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Paris Fashion Week, Part 2: Industrial Revolution, Couture, Salon

As it turns out, Paris Fashion Week (prêt à porter / ready to wear) isn’t like the others, it really stems more out of the couture presentation tradition. Paris is an old city after all, and one with an established and longstanding fashion industry.

Paris Fashion Week - Part 2 Industrial Revolution, Couture and the Salon - Fashion History

'Jour de pluie à Paris' (also known as, Paris: A Rainy Day / Paris Street; Rainy Day), Gustave Caillebotte, 1877 (oil on canvas)

The late 18th century fashion figure, Rose Bertin, is credited for playing the modern role of milliner-dressmaker and all-around tastemaker. With the French Revolution (1789) came another world order that hastened the evolution of style, fabrication and the selling of fashion products throughout the 19th century. The Industrial Revolution, the newly created sewing machine and William Henry Perkin’s synthetic dyes, amongst many influential innovations, forever changed fashion.

Paris Fashion Week - Part 2 Industrial Revolution, Couture and the Salon - Fashion History

Robe à la Circassienne, Gallerie des Modes et Costumes, 1778, MFA Boston

Paris Fashion Week - Part 2 Industrial Revolution, Couture and the Salon - Fashion History

late 1780s looks

Paris Fashion Week - Part 2 Industrial Revolution, Couture and the Salon - Fashion History

The sewing machine forever revolutionized the manufacture of clothing

Paris Fashion Week - Part 2 Industrial Revolution, Couture and the Salon - Fashion History

Afternoon dress, Charles Frederick Worth, circa 1872

Paris Fashion Week - Part 2 Industrial Revolution, Couture and the Salon - Fashion History

Evening cape, Emile Pingat, circa 1891

From the elegant Merveilleuses of the post-revolution Directoire period to the Napoleonic new style reminiscent of ancient Greece to the cage crinolines of the 1850s, it is technology that helped fashion evolve so quickly throughout the 19th century and, in turn, made fashion presentations what they are today.

Paris Fashion Week - Part 2 Industrial Revolution, Couture and the Salon - Fashion History

Portrait of Madame Récamier (née Jeanne Françoise Julie Adélaïde Bernard) by Jacques-Louis David, 1800

Paris Fashion Week - Part 2 Industrial Revolution, Couture and the Salon - Fashion History

Madame Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, later Princesse de Bénévent (née Noël-Catherine Verlée, 1761–1835) by François Gérard, called Baron Gérard, circa 1808

Paris Fashion Week - Part 2 Industrial Revolution, Couture and the Salon - Fashion History

The extremes of the crinolines

Paris Fashion Week - Part 2 Industrial Revolution, Couture and the Salon - Fashion History

Godey's Paris Fashions Americanized, 1849

The idea of fashion presentations only started to happen after an Englishman, seeking his fortune in Paris, opened his own fashion house in 1858. His name was Charles Frederick Worth, and as history would have it he became known as the [grand] father of haute couture.

Paris Fashion Week - Part 2 Industrial Revolution, Couture and the Salon - Fashion History

Charles Frederick Worth (1826–1895)

Paris Fashion Week - Part 2 Industrial Revolution, Couture and the Salon - Fashion History

Ball Gowns, Charles Frederick Worth, circa 1887

His revolutionary concept was to develop a selection of original looks (i.e.: a collection), have the clients come to him, and  present the creations on actual women in front of the clientele. One of his first clients, Princess Pauline de Metternich, introduced emperor Napoléon III’s wife, Eugénie, who instantly made him a world sensation by favoring his creations.

Paris Fashion Week - Part 2 Industrial Revolution, Couture and the Salon - Fashion History

Pauline Sandor, Princess Metternich, by Franz Xavier Winterhalter

Paris Fashion Week - Part 2 Industrial Revolution, Couture and the Salon - Fashion History

Eugénie de Montijo (1826-1920), wife of Napoleon III, the last empress of France. Date unknown

Paris Fashion Week - Part 2 Industrial Revolution, Couture and the Salon - Fashion History

The Empress Eugenie surrounded by her Ladies in Waiting, 1855

Paris Fashion Week - Part 2 Industrial Revolution, Couture and the Salon - Fashion History

Evening ensemble, Worth and Bobergh, 1862–65

The modern fashion designer/couturier was born. Worth also used his influence to change the fashion landscape again a few years later. A decade after opening his house, with the assistance of his sons and other couturiers, he helped establish la Chambre Syndicale de la Confection et de la Couture pour Dames et Fillettes, with the initial purpose to protect original couture designs from being copied. This marked another step in what defines fashion and fashion week today.

Paris Fashion Week - Part 2 Industrial Revolution, Couture and the Salon - Fashion History

Cape, Emile Pingat, circa 1895

Paris Fashion Week - Part 2 Industrial Revolution, Couture and the Salon - Fashion History

Evening mantle, Charles Frederick Worth, circa 1887

Next: The Paris fashion scene pre-WWII

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