Monday, February 13, 2012

History's Runway: The Callot Soeurs Evening Dress, 1922

Evening Gown from the House of the Callot Soueurs, 1922
Collected by Cecil Beaton
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This romantic evening gown dates to 1922 and represents the very best quality workmanship and materials available at the time.  The gown comes alive with light-reflecting beads and sequins as well as intricate embroidery which follows the lines of the printed floral design.

This gown is the work of the fashion house Callot Soeurs which four sisters, Marie, Marthe, Regina and Joséphine, opened initially as a lace shop in 1888. The eldest, Marie (Madame Gerber), introduced the couture side of the business at 9 avenue Matignon, Paris, where it continued until the mid 1930s. The sisters enjoyed working with rare and exquisite materials such as Chinese silks, rubberized gabardine, lace and decorated sheer fabrics.

This dress was worn by a British aristocrat, Winifred, Duchess of Portland. It came to the V&A as part of the collection of fashion amassed by famed photographer Cecil Beaton (1904-1980).  Beaton contacted the well-dressed elite of Europe and North America to create this lasting monument to the art of dress in 1971.

The sleeveless evening dress is comprised of printed silk voile with a lamé petticoat and net embroidered belt.  It features a straight bodice and a dropped waistline marked by the wide matching belt with a bold jeweled buckle.  It is embroidered with pearlized sequins and bugle beads in pinks and greens.

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