Paris is where I recharge my (creative) batteries with long walks and window shopping in fashion neighborhoods, trips to fabric & trim stores, gallery hopping and visits to premier exhibitions on style. A trip to the Palais Galliera, one of the city's two fashion museums, is always a must. After a one hour wait in line to see, "Paris Fashion: 1947-57," me and the girls (all dressed for the theme) were good to go. This exhibition, divided into three sections, provided an up close and personal look at the heyday of French Haute Couture via 100 period garments and accessories, vintage magazines, newspapers and television footage.
Greeting us at the entrance of the "Galerie d'Honneur" were a series of serene daywear. Wool suits in dark neutral colors with jackets either cut flat and wide or structured to follow the curves of the body, were often worn over straight skirts or others styled in a burst of pleats.
The actual "New Look" suit designed by the late Christian Diir himself--an ecru hourglass jacket over a black, knife pleated skirt--was on display along with accompanying magazine articles so dramatically photographed.
The "Grande Galerie" was transformed into a sumptuous parade of cocktail dresses and ball gowns, all of which invited the visitor to come close and marvel at their complex construction, delicate embroidery or intricate beading.
Dior's New Look was an extravagant reaction to the restrictive measures in place during World War II including rationing of fabric and narrow, more masculine silhouettes. Sensing a renewed desire for luxury and femininity Dior created looks with cinched waists, round hips, draped dresses and full, voluminous skirts comprised of up to 100 meters of fabric! In fact, 1950's fashion ushered in 30 glorious years for the French economy, supported in part, by the house of Dior. It was a period of prolific creativity which, once again, helped Paris maintain its reputation as fashion capital of the world.
The exhibition not only focused on the more glamorous aspects of madame's Charles de Gaulle era wardrobes, but also featured daywear, lingerie, swimwear and accessories.
The period between 1947 and 1957 articulates two important historical moments in the world of style: the revolutionary bomb dropped by Dior's New Look just after WWII and the first steps of a young Yves Saint Laurent, responsible for moving fashion away from the pretension of haute couture and towards a simpler, more youthful, off the rack direction.
The garments on display--as seen through the work of Dior, Balenciaga, Chanel, Mme. Gres, Pierre Balmain, Jacques Fath, and lesser known designers--not only illustrates the fashions of that period, but also reveals the social values of that decade's upper classes.
This exhibition is now closed: However, I invite you to see it for yourself thanks to the video produced by France 3 Ile de France TV.
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