A long white dress with the word “Peace” embroidered in 14 languages appeared on the S / S 1991 couture runways. The decade began with the Gulf War and a global financial crisis; The Times called haute couture “unwearable and unaffordable” and designers were looking for new ideas to revitalize the luxury industry. Fashion thus found its ethical manifesto in Valentino’s “Peace Dress”, for which the couturier would be recognized in Brussels almost twenty years later. In its hieratic whiteness it translated the spirit of the time, even the darker side, into an element of beauty, intercepting a new feeling.
We still don’t know for sure how the pandemic will affect future creativity but, if we look at the course of history, at least recent history, the brightest fashion came out of the darkest times. Not surprisingly, out of the rubble of the First World War came the Roaring Twenties, a sprint at breakneck speed into modernity. American billionaires and an international colony of artists arrived in Paris in 1919, while Chanel and Jean Patou opened their fashion houses, and clothes (and bodies) broke free from rigid structures and became thin, transparent, iridescent with fringes and pearls. Great was the desire to leave the horrors of war behind, to have fun: the non-stop party of F. Scott Fitzgerald, who told of unbridled and tormented feelings.
The intoxication was brief, it dissolved with the 1929 collapse of the stock exchange and everything was downsized. Yet even the Depression years – as highlighted by the exhibition Elegance in an Age of Crisis at the FIT in New York in 2014 – brought technical and aesthetic innovations. Wrapped in sumptuous white foxes, the long shiny satin dresses cut on the bias – Vionnet’s invention – are a snapshot of the glamor of the time; Elsa Schiaparelli, who inaugurated her salon in place Vendôme in 1935, established creative collaborations with Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Dalí and Man Ray, bringing Cubism and Surrealism to clothes.
Opening picture: in a trunk that evokes the headquarters of avenue Montaigne, the miniature clothes from Dior F / W 20 couture, inspired by the aesthetics of Surrealism. In 1945, two to the scarcity of raw materials and therefore the impossibility of producing real collections, an exhibition of fashion dolls about 30 centimeters high was created to relaunch the French fashion industry. The exhibition, entitled “Théâtre de la mode”, was a huge success and became itinerant.