The Palace of Versailles and the Musée Galliera in France present an exhibition in the apartments of the Grand Trianon dedicated to the influence of the 18th century on modern fashion. From July 11th through to October 9, fifty outfits by great 20th and 21st Century designers dialogue with costumes and accessories from the 18th century. The outfits range from haute couture to ready-to-wear, and are styled into ensembles with pieces from the archives of Maisons de Couture and from the Galliera’s collection.
Inspiring all of the European courts, French culture of the 18th century was embodied by Madame de Pompadour, Madame Du Barry and even more so Marie-Antoinette – paragons of frivolity who have since fascinated the worlds of cinema, literature and the fashion world. With its powdered hairstyles, whalebone stays and hoop petticoats, flounces, frills and furbelows, garden swings and whispered confidences, the 18th century brought artifice to its peak.
The exhibition features examples of 20th Century designs using 18th Century references as inspiration: the Boué Sisters revived panniers and lace in their robes de style in the 1920s, Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain embroidered grand evening gowns with 18th Century decorative patterns, while Vivienne Westwood brought back brazen courtesans in the 1990s.
The exhibition reads like a who’s who of 20th Century design: ‘Fashionable Belles’ are corseted by Azzedine Alaïa, Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel is inspired by Watteau for his robes à la française, the Maison Christian Dior adorns duchesses with delicate attires, Several pieces from Vivienne Westwood are included, among them a Watteau evening dress and whale bone bodice from the Fall 1990-91 ‘Portrait’ collection, inspired by Boucher paintings. Christian Lacroix drapes his queens with brocades lavishly gleaming with gemstones and Olivier Theyskens for Rochas summons up the ghost of Marie-Antoinette in a Hollywood film. While the elegant simplicity in black and white is played by Yves Saint Laurent, Martin Margiela transforms men’s garments into women’s. Nicolas Ghesquière for Balenciaga enhances women in little marquis dressed with lace and marquise vests embroidered with gold thread are featured from Alexander McQueen for Givenchy. Japanese designers Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo reconstruct court dresses and riding coats, respectively. Thierry Mugler hides oversized hoops under dresses, and Jean Paul Gaultier flips them upside down.
The Eighteenth Century is Back in Fashion at The Palace of Versailles and the Musée Galliera from Jul 11 to Oct 9, 2011.