistband.

Descriptive line

Silk dress with bodice, jacket, skirt, peplum and bow, designed by M.Vignon, Paris, 1869-1870.

Labels and date

Day dress (bodice, skirt and peplum)
Monsieur Vignon (active 1860s to 1880s)

Dresses were such an investment that they were often made with separate bodices for different occasions and for evening use. Extra pieces, like the peplum here, could be attached to the back of the skirt to allow for further variations. The fashion for crinolines required enormous quantities of fabric – the hem of this dress measures over five metres. Monsieur Vignon was a highly skilled couturier whose clients included Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III of France.

The bodice labelled, ‘FOURNISSEUR Breveté de S.M.L. IMPERATRICE/MON VIGNON, / 182 rue de Rivoli/PARIS’

Ribbed silk trimmed with satin, lined with silk and whalebone strips
Museum no. T.118&A to D-1979 []


Silk; Satin; Baleen


Hand sewing; Machine sewing


Fashion; Women's clothes; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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