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Mary Anne Evans

Fabulous Fashion at the International Center of Lace and Fashion

By January 4, 2013

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Followers of fashion, take note!

The delightful International Center of Lace and Fashion in Calais is putting on a real blockbuster of an exhibition. If you have any love of fashion, this is for you. A Feast for the Eyes! Spectacular Fashions has costumes, photos, film extracts, sketches, paintings, historical objects signed by Chanel, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Thierry Mugler and the like, and those glorious haute couture items that we all love to gaze at with longing. This very good exhibition takes you through the centuries showing how fashion takes the human form to embellish and transform it in a variety of extraordinary ways.

Five 'Acts' lead you through the centuries, showing how theatrical high fashion is. You start with a Ruff Party when the 16th-century vogue for huge ruffs and extraordinary collars took the aristocratic world by storm. Everything was done to highlight the face which mirrored the person's soul. To wear them, you needed to hold your head extremely high looking down on those around you. You were just trying to stay upright, not feel superior (though I bet that was the end result).

Garments of Light moves into the Renaissance and its love affair with gold and silver embroidered into outfits worn by Princes and Kings. The aim? To dazzle the onlooker. One look at the dress worn by Isabelle Adjani in La Reine Margot (1994, P. Chéreau), and you see how with its long red train of screen-printed interlaced modifs.

Caged Bodies likens fashion to putting on a shell. What was sexy now were wide hips and tiny waists, as seen in the dresses in Gone With The Wind (1949, V. Flemming) or Lola Montès (1955, Max Ophüls).

The exhibition is interactive and the Costumery section lets you try on replicas of accessories and costumes from the 16th to the 20th centuries.

You end with...of course, a Fashion Show, showing how today's designers regard the body. From those Dallas-style shoulder pads to flowing forms, designers like Chanel, Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier, Givenchy, Christian Lacroix, Thierry Mugler and Hubert Barrère have taken the human body and clothed it in oh-so-many different and wonderful ways.

The International Center of Lace and Fashion is a wonderful museum which deserves a bigger audience. I'm sure this exhibition will help put it firmly on everybody's map. There's no excuse; Calais is extremely easy to reach, either from Paris or from the U.K. by ferry, or by Eurostar.


From January 16th to April 28th 2013.

The Lace Museum (Cite international de la dentelle et de la mode)
135, quai du Commerce
Tel.: 00 33 (0)3 21 00 42 30

Guide to the Museum

More Notable Museums in Nord Pas de Calais


Image Top: Chanel Autumn/Winter 1991; © Chanel

Image Bottom: Thierry Mugler, costume for Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare's Macbeth, Festival d'Avignon, 1985; © Coll. CNCS / Comédie- Française ; photo CNCS / Pascal François

February 8, 2013 at 12:45 pm
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