It's always a plus when a work trip to Paris - a rare treat these days - coincides with an exhibition that I'm aching to see. And what I really wanted to see was the Musée d'Orsay's Impressionism and Fashion exhibition. So I was up before the crack of dawn, out of the house by 5.30am to recover on the train with a new Persephone book ... and by mid-afternoon, my time was my own.
Was it crowded? It seemed like every woman in Paris was there. Here's a review.
|Women in the Garden, Claude Monet|
Fresh cotton muslin crinolines made me think straight away of this painting by Monet. Spotted and striped, flounced and braided ... one of the prettiest was striped with bands of marguerites and tied with a green ribbon sash.
Sans doute les Parisiennes sont femmes, mais elles sont plus femmes que toutes les autres femmes.
It all sounds so irresistible in French, pleats and panniers, pelisses, bustles and bows. I was fascinated by all the fashion magazines and descriptions of the big new Paris department stores.
Puis venaient des tissus plus forts, les satins merveilleux, les soies duchesse, teintes chaudes, roulant à flots grossis ... les damas, les brocarts, les soies perlées et lamées.
And I realised that I absolutely must read Zola's La Bonheur des Dames. (The inspiration for that truly dreadful BBC costume drama a few weeks ago.)
Seeing these ravishing gowns brought the paintings and the city to life, as I imagined the latest fashions filtering down from femmes du monde to the midinettes, with money of their own to spend for the first time. Look at this ... can't you just hear the rustle of silk? (Click on the picture for the fabulous detail.)
And then look at this ...
|La Parisienne, Edouard Manet|
|Dans la Serre ou Mme Bartholomé, Albert Bartholomé|
I spent four hours sighing over every furbelow and flounce ... and I haven't even mentioned the bonnets and hats. If only I could go back again next week! (The exhibition is going on to Chicago and New York, but not London.)