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The Golden Age of Couture opens for Visual Arts in June

21
Apr '10
The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947–1957, an exhibition that transports visitors to the most glamorous fashion houses of Paris and London in the years after WWII, opens in the Ingram Gallery of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts on June 18, 2010, and remains on view through Sept. 12, 2010. The exhibition was organized by the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) in London, which possesses one of the finest costume collections in the world. Following record breaking attendance at its launch in London and its subsequent presentations in Australia, Hong Kong and Canada, The Golden Age of Couture continues its international tour at the Frist Center, the exhibition's only venue in the United States, before traveling to Museums Sheffield in 2011.

The exhibition celebrates an important decade in fashion history that began with the launch of Christian Dior's famous New Look in 1947 and ended with his death in 1957. The romantic postwar silhouette pioneered by Dior scandalized and delighted the public, and ushered in a period of remarkable creativity. Dior himself called it a "golden age" for haute couture. He and his contemporaries set a standard for impeccable workmanship and design that has rarely been surpassed since.

In addition to Dior, the exhibition highlights the work of such luminary Paris designers as Cristobal Balenciaga, Hubert de Givenchy and Pierre Balmain and celebrated London designers including Hardy Amies, Charles Creed and Norman Hartnell. Included are examples of daywear, cocktail dresses and evening gowns designed for royalty and aristocracy. Photographs by Cecil Beaton, Richard Avedon and Irving Penn show how images in fashion magazines enhanced the prestige of couture, while also making its innovative ideas widely known and accessible in America as well as Europe.

The V&A has tracked down and purchased several couture garments especially for this exhibition. One is a Givenchy blue cape (1957), identical to the one worn by Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face. Another exciting find is a red version of Dior's glamorous Zemire (1954). The bodice and long jacket with full length skirt, previously known only through archive photographs, was recently discovered in a cellar near the River Seine in Paris and has been cleaned and repaired for the exhibition.

A section of the exhibition will focus on handcraft and techniques, with undergarments and the insides of dresses on display. To enrich the content of the exhibition, photographs, documentary film, textiles and archival material will also be on view. It will close with a look at the state of haute couture today.

Dior's death in 1957 brought an end to the golden age of couture as fashion moved from the fitting rooms and ateliers into boutiques. Even so, the legacy of artistry and craftsmanship still thrives in the remaining grand houses of Paris.

Frist Center for the Visual Arts


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