Tootlafrance fashion correspondent Marie Marsone steps back in time with an exhibition that tells you as much about the history of Paris as it does about the story of fashion
Running until the 16th of March next, the Musée Carnavalet is showing an exhibition outside of the walls of the Palais Galliera. Entitled “Le Roman d’une Garde-Robe” (the novel of a wardrobe), it is about the chic style of a Parisian lady from the Belle Epoque years of the 1930s. Involving both fashion and history, this retrospective exhibition follows the life of Alilce Alleaume, first saleswoman at the famous Chéruit fashion house on ultra-posh 21 Place Vendôme from 1912 to 1923. Using the medium of the unique items of clothing from her wardrobe, you are treated to the perfect reincarnation of chic elegance and fashion in the French capital at the start of the 20th century.
Born in 1881, Alice Alleaume followed a logical transition into the world of haute couture under the influence of her family, whose history is very much part of the Belle Epoque era. Her mother Adèle Dumas, was a dressmaker and her sister Hortense was herself the first saleswoman at the Worth fashion house around the same time. Immersed in such a creative clothing milieu, Alice’s taste for fashion formed and shaped her professional career. While Hortense meets the young rising star couturier Paul Poiret at her work, Alice Alleaume begins her career working at different fashion houses (Morin-Blossier, Laferrière, Doucet, Diemer, Favre) and is a regular visitor to London, where she displays a talent for sales with a well-off British clientèle that she courts with some success.
Blessed with unerring taste in fashion, Alice carefully assuages her elegant allure, wearing clothes of exceptional finesse. She buys from the biggest Parisian fashion sales outlets and is a dedicated visitor of the most reputed fashion houses.The Chéruit fashion house, where Alice takes up a position, acquires a reputation that puts it in the top tier of the large fashion houses of the time, most notably in the American market, with its participation in the “Parisian Party” in New York. They do bespoke clothing, cut to the taste and style of the clients, adapting the forms, material and colours of sketches and models in vogue at the time. With an exceptionally modern approach, Chéruit uses materials that become as sought-after as they are rare, including leather, straw and feathers to design its trademark motifs. As the first saleswoman, Alice Alleaume always enjoys the same level of success both with French and foreign customers who come back to renew their wardrobes with each new collection. Her sense of detail, her experience and her perfect mastery of English ensures a steady draw of prestigious and loyal clients, all eager to acquire Alice’s recommendations. Amongst the illustrious clientèle are many nobles: Queen Victoria-Eugenie of Spain, Princess Beatrice of Spain, Queen Marie of Romania, Princess Elisabeth of Romania and the Duchess of Arion.
Rarely seen wearing the same outfit twice, but attached to the great couture houses like Lanvin, Alice Alleaume is more and more remarked upon by the clothes she wears. She is also regularly seen in creations by Chéruit, which she has now come to symbolise at the heart of this exhibition.
She leaves the professional milieu of the fashion industry at the start of the 1930s and is regularly invited to the big global events of the day, where she shines, as much for the designs she wears as for her accessories and jewellery, often inspired by the Art Deco movement.
This exhibition retraces the story of Parisian fashion of the Belle Epoque during the 1930s with an exceptional collection of 70 dresses and oufits, 140 accessories, paintings, engravings and 100 photographs which are usually accompanied by samples of different cloth.
This fascinating perspective on fashion through the wardrobe of Alice Alleaume is complimented by documentation composed of notebooks and manuscripts in which are notes and observations from her everyday professional life. Behind the scenes, the habits and tastes of the clients are known and Alleaume keeps numerous comments on her anecdotes as a fashion vendor.
The release of The Great Gatsby by Baz Luhrmann in 2013 was particularly appreciated for its costumes reliving the Roaring Twenties. If you also love the clothing of the era, the Carnavalet Museum offers you a unique chance to dive into a veritable historical pool set in the world of Parisian fashion during the first decades of the 20th century.
Roman d’une Garde-Robe, Le chic d’une Parisienne de la Belle Epoque aux Années 30
17 October 2013 – 16 March 2014
Histoire de Paris
23, rue de Sévigné – 75003 Paris
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00. Closed Mondays and Bank Holidays.
Entry: €8 or €6 reduced price. Minors – €4. Free entry for under-13s and members of “Amis du Musée Carnavalet”.