At Palais Galliera, fashion autochromes are fabulous

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Cycling attire, cir 1900, Palais Galliera

The main exhibition at Palais Galliera, is called “Fashion on the Move” (Until Sept 7) and it is a complicated labyrinth of how fashion evolved with sportswear and automobiles. How the corseted dress disappeared at the beginning of the XX th century and let Jeanne Lanvin‘s sensuous silhouettes replace it. I was very amused by short films shot on the beach of Dinard with sophisticated young women in swimsuits and also by the magazine “Jardin des Modes” covers which showed women shooting, playing golf and skiing in the early 30’s. It was then owned by Condé Nast. But the real treasure of the exhibition is the series of autochromes lent by Musée des Arts et Métiers for “Colors of fashion” and exhibited in the Chanel circular gallery. They are incredibly modern in style and illuminating as far as colors and  trends are concerned.

Princesse Murat hunting with her husband in Presles

One of the most interesting part of the show is the series of sports accessories worn by Princesse Murat at the turn of the century. Her navy blue hunting jacket, her superb leather riding boots made by Peal & Co in 1925 or R.Thomas & Son, her tricorn hat with ostrich feathers made by Motsch are illustrated by a fan from Duvelleroy. They are exhibited next to cycling outfits for men and women. I also loved the heavy 1900 coat made of goat and fox fur designed to drive convertible cars, with driver’s glasses and mittens. A leather jacket by Schiaparelli was made for shooting, and a pretty section of knitted fabrics illustrates how they  became in fashion in the Roaring Twenties with Gabrielle Chanel and Lucien Lelong. A superb Jean Patou sweater in Lisle cotton jersey from 1925-1926, could be found in “Le Coin des Sports” (the corner for sports) on the ground floor of its rue St Florentin shop. There are old football and rugby shoes and Javelin spikes and Tunmer ski outfits which look more like evening wear…

Le Jardin des Modes (Condé Nast) advertises sports for women in the 1930’s

But the way the items are displayed is a bit disconcerting with no apparent path. A few short silent films shot in 1907-1924 show athletic ladies, the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris, “Léonce taking a swim in the sea” in Dinard.  The first two piece bathing suit appears at Jacques Heim in 1947 at the same time as a revolutionary corduroy short with a short top showing the belly just like today.

Jacques Heim, outfit with top and shorts, summer 1947, Palais Galliera

But the true surprise of the day was discovering the collection of autochromes shot between 1921 and 1923 for the Salon du Goût français (the annual fair of French taste), at Palais des Glaces and created for the development of decorative arts and couture. These photos on glass have an extreme quality of color but they are unique and require a long sitting for the model. The only autochromes I knew so far were the travelling slides of Musée Albert Kahn. Here they are realistic and colorful, a discovery.

Anonymous, 1923, Dress by Lanvin, Musée des Arts et Métiers and Dress by Jenny

The pictures are presented by color themes, white, red, blue and multicolor and give a wonderful idea of the fashion of the time but also of the marketing images… and the look of the models. Some pictures advertising silk stockings or lingerie are particularly significant.  A mix of old fashion images and very modern photo technique.

Paul Poiret, Evening dress winter 1922, Palais Galliera gift of Duchesse de Gramont

“Colors of fashion and autochromes” until 15 March 2024, “Fashion on the move” until September 7, at Palais Galliera.

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One Comment on “At Palais Galliera, fashion autochromes are fabulous”

  1. Some superb fashion images! I think the history of fashion in the 20th century even up until now is all about sportswear.

    Best wishes,


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