Hed: We’ll Always Have Paris
As the languorous, hot days of summer give way to the cool of autumn, I find myself yearning for Paris. Ah, Paris, je t’aime! I recall buttery, early-morning croissants, freshly baked at a local patisserie, washed down with rich espresso. I remember walks along the Boulevard St-Germain and the Left Bank, stopping to rest in the cool mists of fountains, passing the time people watching and fanning myself in 28 C heat.
Why was I in Paris, the city of love, lights, food, fashion and art? In the summer of 2013, 40 of my antique corsets, crinolines, bustles and lingerie were displayed at the Palais du Louvre’s Musée des Arts Décoratifs, which was presenting The mechanics of underwear, an indiscrete story of the silhouette exhibit. The exhibition, a celebration of the most fashionable silhouettes in modern history, had gathered together stunning examples of 18th century to modern corsets and lingerie, borrowed from European museums and private collections. What was missing, however, were 19th and 20th century corsets and crinolines, as these were not as popular with museum collections. My passion for antique corsets was well known, and what joy when the Musée des Arts Décoratifs contacted me to ask if I would contribute to the exhibit. I was thrilled to oblige. I accompanied my corsets to Paris before the exhibit opened, remembering how the curator “oohed” and “aahed” over my collection. I love when someone shares my passion!
To me, corsets represent a delightful triptych: love, curve and colour. Love, the most powerful human emotion, intertwined with artistry, taste and exceptional workmanship. I am captivated by the skill of the past corsetieres, who used bias seaming and gussets to create a tiny waist, full rounded hips and a large, lovely bosom. The detailing on each corset is exquisite, further showcasing the corsetieres’ artistry.
I learned so much from the mechanics of underwear exhibition. And, while I remain devoted to my beautiful collection, I gained an even bigger love for all things French. French corsetières had a wonderful sense of style, using the best, most expensive fabrics and adding delicate and elaborate flossing, lace and silk. As befits French sensibilities, these undergarments have a playfulness and coyness about them that make me want to know more about the women who wore them. They must have been as extraordinary and beautiful as their corsets!