Marie-Antoinette to Chanel, 200 years of gowns and couture on display at Versailles

Following the haute couture A/W fashion week in Paris, the Trianon palace in Versailles will play host to one of the first expositions to showcase some of the most spectacular gowns created over the last 200 years.

The 18th Century Nack In Fashion is currently on display until 9 October 2011, the exposition includes over 50 ball gowns from designers such as John Galliano for Christian Dior, Christian LaCroix, Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen for Givenchy to name just a few. The idea behind the exposition was to show how designers have been inspired (and continue to be inspired) by the styles of gowns from 18th century court in Versailles, where the profession of créateur de mode (designer) originated.

Olivier Saillard, curator of the Musée Galliera (Museum of Fashion, Paris) organised the event with the idea use the rooms in the historically iconic palace as a backdrop to showcase how  haute couture design has been inspired by bygone eras and modernised.  From one of the earliest pieces (1750-1760) – a gold embroidered silk gown with delicate floral rose print in the Chapel living room, to Chanel silk gowns and menswear from the 18th century beautifully housed in the Salon des Glaces (smaller version of the famous mirrored dining room in the main palace) the exposition shows how designers like Balmain use 18th century embroidered motifs on their gowns, or corsages on necklines of dresses like Azzedine Alaia or Watteau pleats in the dresses a la Lagerfeld for Chanel; all trends which developed from the French Court.

Also included in the exposition is a gown that Kirstin Dunst wore in Sophia Coppola‘s movie Marie-Antoinette.  The Olivier Theyskens for Rochas designed dress is the powder blue silk/satin with crystal embroidered train, worn after the birth of her daughter in the movie.

However, one of the most surprising and interesting pieces in the collection is a Vivienne Westwood vibrant polka dot ball gown.  Designed in the 90’s, the hot pink, electric orange, purple, black and white spots put a modern twist on the full skirt of the dress. Overall, the exquisite gowns show that even after 200 years we are still captured by the idea of dressing like royalty. Its just a shame we can only look at the gowns and not dress up.

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