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Ancillary Trades and Textiles

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Embroidery

Paris was the home of a luxury trade in fashion goods. Entire streets were devoted to glove makers, shoe makers and furriers while feathers, floral accessories and ribbon work were worked by hand in small workshops, much as they had been since the 18th century.

Embroidery specialists created a range of samples each season. Once selected, a design remained for the exclusive use of the couturier. Hubert de Givenchy said these samples served as 'the springboard to creation'.

Gowns that were to be embroidered were usually simply cut to show off their sumptuous surface detail. Their embellishment required meticulous patience, for as Dior explained, 'a ball dress may be entirely covered with millions of paillettes, or pearls, each one of which has to be put on separately'.

Exhibition Highlights

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Evening Dress - John Cavanagh

Textiles

Couture garments required high quality, innovative textiles and trimmings. French couturiers were extremely skilled in the use of soft, draping fabrics (flou). British couturiers were well known for tailoring firmer textiles.

Each season manufacturers from all over the world would arrive at the couture houses with fabric samples or lengths. They developed a close working relationship with their clients, and sometimes collaborated with them in developing new fabric types and eye-catching designs.

By the early 1950s, rationing and shortages had eased off. Both natural and man-made fibres featured in couturiers' collections and in the twice-yearly features in major fashion magazines.

Exhibition Highlights

Select a link below to find out more about the exhibition highlights.

Evening Dress - John Cavanagh


Evening dress by Pierre Balmainm. Organza embroidered with feathers and rhinestones, Paris about 1955. Museum no: T.176-1969

Evening dress by Pierre Balmainm. Organza embroidered with feathers and rhinestones, Paris about 1955. Museum no: T.176-1969

Printed textiles by Ascher Ltd of London. Top to bottom: Cotton, 1949. Museum no. T.161-1988; 'Blue Bird', for Christian Dior, silk, 1953. Museum no. T.183-1988; 'Babouchka', for Christian Dior Boutique, silk, 1954. Museum no. T.184-1988; 'Cecil Beaton', designed by Neil Roger, organdie, 1950. Museum no. T.178-1988; Design by Philippe Julian, cotton, 1945-8. Museum no. T.150-1988; Design by Gerald Wilde for Princess Elizabeth, silk crêpe, 1947. Museum no. T.157-1988; Design by Cecil Beaton, silk crêpe, 1946. Museum no. T.146-1988; 'Rose pompon', for Christian Dior, silk, 1953. Museum no. T.182-1988

Printed textiles by Ascher Ltd of London.
Top to bottom:
Cotton, 1949. Museum no. T.161-1988; 'Blue Bird', for Christian Dior, silk, 1953. Museum no. T.183-1988;
'Babouchka', for Christian Dior Boutique, silk, 1954. Museum no. T.184-1988;
'Cecil Beaton', designed by Neil Roger, organdie, 1950. Museum no. T.178-1988;
Design by Philippe Julian, cotton, 1945-8. Museum no. T.150-1988;
Design by Gerald Wilde for Princess Elizabeth, silk crêpe, 1947. Museum no. T.157-1988;
Design by Cecil Beaton, silk crêpe, 1946. Museum no. T.146-1988;
'Rose pompon', for Christian Dior, silk, 1953. Museum no. T.182-1988

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