Friday, May 22, 2015

A Nod to Jeanne Lanvin (expo)

When it comes to Paris fashion, Lanvin is a pretty familiar name. It is, perhaps a household word as the case of Dior, Chanel or YSL due to the lack of a clear identity where the house's namesake is concerned. At least that was my opinion before seeing the current show at The Palais Galliera, one of two fashion museums in Paris. The museum has set out to change misconceptions like mine with this, the first comprehensive exhibition honoring the oldest fashion house still in existence, "Jeanne Lanvin."

Though a wide selection of dresses, hats, lithographs, photos and film clips chosen by Albert Elbaz, Lanvin's current designer, the visitor quickly discovers a woman, one of the first fashion entrepreneurs with a vision and a business plan. Like many female designers of the day, Lanvin began as a milliner then rapidly built a fashion empire (well before Chanel or Dior). Soon after setting up her hat shop in 1885, she married, purchased the building (which exists today) then in 1908, launched a line of childrenswear, apparel for young ladies and women, then added bridal wear, lingerie and finally menswear in 1926!
Jeanne Lanvin and daughter served as the basis for the company logo.
Lanvin's famous perfume, "Arpege" packaged in a gold emblazoned black spherical bottle, bears her logo--a drawing of her with her daughter, the primary source of her inspiration, throughout her life.

Known for her use of artistic materials, embroidery, topstitching, spirals, cut-outs as well as the classic Art Deco codes of the day, her creations were quite modern and innovative.

"My Fair Lady" gown. White circular ribbon pattern on tulle. 1939
Throughout the show, we were impressed by the profusion of topstitching, embroidery and the use of geometrics, much of which could easily be worn today.
Black taffeta with Swarovski crystal beads. 1925
Another standout--Lanvin's "Dresses as Jewels." In 1925, the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes was held in Paris. Fashion was well represented as was Lanvin who presented a display of silk chiffon gowns encrusted in beads, crystals, gold and silver lame. So popular were these dresses, Lanvin set up three embroidery ateliers within her fashion house to keep up with the demand.

The fashions on display had quite a number of great ideas especially when it comes to embellishments. For this exhibition, I selected a dress entitled "Neptune" to recreate on Estelle, my model. The trick to transforming period costume into modern fashion is to borrow details from the original but translate the overall silhouette into modern aesthetics. The original is a loosely fitted, bias cut silk cocktail dress with fringe made from a skillful arrangement of long folded ribbons forming a spiral. I have not been always happy with the way these loose dresses look on my dolls, so I chose to cut a sheath dress, instead.
"Neptune" dress (and its interpretation) from Lanvin Fall 1926 collection.
The bottom layer of loops (made from 1/8-inch 3mm) follows the horizontal lines of the hem while the top layer is placed on the diagonal. Though I like the result, I will admit, I ran out of ribbon and will probably add in more loops at a later date.
Black silk chiffon dress (l) with wavy embellishment & braided gold lamé. Brick coat (r) 1936.
On the other hand, Jolie, my model standing inbetween the two Lanvin garments, is wearing a simple tunic dress we featured awhile ago, created from a small swatch of antique jet beaded tulle. For instructions as to how to make it, click here.
White satin wedding dress. 1929

Coming up right away..."Yves Saint Laurent 1971: Scandalous!"

Images of the Lanvin clothing by Katerina Jebb courtesy of the Palais Galliera.

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  1. Hi April, these posts are extremely interesting, I admit I didn't know Jeanne Levine and I'm impressed by the design of these fashions. I believe that the 20's and 30's are the most interesting decades as far as contemporary fashions are concerned. In fact I have a soft spot for "all things 20's and 30's" from art, movies, jewellery and fashions!
    Looking forward to the YSL post!

    1. Sorry for the delay in responding. Much to see & do while in Paris! Thank you, Billa. I totally agree with you about the 20's & 30's. These were really gracious years for all things fashion, Art & design. And there is so much we can use for inspiration especially when it comes to embellishments which I'd like to explore later. In the meantime, we'll be looking at some 40's inspiration with the next post!

  2. As always great doll designs and great fashion information!

    1. Thank you KQM. I always enjoy taking my friends with me to visit fashion shows & exhibitions!!

  3. The construction on the two doll dresses is fascinating. Making the first one a sheath does seem to work better than any likely fabric would work in the "sack" version. And so many ribbon loops!

    1. Thank you. I started to make the ribbon dress loose but was afraid it would devour her especially with all of the ribbon loops. Because the beads weigh the outer layer of the dress down on the other doll, this wasn't a problem.

  4. Hello April,
    I found your blog through Pinterest. Thank you for the great fashion information and doll sewing tutorials. I love your blog!

    1. Welcome Wandy. We have a great time here when it comes to dolls & fashion. Come back as often as you like. There is never a shortage of ideas!!

  5. I'd never heard of Lanvin before, and I'm glad I know about her now! Although, to be fair, I first learned about Dior because of Mrs. 'Arris Goes To Paris, which is one of my favorite Angela Lansbury movies.

    I absolutely love the beading on your doll dresses! It goes so well with the lace. I feel dozens of tiny dolly eyes on me right now, and I know what my girls are thinking... that I have to give it a try, sooner rather than later. <3

    1. Thank you, Sarah. To be honest, on the opening photo of this post, the dress on the left was made using beaded fabric. On the other hand, the dress on the right was made using a portion of an old camisole to which I added beads. It was my first attempt. I'd probably try to locate slightly smaller beads the next time. And you know, Sarah...dolls will be dolls. At some point we have to give them what they want!!! LOL!


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