Merlot-Larchevêque day ensemble, c. 1867

2008545acDay Ensemble
c. 1867
Madame Merlot-Larchevêque
Museum Purchase

The rise of France's haute couture industry in the mid-nineteenth century coincided with the astounding growth of industrial family fortunes in the United States. Couturiers astutely recognized the profits to be gained from catering to "new money." Privileged American women had the time and means to travel to Paris to acquire seasonal wardrobes. In 1867, Madame Merlot-Larchevêque (active c. 1855-1880s) advertised her dressmaking establishment in the most popular American women's magazine of the time, Godey's Lady's Book. Her showroom was located on the Boulevard des Capucines across from the luxurious Grand Hotel and, conveniently, English was spoken there. Godey's described the luxurious textiles from which a lady could commission a gown: "We enter the inner sanctum of Mme. Merlot Larchevêque, and see tissues of the most exquisite hues, of the richest textures, and in an unprecedented variety, thrown round in the greatest profusion."1 The brilliant aniline-dyed color of this silk faille and taffeta gown was fashionably termed "sulphur yellow."2

1 Godey's Lady's Book (February 1867), 204.
2 Godey's Lady's Book (November 1867), 460.

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