The Théâtre de la Mode was brought about at the liberation of Paris in 1944. Parisian fashion houses were only just starting to re-open their doors after several years of limited or non-production.
The purported story is that there wasn't enough fabric to make full-scale dresses, so two feet tall wire models were kitted out with the finest in couture and displayed, first in Paris, then around Europe and North America until their acquisition by the Maryhill Museum of Art in Washington.
More than likely, it was a more cost-effective way to remind the world that Paris was still the epicentre of fashion, despite living through occupation, starvation, oppression and war. While fabric was rationed and still at a premium (especially silk, which was used for parachutes), Parisian women defied the Germans in any way they could, usually by flouting stringent material rationing and wearing dresses and skirts made with yards and yards of whatever they could get their hands on.
Breaking the law and looking chic at the same time - those Parisian women knew their stuff.
The first five photographs were taken by David Seidner in 1990. He deliberately set the dolls in a recognisably French, warlike background. At first, I thought that these photos were taken in the 1940's. In actuality, all 237 (!) dolls were put on display in 1944 as part of a number of scenarios designed by artists like Jean Cocteau, amongst others.
|David Seidner, Lucien Lelong, 1990|
|David Seidner, Balenciaga, 1990|
|David Seidner, Marcel Dhorme, 1990|
|David Seidner, Madame Gres, 1990|
|David Seidner, Robert Piguet, Raphaël, Pierre Balmain, 1990|
|Jean Cocteau's 1944 setting, Ma Femme est une Sorcière (source)|