Post-War & the Théâtre de la Mode
In 1939, there were seventy registered couture houses in Paris, including the grand establishments of Chanel, Schiaparelli and Balenciaga. This flourishing industry was disrupted by the wartime occupation of Paris. Private clients dispersed, international sales almost ceased and many couturiers closed. The Germans planned to move couture to Berlin but Lucien Lelong, president of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, objected, saying, 'It is in Paris or it is nowhere'.
In 1945-6, the Paris couturiers created the Théâtre de la Mode, a touring exhibition of nearly two hundred dolls in sets, created by artists such as Christian Bérard and Jean Cocteau. The Théâtre brought together a community that even as late as 1946 was still suffering hardship: 'Beautiful models huddled around little stoves. Skilful midinettes bulged with sweaters...there was still not enough electric current to run all the machines or to burn the lights long.' The Théâtre toured to Britain, Scandinavia and the USA, raising funds for war victims and promoting French fashion.
Evening dress by Rahvis. London, 1947. Vogue (British edition) June 1947. Photograph by Clifford Coffin.