Monday, September 9, 2019

PARIS Capital of Fashion at FIT: Review By Polly Guerin

John Galliano for Christian Dior Haute Couture
Paris Fashion Week may be the place to be starting September 23, but for those fashionistas not so
lucky to be there in person  just parlez-vous over to the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) where the recently opened exhibition, PARIS Capital of Fashion, is not only a spectacular tribute to haute couture but a history lesson in itself.  On view through January 4, 2020.
        The dazzling 100 garments and accessories on display date from the 1700s to today. According to The NewYorker, "Paris remains despite the competition, the most glamorous and competitive of the world's fashion capitals."  Image: John Galliano for Christian Dior Haute Couture, autumn/winter 2000-2001 collection was inspired gy Marie-Antoinette; on the runway the model was bewigged and befeathered. Photo by Guy Marineau,.
         Valerie Steele director of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology and curator of the exhibition said, "This is the first exhibition that really looks at Paris in a global context and unique in the entire history and explains, historically, how it became so important, so really unique in the history of fashion and also how it creates and maintains an aura with a kind of brand image of Paris as the ultimate fashion city. The rise of the haute couture was crucially important to the consolidation of Paris as a modern fashion capital. HAUTE COUTURE It all started with Louis XIV, who viewed magnificent personal attire as as part of the grandeur of Versailles. "Fashion is to France what the gold mines of Peru are to Spain," declared Louis XIV's minister of finance Jean-Baptiste Colbert. The splendor of the French royal court at Versailles ignited the fashion explosion for
opulence and French fashion prestige.          
Robe a la francaise, 1755-1780, France
CHARLES FREDERICK WORTH: In 1858, when Charles Frederick Worth founded the first couture house at 7 Rue de la Paix, Paris was already home to many "petite" dressmakers and
design specific ateliers flourished where artisans created lace, sewed sequins and beads into merveilleux marvels of design or fashioned feathers, even flowers to alight on magnificent gowns. The British-born Paris designer, Charles Frederick Worth, was a business-savvy industry pioneer, often credited as the father of haute couture, he also founded of  the Chambre  syndicale de la couture and de la confection pour dames et fillettes in 1868.
         Worth created top of the line, "plus grande" Haute (high) couture. Elite women were attracted to the prestige of Paris fashion, and Worth recognized their importance as clients saying they had "the faces, the figures, and the francs." With seemingly demand- ing social engagements elite women changed their dresses up to four times a day, some purchasing their entire wardrobes from Worth. They paid homage to Worth as if he was the ruler of the fashion world and Worth did not disappoint but held court to an admiring entourage of faithful clients.
     Moving into the 20th century during World War II
when Paris was occupied by the Nazis, they threatened to fold Paris's couture industry into an organization of their own headquartered in Berlin and Vienna. Of special note, after the war,
the Chambre worked to revive its battered industry by launching Theatre de la Mode, a touring
exhibition of some 200 27-inch couture clad dolls dressed by prominent couture designers in
fashions and accessories, "la dernier cri de la mode." They were posed in elaborate sets, one, I remember, featured dolls in couture gowns among the ruins of a boomed out sitting room. 

Jacques Fath for Joseph Halpert 1952
As I wrote earlier, the exhibition is both a testament and celebration of Haute Couture, historically informative and a reminder to not forget PARIS Capital of Fashion and its legends and its permanent imprint on fashion, even today. Image: Jacques Fath for Joseph Halpert, cocktail dress, 1952, USA. The exhibition was developed in collaboration with the Chateau de Versailles, and supported by Chargeurs Philanthropies. a partner of the Fashion Institute of Technology and of the events sponsors along with the museum's Couture Council.  The Chargeurs group, which owns France-Amerique magazine, designed and provided the exhibition's decor, including a spectacular reproduction of the gildings in the chateaux's Galerie des Glaces. This exhibition transports you to Paris in a fairytale reincarnation of
fashion. It is perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Haute Couture and pretend you are traveling from Versailles to modern day couture.  The Museum at FIT hours: Tuesday-Friday, noon-8pm, Saturday, 10 am-5pm. Closed Sunday, Monday and legal holidays.  Admission is FREE. Location: Seventh Avenue at 27th Street, New York City through January 4, 2020. Ta Darlings!!! There is something, je n'est ce pas, about Couture fashions. When one wears a couture garment it seems that their whole personality changes and they take on the persona of an elegant lady.  I should know, I once worked in the press office at the House of Guy Laroche in Paris and was paid for my services with two couture dresses. Send Fan mail to: Visit Polly's other Blogs at on fashion, women determined to succeed, visionary men, and poetry from the heart.


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