Théâtre de la Mode

The fashions of post-World War II France are highlighted in this 1946 exhibit, which shows one-third human size mannequins wearing fashions created by the country’s finest designers. When it debuted at Louvre’s Museum of Decorative Arts in 1945, the opening drew 100,000 visitors. After touring Europe and the US in 1946, the exhibition languished in the basement of San Francisco’s City of Paris department store; the sets were destroyed, but the mannequins were saved by Alma de Bretteville Spreckels who championed their acquisition by Maryhill Museum of Art.

Maryhill is now home to nine re-built sets and restored mannequins dressed in casual and formal wear of the day. Each year, three of the nine sets are on display.

In 2017 sets on display include Jean Cocteau’s “My Wife is a Witch” and Jean Saint Martin’s “Paris Sketch,” both sets recreated by Anne Surgers in 1990, and Anne Surgers’ “Street Scene,” a replacement for Georges Wakhevitch’s “The Port of Nowhere.” All three sets feature 1946 evening and day wear by some of the top Parisian designers, including the house of  Worth, Ana de Pombo, Lucien Lelong, Nina Ricci, Lanvin, Rochas and Balmain.

Take an audio tour of Théâtre de la Mode


Image above: A long-sleeved evening gown by Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli, part of the set Le Théâtre by Christian Bérard