Explore the Golden Age of Couture Online
The Victoria & Albert Museum in London mounted a tremendous exhibition titled "The Golden Age of Couture" that ran from September 2007 to January 2008. The exhibition has long been dismantled at the museum itself and the garments and other materials returned to storage, but luckily for those of us who missed visiting the exhibit in person, the online component is still available.
The V&A's microsite on "The Golden Age of Couture" exhibit offers a rich, in-depth look at the couture practitioners of Paris and London from 1947 through 1957 and their fashions. It explains how the production of couture fashion helped fuel the French and British post-World War II economies and recounts how the various couture brands evolved and expanded into new, less exclusive markets through the decade.
If you love couture fashion, Christian Dior's New Look and its contemporaries, and British and French fashion history, do not miss this site-but wait to make your visit until you have a large chunk of time to spend, because you won't want to drag yourself away.
The exhibit microsite offers too much to detail, and several of the supplementary material links are broken, but the meat of the exhibition is still intact. Here are just a few highlights:
- View historical timelines of many prominent couture houses, including Worth, Madame Gres, Christian Dior, Jacques Fath, Jean Patou, Pierre Balmain, Coco Chanel, and several contemporary couture designers.
- Look inside various extant couture garments and peel back their layers (so to speak) to see the level of detail that went into creating each one.
- Explore the individual styles of the most prominent couture houses of the period.
- Learn about the skills required for couture-quality dressmaking and tailoring.
- Gain perspective on the many ancillary trades, professions, and industries relied upon by couture houses.
- Learn about couture's evolution toward the less-exclusive boutique and ready-to-wear markets.
- Three podcasts: One discusses Balenciaga's suits, one offers background on Lady Alexandra's special arrangement with couturier Jacques Fath, and one explains the cultural history surrounding British tailoring. They are still available via the website.
- A dress pattern, created exclusively for the exhibition and downloadable for free as a series of PDFs, taken from a 1953 ready-to-wear, printed cotton day dress (details) designed by Horrockses Fashions and held by the V&A (sized UK 10, 12, and 14). Print-at-home and print-shop formatted options are offered.
I could spend hours browsing this site and learning all about the history of couture-and the vintage dress pattern is quite a find!
Have you visited "The Golden Age of Couture" microsite? Were you lucky enough to see the exhibition in person? Have you made the dress? Tell us all about it!