Théâtre de la Mode – Sewing/Fashion Books


Théâtre de la Mode

Fashion Dolls: The Survival of Haute Couture

Liberation in the fall of 1944 after four years of foreign Occupation found Paris
surviving on minimal resources. Hoping to make a statement to the world that Paris was still the center of fashion, couturiers, jewelers, milliners, hairdressers, and theatre designers joined together to present the Théâtre de la Mode.

Using the ages-old tradition of traveling miniature mannequins dressed in current couture, the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture mobilized a whole industry with unprecedented cooperation and creativity to prove that life could begin again through these 27” tall ambassadors of fashion. This book tells their story.

SKU: 978-0-935278-56-9 Category:


Théâtre de la Mode mannequinMiniature Mannequins Rescued Haute Couture After World War II.
This Book Tells the Théâtre de la Mode Story.

How could there even be a theater of fashion in 1945 just as the Germans ended their occupation of Paris? Why did a group led by designer Nina Ricci’s son Robert decide to tantalize their captors by proving that without supplies and in the midst of devastation, they could both revitalize the fashion industry and raise money for the war victims? Then, in 1990, how did the Théâtre, lost, reappear at the Louvre in Paris in the same venue as in 1945?

The story of the dolls—lost for over 40 years—is a magical story about survival…survival of a country, of an industry, and of miniature wire mannequins dressed by the top fashion designers of the world at a time when fabrics were rationed and rare. It is the story of a little known museum, new in the 1950s, that ended up with them. It’s a story of how a road builder, Sam Hill, and a sugar baron’s wife, Alma Spreckels, saved these dolls from extinction, and about their second resurrection when Stanley Garfinkel from Kent State University discovered their whereabouts and, together with Susan Train, Paris Bureau Chief for Condé Naste, helped realize their return to Paris to be renovated and again shown to the world in 1990.

The first book about the Théâtre de la Mode, out of print for over a decade, was published in 1990 by Editions du May in France, in conjunction with the revived exhibit, and reprinted in English by Rizzoli in New York for the 1991 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Now, in 2002, it has been brought back by a publisher who remembers seeing the dolls when, as a pre-teen, she visited Maryhill in the 1950s, then grew up to become a fashion designer herself as well as publisher.

Palmer/Pletsch Publishing in Portland, Oregon accepted the challenge of trying to find the original photos to create this expanded version: Théâtre de la Mode–Fashion Dolls: The Survival of Haute Couture. We’ve added color photos of the sets recreated for the revival. Photos of the 172 mannequins still in existence have been enlarged so couture details are now visible. Photos of the reproduced jewelry have also been added. The remarkable photos by renowned fashion photographer David Seidner are featured in a full-color section. An Epilogue tells the continuing story of the Théâtre de la Mode.

Théâtre de la Mode, in some magical way, becomes the passion of nearly everyone who has ever seen it or been involved with it. Its story creates empathy for those who endured the war, admiration for the artists who came together to show the world that their industry and hope couldn’t be obliterated by shortages and devastation, and emotion for even a preteen in the ‘50s who keeps reconnecting with the magic.

Revised Second Edition ISBN 0-935278-56-7
8.375” x 10.875”
192 Pages
257 color photos including 36 photos by noted fashion photographer David Seidner
116 historic b&w photos

Additional information

Weight 2 lbs
Dimensions 11 × 8.5 × 0.5 in


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