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Friday, August 31, 2012

French Fashion Dolls in Washington and New York.

To learn the exquisitely-dressed fashion dolls of the Theatre de la Mode exist here in the United States was thrilling to me. (Although I have still only seen them in books and online.)

The Theatre de la Mode fashion dolls live at Maryhill Museum of Art in Goldendale, Washington.  I have older post links with in-depth history and details, which you'll see in a link below.  But, to continue - after reading about the creation of Theatre de la Mode, I coincidentally (without looking for it) found a book called Two Centuries of French Fashion, created and published by the Brooklyn Museum.

Astonishingly, the dolls in Two Centuries of French Fashion, seemed to be the same "ladies" from Theatre de la Mode (but in different attire).  I wrote a post about Two Centuries of French Fashion, which you can see there at the link.
"1900 Doll" from the Gratitude Train of 1947. High Style, Metropolitan Museum of Art, p.225.

Recently, I pulled another book from the library shelf - High Style: Masterworks from the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art - and discovered the same French fashion mannequins again.  Reading High Style, the mystery became solved.

In summary, the Theatre de la Mode was a travelling exhibit created by many talented people chosen from fashion, textile, art, and theater industries under the supervision of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne.  The purpose of the exhibit was to promote French fashion, but that is not what makes Theatre de la Mode so impressive - its significance lies in the WWII conditions under which it was produced and in the beauty and precision that are evident in the display, despite the hardship its creators endured.

The fashion dolls acquired by Brooklyn Museum (and now housed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York) were created as gifts of appreciation from the people of France to the United States for its relief efforts following WWII.  In 1947, these fashion dolls arrived on a "Gratitude Train", full of gifts.  At that time, the Brooklyn Museum had opened a new Design Lab for fashion, so in 1949 the Chambre Syndicale deemed it the proper home for the Gratitude Train fashion dolls.  It seems The Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired the Gratitude or Merci dolls in 2009.

According to the book High Style, (Jan Glier Reeder, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2010, p.222), the Gratitude Train fashion dolls were based on the design of those created for Theatre de la Mode - so both groups of dolls were created by French illustrator Eliane Bonabel and Spanish sculptor Joan Rebull.

Learn more about both exhibits at the blue Two Centuries of French Fashion link above.  The Gratitude Train fashion mannequins may be viewed at this Metropolitan Museum of Art link.