How To Wear It: 18th century embroidered skirt

How to Wear It is a feature combining several things I love: fashion history, museums, and window-shopping on the Internet. Every week, I’ll share a museum piece that caught my eye, and come up with a few different ways you could wear it when you pull off that heist you’re thinking about.

While looking for an item to style this week, I happened to stumble across a bunch of gorgeous skirts in the Met’s collections. It provided a different kind of challenge: see, with a lot of these pieces, the challenge is finding a way to make them look modern — coifs, big hats, and gloves aren’t really everyday wear in most places these days.

chinese silk skirt, qing dynasty skirt

But today’s item, a skirt, looks downright contemporary. So the challenge was actually just the regular kind, of finding a way to wear it.

First, a little more about the piece: despite how contemporary it looks, it’s traveled about three centuries and eleven thousand miles.  It’s silk, with silk and metallic thread, and part of a complete theatrical ensemble. I love the embroidery on this, and the different geometric shapes, with the bottom border, the pleated waist, and the natural waistband.

First, an outfit for the office.

18th century skirt -- office
18th century skirt — office by lesspoppedthanever

Alberta Ferretti top / Annarita N. single button blazer / Banana Republic cushioned shoes / Leaf necklace / Jade earrings / Leaves ring

This ended up being the easiest outfit to put together, simply because the skirt isn’t the kind of thing I immediately go to for anything besides “daytime professional/business casual wear”. Making it look modern, though, didn’t even factor in!

In this case, I’ve focused on the leaves, as you can see. The natural-colored, flowing top is just gorgeous, and I’ve added botanical jewelry to go with the embroidered leaves. The trouble with botanicals, though, is exactly what’s lovely about them: the flowing lines and earthy colors are the exact opposite of what one thinks of when one pictures an office, so you run the risk of looking messy, unprofessional. An earth goddess is gonna be hopeless at debugging your code because she can’t understand why you’d want to get rid of bugs in the first place; they pollinate the flowers!

Thus, the blazer. The forest green color and the solid structure and clean lines work with the garden, keeping it structured without pulling it all up. The shoes help there, too, I think; the colors help the outfit look more pulled together, and the line of the toe cap, like the blazer, add some structure and make the outfit a little more solid without losing the rich earthiness that makes the skirt so lovely in the first place.

For the evening:

18th century skirt -- evening
Early 20th century hat — evening by lesspoppedthanever

One shoulder tank top / Noe ankle boots, $200 / AK Vintage Jewelry gold filled jewelry / Temple St. Clair gold bracelet

I love the little blue grape cluster details on the skirt, and I’ve run with that this time. The bracelet echoes the color and the shapes, as do the shoes.

Again, the challenge here was adding structure, though for a slightly different reason this time: I wanted to make this outfit a little edgy, which, again, can be tricky with botanicals. I let the pleats on the skirt guide me in the effort, and went with lots of straight lines in the top, the jacket, and the earrings. But I’ve kept the gentle, earthy tones and naturalistic asymmetry with the top and even the waist of the jacket, and I love the linen look to the jacket, which also helps to strike that balance between Gentle Earth Mother and Her Imperial Couture Pointiness.

Finally, the casual/weekend look.

18th century skirt -- casual
18th century skirt — casual by lesspoppedthanever

Zadig & Voltaire tank top, $89 / Mossimo brown gladiator sandals / Necklace / Alexis Bittar jewelry / Sheer chiffon blouse

For lounging around on the weekend, though, screw it, Earth Mother all the way. Well, no, actually I think this is more woodland nymph, now that I look at it: the earrings and studded sandals keep it looking modern, I think — although honestly, I mostly just picked the earrings because I find posts more comfortable for laying in the hammock and reading. And I friggin’ love that terrariam necklace; as soon as I saw it, while putting together the office outfit, I knew I needed to use it with this skirt.

Man, I want to wear this outfit a lot, honestly. Someone tell the Met they should sell reproductions of that skirt. I mean, I can and would totally wear the rest of the outfit with jeans, but what an opportunity the Met is losing by not offering that skirt, because tell me it wouldn’t sell like hotcakes.

How would you style it? Would you find more ways to add some edge, or would you just go full-on woodland nymph with this? Alternately, feel free to congratulate me on refraining from using pearls in any of these outfits. It took a lot of strength, I can tell you.

3 thoughts on “How To Wear It: 18th century embroidered skirt

  1. […] with the Chinese skirt, this presented a different kind of challenge because it looks fairly contemporary already! So the […]

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