Smile! You’re on Copyright Camera
Through its latest exhibition, 1931, Face-Dos-Profil (1931, Front-Back-Side), Paris’ Galliera Museum offers a detailed look at the fashions of the 1930s. But the photographs featured in the show, selected from a collection of 10,000 copyrighted documents from the period (courtesy of Paris’ patent office) look more like mug shots of well-dressed delinquents than haute relics. The vintage snaps depict couture-clad ladies posing in front of a three-sided mirror and offer complete 360-degree views of the 1930s’ most covetable designs (think beach pajamas, romantic satin ruffle dresses, sheaths constructed with a complex system of figure-hugging seams, and sumptuous evening wrap coats in silk velvet and white ermine) from the era’s most sought-after names (like Schiaparelli and Mainbocher).
The images, you see, served to prevent knockoffs. In 1931, a large-scale counterfeit clothing operation—which had illegally obtained couture sketches—was uncovered in Paris. Not surprisingly, that same year, a record number of couture houses (almost 50 in all), including Madeleine Vionnet and Lanvin, patented the hats, bags, dresses, and shoes from their collections. Curator Sylvie Lécailler juxtaposes these patent documents with a few actual pieces and fashion spreads from the era. While it’s not the most glamorous peek back at fashion’s past, the show certainly reminds us that imitations are not to be accepted—not then, not now, not ever.
1931 Face-Dos-Profil runs from March 28 through July 6 at the Galerie du Crédit Municipal de Paris, 55 rue des Francs-Bourgeois 75004, Paris.
Photos: Courtesy of the Galliera Museum