Paris for Fashionistas – “Impressionisme et la Mode” at Musée d’Orsay

Impressionisme et la Mode” at Musée d’Orsay is a multifaceted show, featuring paintings by Manet, Monet, Caillebotte and other Impressionist painters; beautifully conserved 19th century dresses from Musée Galliera; photographs and lithographs from Paris department stores; and, to fully recreate the fashion world of the late 1800s, chairs marked with names as if for a fashion show, and quotes from Zola and Baudelaire.

Seen in this context, paintings like Manet’s “La Dame à l’Eventail” and “Le Balcon” take on new life. Works by women artists Berthe Morisot, Camille Corot, Eva Gonzoles, and Mary Cassatt lend female perspectives to the period and the dress. Men’s fashions are treated, too, with works such as Caillebotte’s wonderful “Au Café” and Fantin Latour’s “Un Atelier aux Batignolles”.

The collection brings together custom, culture, fashion and art. It renders the world of the Impressionists not just visible, but sensorial, experiential.

Afterward, shop the excellent museum bookstore for books on fashion through time, mother-of-pearl buttons, and hats by contemporary milliner Marie Mercie. Until Jan 20, 2013.

Paris Fashion – Madame Grès Retrospective at Musée Bourdelle

Madame Gres at Musee Bourdelle

While fashion museum Musée Galliera is closed for renovation, part of its collection is on display at Musée Bourdelle. “Madame Grès: Couture at Work” features 80 pieces created by French coutière Alix Grès, as well as fashion photos taken by Richard Avedon and Guy Bourdin, and sketches from Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, displayed among Emile Bourdelle’s plaster busts and bronze figurines.

The result is sublime.

At first glance, the dresses and evening wear, created between the 1930s and the 1980s, bear the sculptural simplicity of togas. The placement of garments among Bourdelle’s work emphasizes the classical beauty of the clothes.

But look more closely , and you’ll see that shapes aren’t cut as much as created by artful use of pleats – complex folds of jersey that one reviewer called “a kind of millefeuille for fashion, an intricate treat of millions of carefully composed folds.”

Until July 24, 2011.