Calling all Fashionistas to First Friday

Join us during Portland’s remaining 2011 First Friday Art Walks (9/2, 10/7, 11/4, 12/2) to see two fabulous fashion-themed shows, “Having in Paris a Great Success”: French Fashion, 1928-1936, on display in the Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr. Lecture Hall, and Dressing Up, Standing Out, Fitting In: Adornment & Identity in Maine, on display in the museum. Mingle with friends, enjoy refreshments and music, and discover Maine history. And the best part: it’s all FREE!

By now, if you keep up with this blog or other MHS publicity, you know all about the Dressing Up exhibit. But you may be wondering about the Lecture Hall’s latest display. The collection comes from Maine artist Mildred Burrage, who amassed “line sheets” from Paris fashion houses. Here’s the scoop:

Imagine women in Depression-era Maine receiving illustrations of the season’s newest offerings from a Paris house of fashion. Colorful drawings on tissue, many of evening attire, with fabric samples attached and comments such as “Beautiful evening gown, having in Paris a great success!!” must have been quite enticing.

Maison Christiane of Paris and Nice, Lucile of Paris, and other fashion houses created the drawings that were sent to customers and likely shared among several women. At least one Maine-affiliated woman–probably Elizabeth Dodge Huntington who summered at Prouts Neck–ordered clothing depicted in the illustrations.

During World War I, American fashion came into its own, spurred by wartime shortages and by the more casual lifestyle of the United States. Nonetheless, women’s dresses from Paris designers continued to be prestigious. Christiane and Lucile produced attire aimed at the well-to-do, but not the most elite customers.

A 1928 newspaper article noted that, “To the Maison Christiane belongs the honor of giving the first garden party of the Paris season of 1928,” a party held “within a stone’s throw of the avenue de l’Opéra.” It went on to say that the “collection is also notable for the excellent quality of the workmanship and for the exquisite handwork, especially the embroidery which is used on many of the models.”

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