In Nantes, fashion is exhibited under the light of the Enlightenment

By Sophie Abriat

Posted today at 07h00

English dress (circa 1780-1785).

At the end of November, when we meet them a few days before the opening of the exhibition, Angélique Illiet and Delphine De Trégomain, collection managers at the Palais Galliera, are on the verge of war, in the midst of a “modeling” operation. In museum jargon, this consists of creating a mannequin perfectly suited to the shapes and allure of the person who wore the outfit in the past. A work of historical reconstruction, but also a gesture of conservation.

“The pieces will remain exposed for several months, so you have to distribute the weight of the garment well over the entire structure and ensure that there is no tension liable to damage the fibers”, explain the two specialists, by positioning a “flying dress” of the XVIIIe century in silk lampas on one of their mannequins entirely handmade, filled with wadding, canvas petticoats, cascades of tulle and pieces of horsehair.

Dressed in their clothes, these perfectly executed “lower silhouettes”, whose stripped-down look is not lacking in charm, are invisible to the eyes of the many visitors who came to discover the exhibition – upon opening, there were nearly 1 000 entries per day.

“Our whole mission was to make sure that the costumes were not subordinated to the discourse of the fine arts but treated on an equal footing with the paintings. Adeline Collange-Perugi, Conservative

This is the first time that the Nantes Arts Museum, in collaboration with the Palais Galliera, Fashion Museum of the City of Paris, has placed textile pieces and pictorial works opposite each other, crossing influences reciprocal between the artistic world and that of fashion in the 18th centurye century. “Our whole mission was to ensure that the costumes were not subordinate to the discourse of the fine arts but treated on an equal basis with the paintings”, argues Adeline Collange-Perugi, curator responsible for ancient art collections at the Nantes museum, who curates the exhibition with Pascale Gorguet Ballesteros, head curator, head of the 18th fashion departmente century and dolls at the Palais Galliera. Both are delighted with the interest in the exhibition. Because, on paper, nothing was won.

“The XVIIIe century is still too often regarded as a dusty moment of history, smelling of mothballs. As for the fashion of the time, we tend to summarize it in Mademoiselle Bertin, Marie-Antoinette’s “fashion minister” ”, Pascale Gorguet Ballesteros advances. Together, they spent more than two years designing this scholarly project, which brings together no less than 200 pieces – paintings and costumes combined.

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In Nantes, fashion is exhibited under the light of the Enlightenment

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