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)


Agnes said...

Thanks for reminding us all of these lovely dolls. I must go to Maryhill this summer and visit them again!

Karen/Small Earth Vintage said...

Wonderful and fascinating! You're right about the faces. It seems so funny that they would choose to show the clothing on such a small scale (in 3-D, since photos are small scale, aren't they?), but it looks very effective.

I love posts like this where I learn something new!

denisebrain said...

Part of the impact, for me, is that the size is scaled down; I feel awestruck at the miniaturized scale of the clothing, from tiny beads to tiny feathers and small scale prints. It is a one-of-a-kind (at least in the past century) tour de force!

Then the dolls, as compared to a photo, seem like miniature ambassadors. Would we feel the human connection so much with a photo? I think we connect and relate to the dolls much more.

Anonymous said...

This is an amazing post - interesting! The clothes are so lovely, and I do love all things miniature... I have to admit though... I am absolutely terrified of little person dolls. Eek!

denisebrain said...

I know what you mean, it was a little eerie being around the dolls with no one else around, but I loved them.

Their faces are so open to interpretation that they work for all the settings. (More about the sets in my next post!)

TinTrunk said...

It must be quite an experience to see these dolls, and I can see how they can be both engaging and a bit unnerving at the same time!

The skills involved in scaling down couture garments with such precision is truly astonishing.

One day I will get to see them 'in person' - one day!