Christian Dior Mini Mannequins in Le Petit Théâtre de la Mode

by Nov 17, 2019General information

This incredible   exhibition was inspired by Théâtre de la Mode, a 1945–1946 touring exhibit of fashion mannequins, approximately 1/3 the size of human scale, crafted by top Paris fashion designers.

Now, for the House of Dior, twelve installations retrace the history of the House and present miniature versions of the Bar suit, the dresses Schuman, Muguet, Miss Dior and many more. Minutely sewn to the millimetre, they resemble the originals down to the tiniest detail.

History of the original 1945 Théâtre de la Mode

This has been copied from the Wiki entry, but is a fascinating piece of fashion history

The French fashion industry was an important economic and cultural force in Paris when World War II began. There were 70 registered couture houses in Paris, and many other smaller designers. The war had a severe impact on the industry. Couturiers and buyers fled occupied France or closed their businesses. Clothing businesses that struggled to remain open had to deal with extreme shortages of cloth, thread, and other sewing supplies. The occupying Germans intended to displace Paris with Berlin as a centre of European fashion design. The Nazi regime planned to turn Berlin and Vienna into the centres of European couture, with head offices there and an official administration, introducing subsidies for German clothing makers, and demanding that important people in the French fashion industry be sent to Germany to establish a dressmaking school there. Couture’s place in France’s economy was key to this plan: an exported dress made by one of France’s leading couturiers was said to be worth “ten tonnes of coal”, and a litre of fine French perfume was worth “two tonnes of petrol”.

French fashion was also not only important economically, it was a vital part of France’s national cultural identity. French designers resisted the Nazi regime’s plans; Lucien Lelong, president of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, proclaimed, ‘It is in Paris or it is nowhere’. A worker from Reboux, one of Paris’s largest milliners, later said of the attitude of the fashion industry during the German occupation.

After Paris was liberated, the idea for a miniature theatre of fashion came from Robert Ricci, son of couturier Nina Ricci. All materials were in short supply at the end of World War II, and Ricci proposed using miniature mannequins, or fashion dolls, to address the need to conserve textiles, leather, fur, and so on. The mannequins were 27.5 inches (700 mm) tall, fabricated of wire. Some 60 Paris couturiers amongst them Nina Ricci, Balenciaga, Germaine Lecomte, Mad Carpentier, Martial & Armand, Hermès, Philippe & Gaston, Madeleine Vramant, Jeanne Lanvin, Marie-Louise Bruyère, Pierre Balmain. joined and volunteered their scrap materials and labour to create miniature clothes in new styles for the exhibit. Milliners created miniature hats, hairstylists gave the mannequins individual coiffures, and jewellers such as Van Cleef and Arpels and Cartier contributed small necklaces and accessories. Some seamstresses even crafted miniature undergarments to go under the couture designs. Seamstresses carried their sewing machines around with them to complete work on the Théâtre de la Mode during Paris’s post-War electricity shortages. Historian Lorraine McConaghy points out the level of detail in the clothing:

The meticulous attention to details is so striking … The buttons really button. The zippers really zip. The handbags have little stuff – little wallets, little compacts – inside them.

Once work was completed on the Théâtre de la Mode, it became a touring exhibition of 237 doll-size figurines in 15 elaborate artist-created sets. It opened at the Louvre in Paris on 28 March 1945, and was enormously popular, drawing 100,000 visitors and raising a million francs for war relief. With the success of the exhibit in Paris, the Théâtre de la Mode went on a tour of Europe, with shows in London, Leeds, Barcelona, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Vienna.To promote the exhibit abroad, a French government official wrote to the Ambassador of France in Britain: “France has little, alas to export, but she has her appreciation of beautiful things and the skill of her couture houses”. After touring Europe in 1945, the mannequins were outfitted with new clothes designed for the 1946 season and the exhibition travelled to the United States, where it was displayed in New York City and San Francisco in 1946. After the final show, the mannequins were left behind in San Francisco, while the jewellery was returned to Paris.