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April 9th, 2009
Exhibition Explores Glamour and Influence of Paris Fashion in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

For well over a century, consumers of fashion in the United States have been inspired by the glamorous and cutting-edge fashions created in Paris. The Philadelphia Museum of Art will present Shopping in Paris: French Fashion 1850–1925,an exhibition of rarely seen works from its extensive collection of Costume and Textiles that explore the American experience abroad between 1850 and 1925. The exhibition will pair the luxurious designs of leading couturiers such as Charles Frederick Worth, Emile Pingat, and Jeanne Lanvin with American fashions based on these Parisian designs. On view in the Spain Gallery at the Museum’s Perelman Building, it will include nearly 35 garments and accessories, along with photographs and film clips from the early 20th century that will give audiences a sense of the storyline around each garment and the woman who would have worn it.

“The Museum is fortunate to have in its collection some exquisite works from this period, when the Parisian fashion industry was coming into its own,” The Jack M. and Annette Y. Friedland Senior Curator of Costume and Textiles Dilys Blum said, adding, “with this installation we have tried to capture the elegance and glamour of the time.”

The exhibition includes several works by the English-born Worth (1825-1895), who is regarded as the father of haute couture, and was a favorite designer of American women in the late 19th century. By “composing” his gowns rather than allowing his client to dictate the design, Worth elevated fashion from mere dressmaking to an art form. He described his designs as “modernity inspired by history.”

Also included are works by Gustave Beer (French, born Germany, active c. 1901–1929) who was regarded as one of the most expensive dressmakers in Paris in the early decades of the 20th century. Beer’s clients included European royalty, from Empress Frederick of Germany to the Queen of Portugal. His designs in the exhibition include a silk and lace reception dress (1902-1907) made of silk with a profusion of hand-painted and embroidered lace, which was a signature feature of the designer. Also included is an evening dress from 1925 made of silk, sequins, and beads that features a design of a swan in flight.

An evening coat (c. 1923–28) by the atelier Anart made of silk velvet, sequins, paillettes, and metallic thread embroidery illustrates one of the interesting historical aspects of the fashion industry in Paris. Many of the Russians who fled to Paris during the Revolution would enter the industry, including many who worked in embroidery. Anart was opened in 1923 by Prince Vladimir Arbelov, a recent émigré, and was known for its luxurious gowns and distinctive evening wraps heavily embellished with embroidery which often referenced Russian folk art motifs. The fashion house Yteb, which operated from 1922 to 1933 and is represented in the exhibition with an evening dress (1926) of silk lamé, sequins, and metallic thread embroidery, was owned by Mrs. C. N. Buzzard (1891-1973), daughter of Anne Lathrop of Detroit and the equerry of Czar Nicholas II. Mrs. Buzzard had been reared in the royal court at Saint Petersburg, where she was named maid-of-honor to Empress Marie. Her brother was the photographer George Hoyningen-Huene (1900 – 1968), another famous Russian émigré to Paris.

The one contemporary accent in the show will be the silk and lace Eiffel Tower Dress, designed by Jean Paul Gaultier (French, born 1952) for his “Fin de Siècle” show in October 1994, in which the designer paid homage to Paris and its haute couture tradition. A nude-colored trumpet dress with black lace patterned in the design of the Eiffel Tower, the garment is on loan for the exhibition.

This exhibition is made possible by a generous gift from Joan and Bernard Spain.

Also on view
As a complement to Shopping in Paris: French Fashion 1850–1925, the Perelman Building Library will present an accompanying exhibition: Something to Wear: Fashion in Print 1850-1925 will feature books on fashion, the fashion industry and consumer culture. The exhibition includes fashion plates, periodicals, and ephemera (store souvenirs and trade catalogs) from this time period and highlights major changes and innovations in the fashion world from the late 19th to the early 20th century.

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