mardi 14 avril 2009

Transported back in time

For a real trip back in time, fashion wise at least, there are two current exhibitions well worth checking out. One is at the Chateau Versailles and it features an impressive collection of royal court dress, reunited together for the first time. The other exhibition, hosted by the Musee Galliera, features fashion from the Second Empire. The Galliera being located closer to us than Versailles, we headed there one rainy Saturday afternoon.

It certainly wasn’t a hard trip to make considering that I love the Musee Galliera. It is the city’s Museum of Fashion located inside a lovely 19th century building originally built for the Duchess of Galliera. It opened as a museum 1977. There are about 90,000 pieces in the Galliera collection, all of which which illustrate and display the developments in historical and contemporary fashion. The collection can only be viewed through special temporary exhibitions. In fact the museum opens only for these exhibitions which are either on a specific theme or designer. The rest of the time, the museum preserves and takes care of their collection. The first time I visited the museum was last year for the memorable Roaring Twenties Exhibition and I enjoyed it immensely. It was a rich exhibition featuring a number of rare Poiret dresses and early Chanel.

This time around, the exhibition (titled “Sous L’Empire des Crinoline") is all about fashion from the Second Empire or the years between 1852-1870. During this period, the crinoline was the symbol of the Second Empire’s fashion. Its form reflected the elegance of an époque that was living through the beginnings of the modern age. Crinoline fashion reflected this modernity with the rise of machines that allowed for greater production and the rise of designer as an artist in his own right. Rapid production meant more dresses could be more quickly available and innovations were quickly realized on even the way the crinolines were shaped. And the designer as artist, we only have to look at Rose Bertin anointed as Minister of Fashion by Marie Antoinette herself to see how the cult of “designer worship” may have had its beginnings. Also it wasn’t that long into the period of the Second Empire when the first formal house of couture was established by Charles Frederick Worth in 1857. I should also mention that it was at this time that the Grand Magasins saw their rise to pre-eminince. All these factors contributed to make Paris the luxury fashion capital of the world.

However uncomfortable some (if not all) of the dresses may have been, there’s no arguing that these dresses conveyed elegance and luxury. Appropriately enough, the first part of the exhibition begins with magnificent ball gowns. They are memorable confections in silk that have retained their luminosity even after all these years. Most of them have wonderfully intricate Chantilly lace shawls that reach almost to the floor. A peek at the labels reveals that some of them belonged to the Empress Eugenie herself. Of course one cannot always swan about in ball gowns so the second act was a display of more “modest” dresses for the day. These were dresses meant to be worn while living one’s daily life. This time they were colorful and richly patterned with flowers such as one dress worn by George Sand. Another beautiful day dress worn by the Princess Mathilde was a striking red and black stripes combination. Whether they were ball gowns or day dresses, one thing that struck me was how tiny the waists were! It must have been some work to fit into these clothes and makes me glad for the more forgiving fashions of today. I don’t think my waist could handle it.

Of course this exhibition wouldn’t be complete without the accessories that go with it. Some big names naturally accompanied the dresses---Mellerio dits Meller, Cartier and Boucheron came up with some fantabulous pieces. But accessories did not only mean jewelry. The exhibition featured the whole gamut, from delicate lace tipped fans, to ivory buckled shoes (again, the women must have had tiny feet because the shoes on display look like children’s shoes compared to today’s sizes), carved flacons of Guerlain, tiny purses and even tinier notebooks called carnet de ball which could sometimes be worn on the wrists. It’s amazing how much work went into the creation of all these objects that were designed for pure luxury. Devoted fashion students could literally spend hours peering into every detail that went into each and every dress and accessory.
For the price of a museum entry ticket, we were transported back to an era and style of living that has completely disappeared now. And I emerged from it lost almost in reverie, dreaming of the gracious life draped in silks and lace.

Some photos to induce you to make the trip...

Robe de ball vers 1866

Another lovely ball dress

A summer dress, complete with bolero, belt and skirt vers 1865

Practical Details:

Musee Galliera

10, avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie – 75116 Paris

tél.: 01 56 52 86 00

M° Iéna ou Alma Marceau

Until the 26th of April 2009

1 commentaire:

Peach Ledesma a dit…

Amazing how they were able to preserve all those gowns! Imagine if we were to wear that summer dress in this day and age! And in the middle of Manila summer... Hahaha!