Sunday, March 28, 2010

Théâtre de la Mode, part II: The Dolls

Théâtre doll in coat by Molyneux (photo, denisebrain)

The couturier Lucien Lelong, President of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture 1937-45, is credited with the idea for the Théâtre, although it wasn't a new concept. From as early as the Middle Ages traveling dolls had been used to broadcast Paris fashion, but this had never before been done on such a scale, and with such an important purpose.

The young illustrator Eliane Bonabel was given the task of designing the dolls, and Jean Saint-Martin of creating their wire structures. Wire was used both for its modern airiness, and because it was still relatively available in wartime Paris. The refugee Catalon sculptor Joan Rebull created the plaster heads of the dolls.

Bonabel with one of the dolls in 1945. The dolls are 27.5" in height.

Saint-Martin working on the wire structures

Saint-Martin also designed the artfully minimalist "Croquis de Paris"
(Paris Sketch) set (photo, denisebrain)

I can't tell you how much these little dolls affected me in person. Not only were they created by artists and honored with miniature versions of fashions from some of the greatest couturiers, but their expressions seem serious and purposeful. Their resolve is tangible.

After being in the presence of these dolls awhile, don't be surprised if you feel you are being watched!

Dresses by Agnès Drecoll, Maggy Rouff, Jean Farell, Gaston, Raphaël and Henry à la Pensée, with Dupouy-Magnin mostly hidden (photo, denisebrain)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Somewhere between an award and a relay baton pass...either way, I love it!

The very interesting and lovely Charlotte of Tuppence Ha'penny
passed this honor on to me, and I'll follow the rules and pass it on to a couple of bloggers I admire.

First Kim, of bonheur du jour, who I am thinking is my long lost cousin or even sister. I like how she thinks, and what she thinks about.

Next, Susan, who isn't new to me but who has a newly remodeled Northstarvintage blog. Looking fabulous, I must say! (Everyone needs to update her link, as this is a new address for this blog.)

Award Rules:
  1. Thank and link the person who gave you the award
  2. Pass this award on to bloggers you recently discovered and think deserve this award
  3. Contact said blogs and let them know they've won
  4. State seven facts about yourself.
I asked people on Facebook to suggest seven things they'd like to know about me. I got some great questions (thank you Denise!) which I've tried to answer. I start with the one question I am most often asked:

1. Why do you call your business denisebrain? I wrote about this in one of my first blogs, here. I am a professional horn player, and Dennis Brain is one of the all-time great horn players.

It so happens that when I first was on eBay (the year was 1999) helping a student bid on horns, I was prompted for an eBay ID and I typed in denisebrain. Very soon, I started selling vintage clothing, and kept the name. I know it's quirky!

2. Creating your brand - how did you decide upon the unique vintage catalog style look of your photos?

My look has always been oriented toward vintage fashion magazines and catalogues...thank you for noticing! I love many images that pre-date about 1992, when the waif/victim/heroin-chic look started to be in vogue and has not really been succeeded.

I love all sorts of different looks and eras, but I especially like a look of happiness and health.

I started showing myself in photos because I wanted to distinguish myself from other online vintage dealers. I don't think of myself as a model, but I've always thought I could encourage others to try wearing vintage clothing if they saw an average real person in the clothes.

3. Criteria for vintage selections

I notice vintage and modern labels that are popular, but my biggest interest is in just finding great examples of a kind. I like anything with character, wit, decent ingredients and style. I love the 40s most of all, including all the changes in that decade. I like to notice what vintage fashions are influencing modern fashions and pull those out to show.

4. developing your online business that still has a 'personal' touch

That's hard and easy. The hard part is actually welcoming everyone who is in touch with me (which can take a fair amount of time), the easy part is the philosophy: Treat everyone as I'd like to be treated myself.

5. How do you keep yourself moving forward?

Good question! I started doing this business like I was shot out of a cannon. I love vintage clothing so much that just the word "vintage" would make my heart race. My greatest joy was learning more about the clothes and looking at everything I could in books and online. I felt an overwhelming sense of joy just standing in line at the post office with shipments to be mailed. I would wake up at 4:30 AM (no kidding) to start work because I couldn't wait to get going.

I still truly love what I'm doing, but I do have to keep thinking of ways to make it interesting to others and motivating to me. It is more of a seasoned process, one in which I take notes, bookmark inspirations and plan. I get inspiration from many different sources to try to keep looking and moving ahead.

6. Question most frequently asked of any vintage dealer: where do you find your items?

More or less all the usual places: 2nd-hand and vintage stores, estate sales, word-of-mouth, ads. It's become much more competitive in the buying realm, but I always notice that buyers orient to different things, so there's usually something left for me, even if other vintage buyers have shopped.

7. What is one thing about you that none of your customers and fans would ever guess about you?

Hmm, well, take your pick: 1. I'm 1/64th Mohawk, 2. I'm older than many people suspect, 3. Although I bluster my way through sometimes, I'm terribly shy, 4. I love and write poetry (some published!), 5. I've worked as a chef, 6. I play bagpipes, 7. I don't really crave sweet "bad" food would be something like barbecue chips, which I eat something like once every 5 years!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

My visit to the Théâtre de la Mode, part I

Taking a closer look at an ivory silk damask evening dress by Worth in a set designed by Jean Cocteau (photo, denisebrain)

I've never been to France, but recently had the feeling of traveling through both time and space to the Paris of 1944-46. The occasion was a visit to the ongoing exhibition of the Théâtre de la Mode at the Maryhill Museum of Art near the town of Goldendale, Washington.

The museum stands quite alone, a grand chateau located on a precipice overlooking the Columbia River Gorge.

A view from the Maryhill Museum grounds on the cold November day I visited (photo, denisebrain)
It is home to an eclectic collection of art, including the Théâtre.

Created in Paris starting in 1944, the Théâtre de la Mode is a work of haute couture, theater and art, with stage sets and dolls designed and created by artists, and fashions by over 55 design houses. They came together for the survival of haute couture.

Some of the clothing designers who dressed these artful dolls in miniature versions of their best and most current fashions include Balmain, Balenciaga, Fath, Hermès, Lanvin, Paquin, Schiaparelli and Ricci.

I'll be writing more about this incredible exhibit as I get a chance in the next several months.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

...and speaking of Alice

Alice in Wonderland, photographed for Vogue by Annie Leibovitz

An inspiration I'll never forget, from US Vogue 2003, with model Natalia Vodianova, a handful of the greatest fashion designers of our time, and the photographer Annie Leibovitz:

John Galliano

You must see all (including Lacroix as the March Hare and Gaultier as the Cheshire Cat) here.

Don’t be late...

...for a Wonderland date!

Please visit the denisebrain March theme, Wonderland of Vintage