The Costume and Textiles collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is becoming a bona fide sartorial attraction, thanks to the recent acquisition of 158 pieces by couture designers dating from 1880 to 2008. Made possible by patron Ellen A. Michelson, the collection boasts creations by nearly 50 designers, including Cristóbal Balenciaga, Jean Dessès, Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy, Christian Lacroix, Jeanne Lanvin, Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Jean Patou, Paul Poiret, and Paco Rabanne. The collection also has a large number of pieces by three of fashion’s most-recognized female designers — Coco Chanel, Madame Grès, and Madeleine Vionnet.
Haute couturier Dominique Sirop, a member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Parisienne who worked with Saint Laurent and de Givenchy, assembled the predominantly French acquisition, which consists of both daywear and eveningwear. Some of the highlights include a prim 1987 rose and white chevron-striped evening gown by Madame Grès, an elegant 1925 silk satin evening dress with goldfoiled glass bugle beads and silver metallic-wrapped thread trim by Vionnet, and a luxurious fall 2007 brown leather and fox evening dress by McQueen.
A major part of the Vionnet acquisition was due to the recent donation by scholar Betty Kirke of the Betty Kirke Pattern Archives of Madeleine Vionnet, which include priceless paper patterns, muslin toiles, research notes, slides, and photographs that Kirke used for her book “Madeleine Vionnet.”
The acquisition, coupled with Rodarte designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy’s 2011 gift of the Rodarte Frangelico-inspired couture collection significantly strengthens LACMA’s couture holdings, some 25,000 pieces in the museum’s Costume and Textiles Collection.
“In addition to expanding the breadth of LACMA’s repository of twentieth-century fashion, this outstanding acquisition allows us to draw entirely from our permanent collection in organizing exhibitions that explore the role of the couturier in the development of modern style,” said Sharon Takeda, LACMA senior curator Costume and Textiles, via email.
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Images: Top: (l-r) Jeanne Lanvin (France, 1867–1946, Woman’s Evening Dress, circa 1935), Cauët Sœurs (France, early 20th century, Woman’s Evening Dress, circa 1912), Madame (Alix) (Grès France, 1903–1993, Woman’s Evening Dress, 1987), Madeleine Vionnet (France, 1876–1975, Woman’s Evening Dress, 1925) Left: Jean Dessès (France, 1904–1970 Woman’s Evening Dress, 1956) Right: Alexander McQueen (England, 1969–2010, Woman’s Dress, Fall 2007)/© 2012, Museum Associates, LACMA