Michele Majer (left) with Maude Bass-Krueger and William DeGregorio (MA, 2012; PhD candidate) at a conference Maude organized, “New Perspectives on Parisian Haute Couture, from 1850 until Today,” in Paris, March 24-25. Michelle Tolini Finamore (PhD, 2010) ) (not pictured) also attended.

Maude Bass-Krueger (PhD, 2016), who is an historian with the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, the largest governmental research organization in France, and her colleague, Sophie Kurkdjian, are co-curators of Modes et Femmes 14/18, on view at the Bibliothèque Forney in Paris through June 17, 2017. This highly informative and well-designed exhibition examines the relationship between French women and fashion in the context of social, cultural, and economic changes that occurred during the First World War. In recognition of haute couture’s importance to the national economy and French patrimony, the government actively supported this luxury industry. Although women increasingly adopted practical, tailored suits, leading designers promoted novel styles such as the flared “crinoline de guerre” and the “robe-tonneau” in order to encourage clients to buy the most up-to-date fashions. The exhibition includes both couture ensembles and several uniforms that reflect French women’s participation in the war effort as nurses and agricultural and factory workers.

In addition to the carefully selected garments on view, a range of documentation—fashion magazines, posters, post cards, department store catalogues, and photographs—provides rich contextual material through which Modes et Femmes, 14/18 explores tensions within the haute couture industry during the period, notably major strikes by fashion house workers; the perception that women who too closely followed fashion were indifferent to the plight of soldiers on the front; changes in mourning etiquette; and women’s emerging emancipation in the years after 1918.

~ Michele Majer, Assistant Professor