Fashion in the making : Photographs of 1920s and 1930s designs

from 6 November 2024 to 26 February 2025

The exhibition “La mode en modèles” on view from November 6, 2024 to February 26, 2025, presents a selection from the museum’s collection of photographic deposits of fashion models. More than one hundred photographs, drawings, films, and haute couture dresses provide an overview of Parisian fashion creation during the Roaring Twenties, from 1917 to 1939. These often overlooked images, crucial to the legal protection of fashion houses, offer a detailed look at the work of major couturiers, from the Callot sisters to Jeanne Paquin, from Jeanne Lanvin to Elsa Schiaparelli, including Madeleine Vionnet and Jean Patou. They allow us to trace the evolution of fashion innovation and aesthetics during this iconic period. Models deposits, a component of industrial property along with patents and trademarks, were filed with labor courts or court registries until 1979 to legally protect a creation and act against copying. Their creation during the First World War was aimed at combating the “fashion pirates”, smugglers and imitators who were rampant in France and abroad. Lawsuits reported in the press, such as that of Madeleine Vionnet in the early 1920s, solidified the practice. Until the late 1930s, couturiers had their new creations photographed from every angle. A model deposit could be a collection of several photographs or the result of a photographic system that combined lenses or mirrors to capture the different facets of the outfit: front, back, profile. Attracting a specific category of photographers, often professional studios or portraitists, or even famous figures such as Man Ray or Thérèse Bonney, these deposits illustrate the importance of photography in the fashion industry and the protection of intellectual property.

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