“May your exterior be also the cathedral of your soul…” So pronounced writer Lucie Delarue-Mardus in celebrated fashion publication Journal des Dames et des Modes during its launch year 1912. For two years and 79 issues Journal went on to dictate fashion, drawing notable contemporary illustrators and writers to its pages. This was the end of La Belle Époque, when the corset said a scandalous goodbye to public tastes and the modistes of the city ushered in a more playful and free-flowing silhouette. Georges Barbier counted amongst the most prolific and popular illustrators, his eveningwear in particular capturing the burgeoning trend towards Orientalism. The feather bedecked turbans that one simply had to have even led to cries for conservationism as high society’s demand for decoration led to the near extinction of certain birds of paradise. The most endearing images depict women participating in hobbies like swimming and excursions to the snow-bedecked St. Moritz.
Alas Tom Antongini’s magazine ceased publication in 1914 following the outbreak of the First World War but thanks to the Chester Beatty Library’s Costumes Parisiens, Fashion Plates from 1912-1914 exhibition we have an opportunity to peruse the very same pages as turn-of-the-century followers of fashion. The fashion plates come from Chester Beatty’s own extensive collection. He purchased the plates around the time of their original publication, more than likely prompted by his second wife, Edith Dunn, a New York socialite.
The exhibition takes place upstairs in the Chester Beatty, in a small room painted in a dusky pink and muted gray, the perfect dreamy background template for the 150 small fashion plates lining the wall. The exhibition is completed with a centerpiece of four varying contemporary outfits that are on loan from the Ulster Museum. The exhibition runs until March, ma cherie. So schedule yourself a trip down to Dublin Castle, grab tea and a scone in the Silk Road Café and take an elegant step back into the past.
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Jeanne Sutton @jeannedesutun