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Flower Basket

  • Object:

    Design for a fancy-dress costume

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    1860s (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • 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 Jules Helleu or Léon Sault, possibly for Charles Frederick Worth. Many of these fancy dress costumes were built upon a basic bodice and skirt, which speeded up production when making multiple costumes. This design takes a simple white evening dress with a full crinoline skirt and adds to it an overskirt made to resemble a handled basket, turned upside down, and trims the skirt with flowers which spill down the skirt to represent an up-ended flower basket. Although simple by nineteenth century standards, it is an effective design that would have been quick enough for an extremely busy couture atelier to make up.

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 made to resemble a basket of flowers turned upside down.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)


1860s (made)


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

Materials and Techniques

watercolour and pencil drawing

Descriptive line

Woman's masquerade ball dress. "Flower Basket". Watercolour drawing by Jules Helleu or Léon Sault, 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; Europeana Fashion Project


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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