A history of fashion in 7 dresses

The Palais Galliera is currently presenting the exhibition “A History of Fashion”, which retraces the history of the Palais Galliera and its collections. In a journey that is both chronological and thematic, visitors discover a history of fashion, from the 18th century to the present day, illustrated by the most beautiful pieces from the Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris – clothing, accessories, graphic arts and photographs –, of which here is a taste in 7 dresses.


The most monumental: “Flying” dress, around 1730-1735

Having probably belonged to Anne Françoise de La Chaize d’Aix, wife of Louis XIV’s ambassador to Venice, this spectacular dress-coat is exemplary of the change in women’s wardrobes at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th century.

These new so-called “negligee” outfits with a pleated bodice concealing the boned body contrast with the dress hitherto in use, with a visibly boned bodice and train. Too relaxed, these dresses annoy Princess Palatine, author in 1720 of the following words: “I would rather not see anyone than allow these familiarities. “.

Very rare, only five flying dresses are currently kept in international public collections, including two at the Palais Galliera!

The most elegant: Tea-Gown Dress, circa 1890

At the end of the 19th century, the “tea-gown”, part evening dress, part indoor dress, was reserved for the most intimate receptions and was particularly elegant.

Signed by the famous couturier Jean-Philippe Worth, it was worn in its time by the Countess Greffulhe, who inspired Marcel Proust with the character of the Duchess of Guermantes in In Search of Lost Time. “I have never seen such a beautiful woman,” he wrote on July 2, 1893.

Worth, of which she was a loyal client during the Belle Époque, made sumptuous outfits for her. The princess-line dresses, with no seams at the waist, highlight the slender figure and slim waist of the Countess Greffulhe. Here, the fabric takes up, point by point, the design and medallion patterns of an Ottoman velvet brocaded with metallic threads.

The most luxuriant: Dress, around 1924-1925

Placed under the sign of female emancipation, euphoria and exuberance, the Roaring Twenties were a veritable golden age of embroidery, of which the crisis of 1929 marked the end. Passionate about movement and freedom, the woman with the young and androgynous silhouette wears sober outfits during the day, lush in the evening. The nightlife is intense. New rhythms appear. The body reveals itself and the dresses get shorter. Drawing from multiple sources, sometimes combined, fashion

The work of the Callot sisters, this dress is characteristic of the style of the 1920s: its cut is sober, reveals the ankles and allows movement, and its embroidery of coral silk threads and gold-coloured metallic threads are fascinatingly luxurious.

It was inspired by Chinese motifs then very fashionable, and testified to a cosmopolitan clientele, passionate about orientalism. The tango orange background brings out the dragons, fish and clouds that populate the black silk satin.

The most chic: “Phèdre” evening dress, winter 1933-1934

The 1930s marked the return to femininity, classicism and sophistication. Generalized from 1930, the lengthening transforms the silhouette, the evening dress reaching the ankle.

This white satin masterpiece, topstitched with metallic threads, is signed Jeanne Lanvin. Did you know ? The one whose name is today that of an empire comes from a poor family (she was the eldest of eleven children), and started working at 13 at a hat merchant; her golden fingers allowed her to quickly open her boutique, where she sold her own collections… at barely 20 years old! This dress was probably designed for Miss Céqurel’s wedding.

Note in particular the train and the top of the sleeves: they feature the same stitched geometric lines, which give the dress a graphic elegance.

The most amazing: Strapless dress and evening cape, 1961-1962

A revolutionary couturier, Cristóbal Balenciaga was very involved in the choice of his materials, to the point of creating several – including gazar, developed in collaboration with a Zurich weaver named Abraham.

This unique silhouette expresses all its qualities: dense, airy, this new fabric allows the couturier to explore plastic, abstract qualities, the gazar offering the possibility of round shapes held without reinforcement. A feat in the form of a chrysalis…

The Most Vaporous: Bridal Ensemble, July 4, 1987

Made at the age of 26 by a Christian Lacroix who had just become independent after several years at Jean Patou, this bridal ensemble is the very first creation to come out of his own workshop. She also carries a discreet little note in black pen: “For Pia de Brantes this first Lacroix dress. May it bring us happiness. » It seems that she succeeded!

Composed of a removable skirt and a long-sleeved bodice, the dress makes the bride emerge from a cloud of silk with a thousand and one folds… Like an apparition, perfectly in the style of the 80s.

The most contemporary: ensemble, spring-summer 2019

Since the creation of his brand in 1994, the fashion shows of the American Rick Owens have been in the news: his sculptural silhouettes, whose clothes are veritable plastic works, call into question many aspects of traditional fashion and canons of beauty. His models parade while dancing, using their bodies like percussion, or even undressed, frontally denouncing the nudity very often imposed by the fashion market on its models.

This remarkable poncho is inspired by the tower of Tatlin, an architectural project which should have housed the headquarters of the Communist International from 1917, and which was never realized – except by the couturier, who used for this no less than 41 aluminum rods.

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