I’ve been quite angry at Galliera Museum (sorry, Palace) lately. Its last exhibitions, Paris Haute Couture and Alaïa, albeit beautiful, were also rather badly explained. And the very last one, Papier glacé was just plain advertising for Condé Nast (nice to look at, but I’d rather not pay for that). I felt really disappointed by the museum and it director, Olivier Saillard, who had given me some of my very favorite fashion exhibitions. Luckily, I went back to the palace to have a look at the latest exhibition, Les années cinquante (the fifties), and I feel much better now.
Well, that’s a fact: the French fashion renewal, with Dior as its leader, and Fath, Dessès, Paquin, Patou, Carven and (my personal favorite) Grès as his brilliant clique, really produced wonders of sophistication: dresses, suits and coats that, truly, are museum pieces. What’s also a fact : this era when cocktail dresses were not to be confused with evening dresses, nor morning suits with afternoon dresses, when complicated contruction garments were considered mandatory, when Elle magazine was selling the premices of mass consumption, was not exactly what I’d consider woman-friendly.
But like anybody, I enjoy beautiful things : intrigued by Suzy Menkes’ piece (and, frankly, a bit cooled by the architectural padding of Dior’s bar suit), I came mostly to see the more relaxed part of the exhibition : after the beautiful suits and coats came the beach dresses and junior ensembles, like a preview of the sportswear and ready-to-wear looks that would bloom in the next decade, and, most particularly, of this stylish period, at the junction between the fifties and the sixties that I have a soft spot for (more about this obsession here, here and there). I was not disappointed : I especially liked a lovely painted summer dress (Hermès) and a intricate but oh-so relaxed beach dress by Grès.
But to me, the best of the exhibition was not pinned on a dress form but humbly hanging on the walls : sewing patterns from Le petit écho de la mode! Thank you, dear Galliera palace, for taking those humble sewing patterns, merely addressed to middle classes, within your walls. Your million-dollar dresses are beautiful indeed, but to truly mark its time, a style must live… and before ready-to-wear was adopted en masse, this meant home sewing (by the way, they’d make killer merchandising, wouldn’t they?).
Were you lucky enough to be in Paris, Les années cinquante runs till November 2nd. Otherwise, sneaky pics can be found on my Instagram and through the museums’s location.