Monday, January 27, 2014

Doll's Eye View: Spring 2014 Paris Couture

Things are a lot different today than when I first began reporting on Haute Couture collections back in the 1980s. At that time, there were about 23 official couture houses. Only French were allowed into the "inner circle" (though Valentino had a permanent invitation to show) and the press presentations themselves were smaller and perhaps a lot more sane than those of today. Today there only about 10 "official" French Couture houses, about six invited members and a host of other young people on hand...just to keep things interesting.
Master of Couture....Giorgio Armani's "Oscar" ready Couture line
These shows often had their clientele seated in the first row. You were lucky to get the Yves Saint Laurent invitation and even luckier if it were for the morning show when his most famous customers were in attendance. And during those shows back then, I had the privilege of attending the couture show of Mme. Alix Gres. Her models filed out holding numbered cards and the only sound in the room was that of the clicking of camera shutter lenses. Haute Couture had a specific purpose and its own very special customers.
Haute Pants. Trousers get all dolled up for spring.

Muriel wears her "bathrobe" kimono cut from Chinese brocade over white crepe trousers.
French Haute Couture is every bit as regulated as French wine. A house must be mentored in and voted upon in able to gain acceptance into the group. Then, the couturier must have a prerequisite number of workers, a specific number of private showings plus two press shows during the year. And the couture house must be based in house, regardless the nationality of the designer. I have not mentioned exact numbers because over the years, the requirements have been eased as a way to keep the industry going.
Spring Frost. White on white embroidered dresses with a dramatic touch.
 It is also difficult to say with precision, the exact number of clients who continue to buy Haute Couture clothing. Everyone has a different number. What I can tell you is that wealthy women who buy it today, usually reserve their purchased for eveningwear or bridal wear as witnessed by overabundance of gowns paraded on the catwalks. Gone are the days when women bought day dresses or even multiples of the same dress for milady's multiple residences.

Today, Haute Couture is more a marketing tool used for brand image. We see it on the red carpet of the world's numerous Awards Ceremonies. And sadly, most of those dresses are lent to the actresses, not purchased. Once upon a time Couture served as a sort of atelier of ideas which later influenced the designers more commercial ready to wear collections. However, over the last couple of decades, the catwalk shows of the numerous global "fashion weeks" has upstaged Couture in both interest and ideas.

Sew Simple, Roshamba wears an assymetrical dress cut from two layers of sheer fabric.
On a positive note, today we see participation of designers from all over the world. Designers like Elie Saab and Zurhaid Murad, not to mention a number of Eastern Europeans sometimes "out-French the French" when it comes to preserving the magical world of Haute Couture.
Millefeuille...very girly dresses as light as flaky pastry

And yes, we've got the dolly version as well, cut from polyester "crystal"

 It is always my pleasure to bring you our "dolly" edition of those shows. Instead of picking out the easy garments, I chose a couple which were more challenging, the details of which, we will discuss in a later post.
Winged feathers and butterfly wings serve as inspiration for great summer looks.
In terms of trends, what we did notice this season were softer, sweeter dresses with lots of tulle and lace.
Like flowers in a garden, pastel tulle and lace are big hits for soft summer looks.
 A few hints of drama but without bling. And a very simplistic approach to the whole notion of couture. Still, I could not help but to include a few draped dresses. It is a tiny remnant of what I remember from my glorious days of attending French Haute Couture Collections.
Monica gets all glammed up in her version of this silky wrap dress.
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  1. Hi FDS, this is a great article! I love the insights in the haute couture world. Your choice for the Dolls Fashions are really interesting.
    Did you really saw a show by Mdme Gres? I discovered her work only recently and I was flabbergasted! I'm trying to reproduce some of her word...we shall see. Thanks again for this great blog!

  2. Thank you. And yes, I really did attend...actually several Mme. Gres shows while she was still alive. Her show was always one of the last of fashion week. After having attended 100+ shows and events, getting up to see this was a bit difficult. However, I was aware I was witnessing history and always attended. At the end of each show, she (always wearing a small turban hat) shook everyone's hand. Her daywear was a quite dated, but we all went to get a glimpse of her magnificent and timeless eveningwear. I tried to interview her, but at the end of her life she really retreated from the press. Two years ago in Paris, there was an incredible exhibition of her work in Paris. If you try to do her draped gowns, you will need very fine silk jersey and lots of patience to make those itty-bitty pleats!

  3. I too am so envious that you got to go to Mme. Gris shows! I love, love your blog, and love how you recreate the styles for the dolls. so well done! I'm really interested in starting with some of the first, easier projects and making some lovely clothes for my dolls. I'm just starting with dolls, and making doll clothes, though I do know how to drape and make slopers for full adult size clothes. The tininess of the dolls makes it an interesting challenge. Thanks you so much for this wonderful blog!


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