Mise-en-scène: Longchamp Racecourse||Ηippodrome de Longchamp, Bois de Boulogne, Paris, on the banks of the river Seine.
Prologue||Τhe beginning: Sunday, April 27, 1857. The first ever race, in presence of The Emperor Napoleon III, his wife Eugénie and a massive crowd.
Act 1||A prestigious event: The popularity of Longchamp attracted increasingly large crowds; all ranks and classes, le Tout-Paris attended the races. Quick to grasp an opportunity, Parisian couturiers sent models wearing their latest designs, off to mingle with society ladies and gentlemen. Longchamp became one large, bubbling catwalk.
Act 2|| War games: Finishing touches for the first big fashion show were briefly interrupted by conflict. On 3rd August 1914 Germany declared war on France. Would the show be cancelled? Bien sûr que non! Races and Fashion are indelibly imprinted in Paris’ genes.
Epilogue||Fashion revolution: Edwardian bell shaped skirts gave way to hobble skirts, picture hats to cloche hats, hairdos were getting shorter. Paul Poiret was reshaping the female figure setting it free from the constraints of the corset. Art Nouveau was the key trend and couturiers like Jeanne Lanvin, Jacques Doucet and Jeanne Paquin, the key players. And when the Ballets Russes performed Scheherazade in 1910, the opulent and exotic orientalism became the new Paris couture obsession. Until the war took its toll and colours, materials and cuts became simpler and more practical.
Towards the end of the decade, hemlines were getting shorter and waistlines lower announcing the arrival of the 1920s and les années folles.
All Images: Agence Rol/Gallica via Europeana