Ever heard of the “fashion forward” exhibit? It takes place at the arts decos museum in Paris and, you HAVE to go. Okay, it’s in Paris but, you know, it’s worth it. If you happen to spend your holidays in Paris, live there or you’re just passing by…GO FOR IT. This exhibit highlights the evolution of fashion since the 18th century. From wedding dresses ornamented with flowers, embellished by flounces, Charles-Frederick Worth’s dresses (also known as the founder of haute couture), to Chanel’s creations, along with Louis Vuitton’s ones, you won’t get bored. The delicacy of the dresses, the diversity of the materials (from velvet and satin to tulle and jersey) the different visions of fashion (from the 18th style to futuristic approaches), and the exotic notes of the exhibit will amaze you.
The 18th and 19th centuries
The first outfit is a 19th century wedding chiffon dress. A ribbon tightens the waist of the woman which contributes to the bride’s feminine look. Thin waists were one of the time’s fashion standards. They were often enhanced by corsets. White wedding dresses were into fashion at the time, and still are today. This color refers to purity. 19th century wedding dresses were richly decorated. Here, the dress is arrayed of embroidery representing bees as well as bunches of grapes. The bees symbolized wealth, and prosperity. They also connoted power because of the queen bee. Consequently this dress might have belonged to a woman of royal blood. Wedding dresses exemplified the social and political beliefs of the time. Nevertheless, they also illustrated religious beliefs. In fact, the bunches of grapes can be linked to the Church and hence, to the religious meaning of marriage.
On the second picture, 18th century dresses are represented. They are characterized by what the French call “crinoline “, which is the wooden structure beneath the dress, creating this round shape. Crinolines looked like dress-shaped baskets. They ruled during the Second Empire era. Their shape evolved going from a rounded shape before 1861 and after 1867, to a shape creating a backside with volume from 1861 to 1867.
The 20th and 21st centuries
This exhibit had a bunch of metallic pieces from Paco Rabbane’s corset to Thierry Mugler’s sci-fi like models. Sometimes designers even combined metallic structures with shimmering ones like Chanel’s 1996 S/S night dress by Karl Lagerfeld. Fashion forward allies past, present and future, and will take you on a fashion adventure you’ll never forget. On the picture, you can see a futuristic couple. It feels like they have been stolen from Star Trek doesn’t it? They are going to space I tell you.
The outfit on the second picture was designed by Issaye Miyake in 1980/1981 for his A/W collection. It is composed of a resin bustier and mesh trousers. Isn’t this pure artwork? Is it a statue or a model? The answer is both. Therefore, this piece combines creativity and modernity. But it’s even more than that. Miyake with his corset-like bustier transformed a trend from the past to make it more accurate and artsy.
The fashion artwork continues with these outstanding outfits. The life let dress by designer Comme des garcons S/S 2015 is made of vinyl baskets, wool and cotton. This dress looks like an art assemblage with a specific aim. (Outfit talking) “I stand out, I shine bright so look at me and never get bored”.
Louis Vuitton’s outfit S/S 2015 combines a painted leather jacket, a twill blouse and trousers. These contemporary pieces ally originality and passion. The combination of various prints, materials and colors make this outfit unique and artistic. It feels like Louis Vuitton painted his jacket as he would have done on a canvas.
Time travelling, authenticity, metallic and shiny pieces, originality, art and fashion: this pretty much sums up the Fashion Forward exhibit. But you mustn’t forget elegance and chic. You must go and see Martine Sitbon’s 1997/1998 devoured velvet dress: its design is not only posh but also daring. You should check out John Galliano’s S/S 2015 wool dress-coat for Martin Margiela (second picture) as well. It illustrates simplicity, majesty, greatness and style at the same time.
But the key part of the exhibit remains the Lafitte-Désirat dolls. They spice up the exhibit. Some of you might say “why are these dolls so important? To me dolls are just objects I used to play with when I was a kid”. That’s where you are wrong. The Lafitte-Désirat dolls aren’t like any other dolls. They are out of the ordinary.
The Lafitte-Désirat dolls
Model dolls were highly popular in the second half of the 19th century, especially Parisian dolls. Many designers used these dolls to advertise their creations. The capital city of fashion saw them as fashion icons. In fact, these fashion dolls embodied perfectly the “in vogue” tendencies of the time. In the 1920s the “Lafitte-Désirat dolls” were born. These Barbie ancestors were an inspiration to many women, at the time. Indeed, far from being just toys, they were seen as works of art. The “Lafitte-Désirat dolls”, wonderfully materialized elegance, through feathery hats and long dresses (designed with wool and silk [see picture]). With their straight dresses, short hair, these dolls had the appearance of trendy Parisian women of the 1920s. They were made of wax and had real hair which made them look very realistic. Sadly, there was just one showcase dedicated to these little creatures.
Fashion forward was an incredible exhibit. Not only because it underlined the evolution of fashion with authenticity and taste, but also because it presented quirky pieces and showed fashion through aspects you didn’t even know existed before. This was a memorable experience.
I hope you’ll be able to savor this adventure yourself.