The dialogues between traditional costume and haute couture are rarely exhibited and may seem to be based on contradictions: traditional costume is the work of a group, associated with a territory and a symbol of permanence, whereas haute couture corresponds to a globalised phenomenon, based on principles such as ephemerality and renewal, and linked to creative individuals. However, it is clear that, since Paul Poiret, designers have not ceased to call upon the forms and imaginary elements associated with regional costume, inviting a cross-over between the two fields.
The exhibition project thus intends to offer a panorama of the dialogue between traditional costume and haute couture, from the structuring of the latter as a professional sector in the second half of the 19th century to the most contemporary designs. Closely linked to developments in folklorist thought and the notion of exoticism, the subject is also that of artistic creation, for which borrowings, whether formal or technical, are not always encumbered by ideological intentions. While proposing a historical and contextualised reading of the models exhibited, the project emphasises the creative processes deployed by designers, in a deliberately formalist approach. It will also provide an opportunity to revisit the complex issues of definition specific to the history of costume. Whether “regional”, “traditional” or “folkloric”, it will be presented in all its terminological complexities as well as in the diversity of its uses and functions, a diversity often obscured by the history of representations. At the heart of the exhibition project are the Mucem’s textile collections, as well as the numerous iconographic collections on costume and its representations. These collections are compared with pieces of haute couture and bear witness to the continuities that permeate the history of fashion, as well as to the porous nature of the boundaries between artistic creations and popular cultures. The new perspective that contemporary creation allows us to take on costumes is matched by the historical depth that they offer to the works of the couturiers, in a fruitful dialogue between heritage and contemporary.
The exhibition presents nearly 300 pieces from the Mucem’s collections and loans from French and foreign museums: Palais Galliera, Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Paris, Musée de Quimper, Musée Yves Saint Laurent – Paris, Musée de la Mode de Marseille, and Musée Municipal de Bucarest. The greatest couturiers and haute couture houses will be present: Balenciaga, Gabrielle Chanel, Chloé, Dior, John Galliano, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Philippe Guilet, Hermès, Simon Porte Jacquemus, Pascal Jaouen, Kenzo Takada, Christian Lacroix, Karl Lagarfeld, Jeanne Lanvin, Givenchy by Alexander McQueen, Martin Margiela, Val Piriou, Paul Poiret, Yves Saint Laurent, Paco Rabanne, Elsa Schiaparelli, Franck Sorbier, Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci, Valentino, Giambattista Valli, Dries Van Noten, Victor and Rolf, Clare Waigth Keller, Victor Weisanto, and Bernard Wilhelm.