The Fabulous Story of Fashion Shows
Charles Frederick Worth
Haute couturier, Charles Frederick Worth, revolutionised the world of couture during the 19th century, as he was the first to move from mannequin models to live models whilst presenting his collections, initially kickstarting the desire to showcase designs through real models. Worth is recognised as a pioneer of Parisian haute couture and was even given titles such as ‘the father of haute couture’.
In the late 1800s, Lady Duff-Gordon, known professionally as Lucile, was credited with the creation of the first modern fashion show, known as the ‘mannequin parade’. Lucile’s models were the first to undergo professional training which involved lessons on elegance and charm. The shows were held at Maison Lucile and guests would be given a programme of the models and designs featured.
“I had a soft, rich carpet laid down in the big showroom … I had a stage, a miniature affair, all hung with misty olive chiffon curtains, as the background, which created the atmosphere I wanted.” - Lady Duff-Gordon
New York Fashion Week
New York Fashion Week, originally known as Press Week, was first introduced in 1943 by Eleanor Lambert, who specified that the event would take place in the Plaza Hotel due to its central location. Press from New York was present with Lambert paying for reporters from other regions to attend. Press Week led to American Designers gaining recognition and mentions in publications including Vogue. In 1945, the ‘Fashion Calendar’ was established, a resource that prevented the overlap of shows, resulting in a seamless experience.
Le Theatre de la Mode
Le Théâtre de la Mode was a miniature exhibit that featured mannequins dressed in custom-made designs and accessories by great couturiers. The exhibit toured in France in 1945 and the world in 1946. The unique and intricate idea was introduced by the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, and the decors were designed by artists such as Jean Cocteau and Christian Bérard.
Dior's New Look
Dior’s dazzling debut collection, ‘New Look’, was showcased at 30, Avenue Montaigne, Paris, on February 12, 1947, just weeks after the House of Christian Dior was founded. This stunning yet controversial collection had an important impact on 40s and 50s fashion. The revolutionary collection created one of the most memorable fashion shows in history, due to the breathtakingly bold versions of femininity showcased by Dior in his sensational debut.
Paris Fashion Week
The first Paris Fashion Week officially took place in 1973 as the Fédération Française de la Couture was formed. It started with the unforgettable Battle of Versailles Fashion Show, in which five huge French designers were set against five designers from America, all to raise money for the restoration of the Palace of Versailles. The French designers were Hubert de Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Emanuel Ungaro, Pierre Cardin, and Dior, whilst the American designers included Oscar de la Renta, Halston, Anne Klein, Stephen Burrows and Bill Blass. The entire show was very theatrical, especially from the French side, however, the American designers were considered to be the winners. To this day, Parisian fashion shows remain extravagant and drama-filled with countless bold and ambitious settings.
Fashion Shows of the Future
In the last few years, technological advances have greatly impacted the expression and presentation of fashion shows. From virtually live-streamed shows to the use of drones to model clothing, this constant evolution is causing major changes in the way fashion is introduced to the world. The question is whether the excitement and anticipation of traditional fashion shows will be lost along with further advances, or if these developments are simply creating a more accessible, and therefore inclusive, industry that should be embraced?
WRITTEN BY HANNAH MAE WEBSTER