Well it's been awhile since my last post, hasn't it.. I'm still here and the shop update that I had planned for Summer will happen in December before the holidays. I've been beset with some serious health issues that have had me in and out of medical offices since August. Please send good thoughts my way for my health to improve.
The Maryhill Museum of Art in Goldendale, WA overlooking the Columbia River Gorge
In the meantime, here is a post that I've been wanting to get to for some time! I first heard of the Théâtre de la Mode (The Theater of Fashion) a few years ago without realizing that this collection resided just a few hours north of me in the beautiful and charming Maryhill Museum of Art. This ensemble of haute couture fashion mannequins was a spirited project that began shortly after the liberation of Paris in 1944. Fashion Designer Lucien Lelong, president of Chambre Syndicale in conjunction with L'Entraide Francasie (French National Relief) and Robert Ricci, son of designer Nina Ricci, came up with the idea of the Theatre de la Mode ; a traveling exposition of fashion figures that would hopefully revive the luxury imports industry in France while showing the world that Paris was still the world's fashion capital. The proceeds from tickets sales would go towards war relief.
Sixty of the top couture design houses, including Balenciaga, Schiaparelli, Pacquin, Lanvin, Worth of Paris, and Balmain, were asked to present their latest creations in 1:3 scale for the 27" fashion dolls. The wire and plaster models were outfitted using rationed materials, and wore elaborate hats, shoes and other accessories including jewels by Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. Eminent, multi talented artists and set designers such as Christian Bérard, Jean Cocteau, Boris Kochno and André Beaurepaire were given artistic freedom to create various themed sets for the pieces to be placed in. Any competition or differences between designers, artists and craftsmen were put aside and channeled into creating a magnificent display of Parisian chic and artistry.
Above: Mannequins from the set "La Rue de la Oaix en la Place Vendôme"~Outfit by Martial & Armand (top left), Sportswear ensemble by Hermès (top right), Yellow jersey dress by Jeanne Lafaurie (bottom left), Purple moire hat by Claude Saint-Cyr (bottom right)
The exhibition opened at the Louvre's Museum of Decorative Arts in March of 1945 and then toured to various the capitals in Europe. Thousands flocked to see to the "little ambassadors" from Paris (as they were referred to) in their glamorous and provocative theater sets. They were symbols of hope and possibilities, beauty and creativity, none of which could not be squelched by the Nazis during their occupation of France. The traveling exhibition was such a success that it headed to New York in 1946 and then on to the De Young Museum in San Francisco. After the show ended, the jewelry was returned to Paris and the dolls and sets were presumed destroyed. The original sets were lost but the figures were left in storage in the basement of a department store; abandoned until they were eventually sent to the Maryhill Museum of Art where they were displayed in glass cases. In 1988 the two hundred plus mannequins were sent back to their homeland to be meticulously restored in Paris.
Above: Mannequins from the set "Palais Royal"~Trench coat by Carven & Green fitted sports ensemble by Freddy Sport (top left), Blue linen dress by Bruyère (top right), Pink and white linen ensemble by Georgette Renal (bottom left), Turquiose and white dotted chiffon dress by Lucien Lelong (bottom right)
The Theatre de la Mode is back on permanent display at the Maryhill Museum. My first visit was such a treat. As I was walking up to the darkened top floor of the museum , I felt as if I were entering a tucked away secret attic, which, fortunately, I had mostly to myself with only a few other visitors passing through . The displays were breathtaking and I spent a great deal of time studying and admiring the craftsmanship of the outfits, in awe of the talented hands and imaginations that created all of this beauty and magic. My hope is to one day see all of the theaters and dolls on display at once ~perhaps for their 75th anniversary? (they are not shown all together but are on rotating display every few years).
(left) Elaine Bonabel was the artist responsible for the design of the mannequin prototypes (which were based on marionettes and dress patterns found in magazines) (ight) Jean Saint-Marin working on the wire construction. Image credit (L) Ronny Jaques, (R) Robert Doisneau/Rapho
Above: Green and white ensemble by Lucile Manguin. (Right) Brick red linen outfit by Marcelle Chaumont, hat by Le Monnier
Above: Linen ensemble by Madeline de Rauch. The mannequins heads were designed and created by Spanish sculptor Joan Rebull.
Most of my photos of the sets and clothing came out blurry, including my favorite evening gowns. The ones posted here are the exceptions. I highly recommend picking up the book Theatre de la Mode; Fashion Dolls: The survival of Haute Couture *(link is at the bottom of this post). It's a fascinating and extensive look into the history behind this exhibit. Included are exquisite images by David Seidner and lots of historical behind the scene photographs of the artisans and designers. I hope that a new edition of the book, including more detailed photos of all the outfits, will be part of future plans. Though it would be a time consuming/expensive project (and rather sizable book), I think these gems really ought to be seen at their best in print and up close. I don't think that would deter people from visiting the museum, if anything that might hasten plans to see this exhibit. One I thoroughly enjoyed, came away inspired by and can't wait to revisit.
Above: Opera House Set design by Christian Berard~Photo credit: Laurent Sully Jaumes
For more information, visit the Maryhill Museum of Art's website. And if you are ever in the Portland, Oregon area, take the time to visit this inviting place with it's diverse collection~ it's only two hours away along the scenic Columbia River Gorge ( 2.5 hrs from Bend ). The Museum has a beautiful sculpture garden and benches nearby for picnicking..a perfect outing on a summer's day. The Museum closes for the season on November 15th but will re-open again in March.
Oh, and you can see more B&W behind-the-scenes images of the Theatre de la mode here by Bela Bernand.
Red organdy evening dress w/full skirt designed by Grès with Turban and pale green organdy veil with kingfisher feathers, rhinestones and coral beads by Caroline Reboux (top left), the mannequin heads were created out of plaster (top right), Crown of wild roses on mannequin by Lucille Manguin, (bottom left)