Michele Majer will speak in the Work-in-Progress series on Tuesday, October 25 at 12 pm. Her talk is entitled “Fashion and Art in Les Modes and at the Hôtel des Modes, 1901–1920.”


Michele Majer is Assistant Professor at Bard Graduate Center where she teaches European and American clothing and textile history from the fourteenth through the twentieth century. In 2012, she curated a Focus Gallery exhibition at Bard Graduate Center, Staging Fashion 1880–1920: Jane Hading, Lily Elsie, Billie Burke, that examined the phenomenon of actresses as internationally known fashion leaders at the turn-of-the-twentieth century and the rise of celebrity culture. She is also a Research Associate at Cora Ginsburg LLC, a gallery dealing in antique textiles and clothing.

In the first decades of the twentieth century, French fashion periodicals celebrated couturiers as “artists” who created beautiful, elegant clothing that was equal to and deserved the same kind of recognition as other forms of art. At a time when haute couture was impacted by broad social, cultural, and technological developments that made it less rather than more rarified, the fashion press insisted on its uniqueness. In this mutually beneficial and reinforcing relationship, couturiers enjoyed the prestige of artistic status and magazines enjoyed the cachet of featuring and promoting the work of these “artists.” In this talk, Majer will discuss her current research project, which investigates the deluxe publication Les Modes, one of the leading fashion periodicals, between 1901 (the year it was founded) and 1920. Under the direction of Michel Manzi (1849–1915), an amateur artist and well-known art collector, Les Modes extolled fashion as an art in its extensive articles and full-page black-and-white and color photographs. In 1907, Manzi, whose other publications included Le Théâtre (1898–1921) and Les Arts (1902–1920), purchased an eighteenth-century townhouse near the Place de la Madeleine in Paris. Described by Les Modes as a “temple” dedicated to Art—the Art of Woman—l’Hôtel des Modes became an important venue for exhibitions of couture garments and accessories that were often shown in conjunction with large-scale, full-length portraits of actresses and society women by acclaimed painters of the day, wearing ensembles by leading couturiers. Simultaneously, Galerie Manzi, located in the same townhouse, sponsored numerous art exhibitions, serving to reinforce Les Modes’ mission to unite “Art” and Fashion.”