Friday, September 9, 2011

Le Théâtre de la Mode

This is one of my favorite fashion book. Not only because of the beautiful clothes, but also because of the story behind them. I saw the "Théâtre de la Mode" exhibition in Paris more than twenty years ago, but it inspires me still to this day.

This book is the catalogue for the 1990 exhibition, with beautiful photographs by David Seidner and wonderful texts by Edmonde Charles-Roux, Herbert R. Lottman, Stanley Garfinkel and Nadine Gase, published by Du May in French and Rizolli in English.

***

Este es uno de mis libros de moda favoritos. No solo por los preciosos vestidos, sino por la historia que hay detrás de ellos. Ví la exposición del "Théâtre de la Mode" en París hace más de veinte años, pero a día de hoy me sigue inspirando.

Este libro es el catálogo de la exposición de 1990, con bellas fotografías de David Seidner y maravillosos textos por Edmonde Cahrles-Roux, Herbert R. Lottman, Stanley Garfinkel y Nadine Gase, publicado por Du May en francés y Rizolli en inglés.



Fashion - as any form of human creativity - is an unstoppable force. It keeps evolving through the most difficult times in History, through the falls of empires, through revolutions, invasions and wars, and is shaped by  the unavoidable social changes these bring. 

Probably nowhere has this been so true as in the modern history of France, ever since Paris became the center of fashion in the XVIIth century, due in part to the capital importance of fashion and luxury goods in French economy since the reign of Louis XIV, and in part to a certain French - or more specifically Parisian - spirit, which is not without some pride in it's (real or perceived) stylistic superiority.

Pre-revolutionary ideas influenced the clothing of the privileged upper classes of the Ancien Régime with their ideals of freedom and simplicity, and the increasingly maddening pace of changing fashions in the XVIIIth century didn't come to a stop during the revolution and the subsequent Reign of Terror, but seemed to increase in a frenzy of novelty. Napoleon's reign, the Bourbon restoration, Republics, the Second Empire, the Industrial Revolution were met with new styles and fads, focused on the even changing volume of the skirts in the second half of the XIXth century under the dictatorship of the first "couturier", Charles Frederick Worth. The Great War in 1914 put an abrupt end to the Belle Époque but not to fashion. A little milliner named Gabrielle Chanel was on her way to create the look of the new century.

In June 1940, less than a year after the beginning of the Second World War, Paris was occupied with German forces. The most necessary things were scarce or lacking, simple things as coffee, stockings or chocolate became unatainable luxury items, and shortage affected fabrics and leather which were produced in less quantity and were needed for military supplies. Attired with their simple clothes, wearing hats made with imagination and whatever material was available, messenger bags swung across the shoulder, the chic "parisiennes" travelled through the city on their bicycles and attended dimly lit dinner parties where guests shared their meagre rationing coupons. Elegance was a brave and cheeky smile in the face of adversity, a proof that they may have been conquered, but not yet vanquished.

***

La moda -como cualquier forma de creatividad humana - es una fuerza imparable. sigue evolucionando a través de las más duras etapas de la Historia, a través de la caída de imperios, revoluciones, invasiones y guerras, y es moldeada por los inevitables cambios sociales que estas traen. 

Probablemente en ningún sitio ha sido esto más cierto que en la moderna historia de Francia, desde que París se erigió como centro de la moda en el siglo XVII, debido en parte a la capital importancia de la moda y los bienes de lujo en la economía francesa desde el reinado de Luis XIV, y en parte a cierto espíritu francés -o más específicamente parisino - no desprovisto de un cierto orgullo en su (real o percibida) superioridad estilística.

las ideas pre-revolucionarias influenciaron la vestimenta de las clases privilegiadas del Antiguo Régimen con sus ideales de libertad y sencillez, y el acelerado ritmo de las modas cambiantes en el siglo XVIII no paró durante la revolución y el posterior "Reindo del Terror", si no que se incrementó aún un más en un auténtico frenesí de novedades. El reino de Napoleón, la restauración de los Borbones, repúblicas, el Segundo Imperio, la Revolución Industrial dieron pié a nuevos estilos y modas, enfocados al siempre cambiante volumen de las faldas en la segunda mitad del siglo XIX, bajo la dictadura del primer "couturier", Charles Frederick Worth. La Gran Guerra en 1914 puso un abrupto final a la Belle Époque pero no a la moda. Una pequeña sombrerera llamada Gabrielle Chanel estaba encaminada a crear el "look" del nuevo siglo.

En junio de 1940, menos de un año desde el principio de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, París fue ocupada por las fuerzas alemanas. Hasta lo más necesario faltaba o escaseaba, cosas tan sencillas como el café, las medias o el chocolate se convirtieron en bienes de lujo inalcanzables, y la escasez afectaba a los tejidos o al cuero, que se producían en menos cantidad y eran necesarios para suministrar a los ejércitos. Vestidas con sus sencillas ropas, llevando sombreros hechos con imaginación y cualquier material que estuviera disponible, bolsos de bandolera cruzados sobre el hombro, las "parisiennes" chic viajaban a través de la cuidad en bicicleta y acudían a cenas escasamente iluminadas donde los invitados compartían sus cartillas de racionamiento. La elegancia era una valiente y descarada sonrisa frente a la adversidad, la prueba de que habían sido conquistadas, pero aún no vencidas.



In February 1945 Paris had been liberated for a few months already, but war was still raging in many parts of Europe, millions had died and many others had been left homeless. The winter was bitterly cold and fuel and coal were scarcer than ever. It was in this very moment of absolute deprivation that someone had an idea that only a frenchman could have. Raoul Dautry, the president of "l'Entraide Française", the organism in charge of distributing aid to the victims of the war, asked Robert Ricci, from the "Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Parisienne" to plan an event that would show "the vitality that still existed in couture and the fashion industries, and that the same time would prove that these industries were committed to the plight of the needy, and ready to make a great effort to relieve them"*. 


Due to the lack of resources, it was finally decided to show the new creations of the couturiers on dolls, the small scale of which would use much less materials. The dolls, about two feet high, were designed by Eliane Bonabel, the body formed by a wire frame with plaster heads by sculptor Joan Rebull. The dolls were to be placed in sets created by important artists of the time: Christian Bérard, Jean Cocteau, Emilio Terry, Emili Grau-Sala, Louis Touchagues and many other. Seamstresses, milliners, shoe and glove makers started working eagerly, enduring the cold and the electricity shortages, making exquisite miniatures with real pockets and linings, lovingly finishing every detail of the outfits: tiny belts, brooches, flowers, umbrellas and even underwear. 

***

En febrero de 1945 París había sido liberada desde hacía unos meses, pero la guerra seguía desgarrando muchas partes de Europa, millones habían muerto y otros muchos no tenían hogar. El invierno era extremadamente frío y el fuel y el carbón eran más escasos que nunca. Fue en este momento de absoluta penuria que alguien tuvo una idea que solo un francés podría tener. Raoul Dautry, el presidente de "l'Entraide Française", el organismo a cargo de distribuir las ayudas a las víctimas de la guerra, le pidió a Robert Ricci, de la "Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Parisienne" que planeara un acontecimiento que mostrara "la vitalidad que aún existía en las industrias de la costura y de la moda, y que a la vez probara que estas industrias estaban comprometidas con la situación de los necesitados, y dispuestas a hacer un gran esfuerzo para aliviarla"*. 

Debido a la escasez de recursos se decidió mostrar las nuevas creaciones de los "couturiers" sobre muñecas, la reducida escala de las cuales emplearía muchos menos materiales. Las muñecas, de unos 70 cm, fueron diseñadas por Eliane Bonabel, el cuerpo formado por una estructura de alambre y con cabeza de escayola por el escultor Joan Rebull. Las muñecas se colocarían en decorados hechos por importantes artistas de la época: Christian Bérard, Jean Cocteau, Emilio Terry, Emili Grau-Sala, Louis Touchagues y otros muchos. Costureras, sombrereras, guanteros y zapateros empezaron a trabajar con entusiasmo, a pesar del frío y los cortes de electricidad, haciendo exquisitas miniaturas, completas con forros y bolsillos, acabando amorosamente cada detalle: minúsculos cinturones, broches, flores, sombrillas y hasta lencería. 



On March 27 1945 the exhibition opened at the Pavillon de Marsan. It was a huge success. It was visited by 100.000 parisians and it raised an important sum for the "Entraide Française" before travelling to London and the United States. The exhibition not only showed the vitality of French Couture to the world, to the public of Paris it meant much more, it showed them that, like a flower blooming after a long dark winter, in spite of the endless horrors of war, in spite of deprivation and loss, beauty was still possible, and it gave them back the confidence in their identity and the pride in one of their most revered national treasures: le chic parisien.

***

El 27 de marzo de 1945 se inauguró la exposición en el Pavillon de Marsan. Fue un enorme éxito. Fue visitada por 100.000 parisinos y recaudó una importante suma para la "Entraide Française" antes de viajar a Londres y los Estados Unidos. La exposición no solo mostraba la vitalidad de la Alta Costura francesa al mundo, para el publico de París significaba mucho más, les mostraba que, como una flor que florece tras un largo y oscuro invierno, a pesar de los infinitos horrores de la guerra, a pesar de las penurias y las pérdidas, había sitio para la belleza, y les devolvió la confianza en su identidad y el orgullo en uno de sus más preciados tesoros nacionales: le chic parisien.

Balmain

Almost half a century later the dolls were found in the Maryhill Museum in Goldendale, Washington, and in 1990 the exhibition was brought back to Paris, to the same Pavillon de Marsan. The light were turned on again in the faithfully rebuilt sets, and the magic of fashion triumphing over the hardships of war was alive again.

***

Casi medio siglo después las muñecas fueron encontradas en el Maryhill Museum en Goldendale, Washington, y en 1990 la exposición volvió a París, al mismo Pavillon de Marsan. Se volvieron a encender las luces en los decorados fielmente reconstruidos, y la magia de la moda triunfando sobre las penurias de la guerra cobró vida de nuevo.

Jean Patou, "Fleurs du Mal"


Marcel Dhorme
* Robert Ricci "Le Théatre de la Mode"

All photographs extracted from the book "Le Théatre de la Mode" (Du May/Rizzolli)

29 comments:

willy van Rooy said...

wonderful post( to say the least), so much information and so lovingly told. An incredible work, and love for their work, eminates from the designs, you are lucky to have seen the exhibition. Beautiful pictures from that book you shared with all of us! You did it again Pilgrim, thanks

willy van Rooy said...

Particularly like Proxy and even never heard of him? her? Will investigat

Alegria Maron van Rooy said...

Wow! this is so amazing! incredibly well written and I feel so informed now. I had no idea and the dolls are incredible! lovely. BRAVO

xoxox

Paris29 said...

Fantastic article! I find the sculptures used as models to be lovely in appearance. Small manniquins :-). I wish I was alive in the 1940's, so I could have attended the exhibition.

haquiles2001 said...

Querido Maestro Zen
lo que se aprende contigo no tiene precio,cuentas las cosas de una manera y divertida y lo que siempre he valorado en tí,no eres nada pedante,algo que siempre aparace con gente que es inteligente o cree serlo
ya sabes que soy fan de tu blog y que no hay justicia en el mundo ni ná porque tú deberias diseñar con Pilati y escribir en la Vogue edición francesa,pero...
la belleza reversible que tú tienes ,no la tiene todo el mundo...
abrazazos desde la capital del mundo,Ponferrada

gratis total said...

ya estoy buscando el libro, debe estar en las escuelas!

Anonymous said...

I would like to extend my appreciation for your entry. The Theatre de la Mode holds great significance from a historical perspective because thanks to the tenacity and ingenuity of its creators and collaborators, Paris was able to assert its rightful place as the fashion capital of the world. Without this, then the world of fashion as we know it to this day, would have taken a very different turn.

From a more personal perspective, the Theatre de la Mode holds a more intimate significance, since one of the Parisian Haute Couture houses which participated was the venerable Callot Soeurs, which was owned by Calvet.

Again, thank you for your post!
Marcela Calvet
Principal and Chief Designer
Calvet Paris 1937

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