1919-1939 Fashioning the Modern Woman: The Art Of The Couturiere
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Join Date: Nov 2003
1919-1939 Fashioning the Modern Woman: The Art Of The Couturiere
I just saw The Art of the Couturiere at the F.I.T. Museum.
Ahhhh ...the quality, the COLORS, the gorgeous fabrics.
Many many Vionnets, and Chanels, and one Dior.
Some from Madame Gres (Alix Barton)
Also Lanvin, Paquin (Ana de Pombo), Schiaparelli, Delaunay,Augustabernard, Jenny, Nina Ricci, Maggy Rouff...and many more.
There were also some wonderful fashion illustrations.
I just loved it, I plan to go again -- since admission is free!
I saw some of the most beautiful draped gowns and dresses ever, they were timeless.
Beautiful hand work, and amazing openwork.
So impressive that women were the leading force in this fashion revolution...Sad to say I was not consious of the fact that so many women designers were so boldly producing their art in the same period of time, to work in that time must have been so inspirational...I'd love to see women reassume this lead!
I dont know if the NYTimes has published anything on it, but I did find the article in another local paper...unlike the on-line version the actual newspaper piece has photos (same photos from the exhibition pamphet)
If you can -- go!
[QUOTE]Designing women -- Chanel, Schiaparelli and their unsung sisters revolutionized fashion
Monday, February 23, 2004
BY JENIFER D. BRAUN
The 1920s and'30s the years between the two world wars were a time of tremendous upheaval in the world of fashion.
What a woman looked like changed radically from a corseted, bustled shape swathed in fabric from bust to ankle to a slim, athletic figure in a loose-hanging dress that wouldn't look entirely out of place if we saw it on the street today.And although it's largely forgotten now, women designers were the ones who stitched and sewed that revolution in dress.
"Fashioning the Modern Woman: The Art of the Couturiere, 1919-1939," a new exhibit at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, seeks to highlight the work of these female designers.
The exhibition was inspired, in part, by a quote of fashion photographer Cecil Beaton's: "Sandwiched between two wars, between Poiret's harem and Dior's New Look, two women dominated the field of haute couture."
The exhibit opens with a display illustrating the quote: A Paul Poiret harem costume, an example of Christian Dior's wide-hipped, wasp-waisted New Look, and positioned between them one dress by Coco Chanel and one by Elsa Schiaparelli.
Chanel and Schiaparelli, legendary designers whose names are still well-known both inside the fashion industry and out, certainly are oversized figures in the history of fashion, says Valerie Steele, director of the museum and curator of this show, but "that's not the whole picture."
"There was a whole regiment of women working as couturiers at the time, some women like Madame Gres, whom some of us still remember, and others whose work has been totally forgotten," she says.
There were, at the time, more high-profile, profitable female designers working in Paris than there had been before, or would be after World War II, when male designers like Dior and Yves St. Laurent enjoyed the limelight.
Designers like Madeleine Vionnet, whose series of evening gowns in the exhibit is so modern they look as though they could have been plucked from the red carpet last month, used their own desires to guide their design. "I have never been able to tolerate corsets myself. Why should I have inflicted them on other women?" Vionnet said; the quote is part of the show.
Some women were fighting social expectations just to be in business. Maggy Rouff, whose draped gold lamé evening gown is one of the highlights of the exhibit, had a husband who was uncomfortable with her professional standing. "Her husband would say of her: 'She is an artist, she is not in a trade,'" says Steele.
Jeanne Lanvin, whose name lives on perfume bottles, was a milliner who started designing for her own fashionable young daughter, Marguerite. Louiseboulanger who professionally spelled her name all as one word, a tactic later copied by Mainboucher invented stylistic tricks like uneven hemlines that are still often found on runways today.
As much of these women's work is forgotten today, many of the dresses on display in the "Fashioning the Modern Woman" exhibit have never been shown before. Several were dug up out of private collections or museum storage spaces and had to undergo "extreme restoration," says Steele, before they could be shown.
"It's always a miracle that anything (from the period) survives at all," says Steele, "and with so many obscure designers in this show, we really had to hunt. We went through old copies of Vogue to find who was working then. And in some cases all we know about these designers are their names.
"But in many ways, this was the golden age of women in design. This was the time when the modern woman was emerging, and people seemed to think: Who better to dress her than another modern woman?"
After Dior, that viewpoint seemed to change, says Steele.
"Partly the change was economic. Opening a couture house became a big investment, and for many reasons, including sexism, men were more likely to get that kind of money. But there was also an attitude of: 'Fashion is an art, and men are the real artists,'" she says.
The male dominance of fashion continues to this day, Steele notes, saying she wanted to mount the exhibit in part to show that for women, "it hasn't at all been onward and upward since Chanel, but the opposite."
"Today, women are really conspicuous by their absence in the top ranks of fashion. I mean, no one is considering a woman for Tom Ford's job," she points out.
(Ford, the Texas-born designer who made the Italian firm Gucci the hottest label of the late '90s and early 21st century, has announced he is stepping down after his next show. Right now, speculation over his replacement is the dominant sport of fashion industry insiders.)
"There are many talented women working in the industry; by numbers, probably the majority of those working in the industry are women. But at the top level, it's indisputably male-dominated, and I don't really know why," says Steele.
"Fashioning the Modern Woman"
Where: The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Seventh Avenue at 27th Street, New York
When: Through April 10. Exhibition hours are noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday.
How much: Free
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