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  • Object:

    Design for a fancy-dress costume

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    1860s (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Sault, Léon (designer)
    Worth, Charles Frederick, born 1825 - died 1895 (designed for)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    watercolour and pencil drawing

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the House of Worth

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case 96, shelf D, box 5

This design was created by Léon Sault, possibly for Charles Frederick Worth. The theme is a fan. The model carries a fan with black and gold sticks and a purple silk leaf edged with black feathers, which is repeated in the design of the overskirt. Duplicate fans are used as wings on the back of the bodice and as a hair ornament. Around the hem of the underskirt is a design showing wind heads (disembodied winged cherub's heads) which embody the breeze of the fan in use. It is a good example of how elaborate some fancy dress costumes could become when interpreting a simple concept. Léon Sault was a fashion and theatre designer and illustrator who later became a magazine editor, publishing some of his fancy dress costume designs as part of a series titled "L'Art du Travestissment" (The Art of Fancy Dress). His designs included characters such as Mephistopheles and embodiments of concepts such as Astronomy.

During the 1860s, Empress Eugenie of France threw a number of extravagant masquerade balls which required the guests to wear elaborate and inventive costumes that were made up by Worth and other Paris dressmakers. Worth, a relative newcomer, became the Empress's favoured couturier at the end of the 1850s. This made him extremely fashionable, and the rest of the ladies of Eugenie's court also bought gowns from him - and so too did their husbands' mistresses, and anyone wealthy enough to afford Worth's very high prices. As a result, Worth was under great pressure to produce vast numbers of unique, one of a kind costumes and gowns, often at very short notice. This is one of a large number of similar designs and sketches that were given to the V&A as part of the archive and reference collection of the House of Worth, making it extremely likely that it was originally designed for a guest to wear to one of the Empress's magnificent balls.

Physical description

Watercolour drawing, a design for a theatrical or masquerade fancy-dress ball costume. Representing a purple fan with black and gold sticks and cherub's heads blowing around the hem to suggest the breeze of the fan.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)


1860s (made)


Sault, Léon (designer)
Worth, Charles Frederick, born 1825 - died 1895 (designed for)

Materials and Techniques

watercolour and pencil drawing

Descriptive line

Léon Sault. Woman's masquerade ball dress. "Fan". Watercolour drawing probably for Charles Frederick Worth. Paris, 1860s.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Victoria and Albert Museum Department of Prints and Drawings and Department of Paintings Accessions 1957-1958 London: HMSO, 1964


Watercolour; Pencil


Watercolour drawing


Designs; Fashion; Fancy-dress; Women's clothes; Fans; Europeana Fashion Project


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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