From 8 July to 9 October 2011, the Palace of Versailles and the Musée Galliera present an exhibition in the apartments of the Grand Trianon dedicated to the influence of the 18th century on modern fashion. Vivienne Westwood, Karl Lagerfeld pour Chanel, Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Lacroix, Olivier Theyskens pour Rochas, Martin Margiela, Azzedine Alaïa, Alexander McQueen pour Givenchy, Yohji Yamamoto, Thierry Mugler… all of them fantasised about the 18th century.
Between haute couture and ready-to-wear, fifty models by great designers of the 20th century dialogue with costumes and accessories from the 18th century and show how this century is quoted with constant interest. These pieces come from the archives of maisons de couture and from the Galliera’s collections.
Influencing all the European courts, French culture of the 18th century was embodied by Madame de Pompadour, Madame Du Barry and even more so Marie-Antoinette – paragons of frivolity that has always fascinated the cinema, literature and the fashion world. With its huge powdered hairstyles, whalebone stays and hoop petticoats, flounces, frills and furbelows, garden swings and whispered confidences, the 18th century brought artifice to its paroxysm…
A fantasized style which gives free rein to interpretation: the Boué Sisters in the twenties revive panniers and lace in their robes de style, Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain offer evening gowns embroidered with typically 18th century decorative patterns, Vivienne Westwood brings back brazen courtesans, fashionable Belles are corsetted by Azzedine Alaïa, Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel invites Watteau with his robes à la française, the Maison Christian Dior adorns duchesses with delicate attires, Christian Lacroix drapes his queens with brocades lavishly gleaming with gemstones and Olivier Theyskens for Rochas summons up the ghost of Marie-Antoinette in a Hollywood film.
While the elegant simplicity in black and white is played by Yves Saint Laurent, Martin Margiela transforms men’s garments into women’s, Nicolas Ghesquière for Balenciaga enhances women in little marquis dressed with lace and Alexander McQueen for Givenchy clothes his marquises in vests embroidered with gold thread. With Yohji Yamamoto, court dresses are destructured and so does Rei Kawakubo with riding coats. While Thierry Mugler hides oversized hoops under the dresses, Jean Paul Gaultier puts them upside down.