In Love with the Fifties : Palais Galliera Exhibit

If Paris is your destination anytime between now and November 2, 2014, and if you love French fashion, visiting the Palais Galliera is a must. The exhibit focusing on fashion from 1947-57, expertly curated by Olivier Saillard, is a thrill for the senses–the colors, shapes, textures. Pierre Balmain, Madame Grès, Hermès, Jean Dessès, Paul Daunay, Carven, and of course, the king of couture Christian Dior are given plenty of space, and the gowns presented are splendid.


As Suzy Menkes says in her Vogue article, Those Fabulous Fifties!, “Saillard also has an eye for tiny details. He displays the noble sculpted outfits from Cristóbal Balenciaga and the shapely, round-hip dresses of Jacques Fath. But there is also room for an un-labelled transparent plastic handbag, its top decorated with pink roses to match the decorative fresco on the museum’s ceiling.”

Besides gowns, you can admire lingerie, bikinis in Hawaiian patterns, hats, gloves and lots of other accessories. To get a taste of the exhibit, please take a look at Palais Galliera’s website.

The museum of fashion remains open only during its exhibits, due to the fragile nature of its collection.

Palais Galliera
Musée de la mode de la Ville de Paris
10 Avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie, Rue de Galliera, 75016 Paris, France
+33 1 56 52 86 00

Photograph via WWD

Bonus: Angela of Now Smell This writes about the exhibit and her explorations of Paris in August.



  • jillie: I am sure that my Parisienne friend will love this exhibition so I shall forward the details to her. Thank you for telling us about it. August 13, 2014 at 10:06am Reply

    • Victoria: My pleasure! I wish it traveled to other museums, because it’s just so excellent. August 13, 2014 at 11:18am Reply

  • Aurora: It must be a dream of an exhibition. I especially would like to see the Balenciaga exhibits as I recall Karl Lagerfeld saying they were works of art (but very difficult to wear well apparently so his collections were not a huge success in contrast to Dior).

    This was the real haute couture decade, so much structure, and it was reflected in the perfumes from that period (all these wonderful chypres, sigh).

    Who knows the exhibition might travel after Paris so there may be an opportunity for more people to have access to these wonders. Do you plan to travel to see it?

    Thank you for mentioning Angela’s article I’ll go and read it. I always enjoyed Paris in August, empty city, wonderful wheather interrupted by spectacular thunderstorms -the smell of wet asphalt, so delicious. August 13, 2014 at 10:19am Reply

    • Victoria: I plan to visit again, because the exhibit is that good, and it highlights so many interesting details that I haven’t noticed before about Dior’s fashion and the fashion of that era in general.

      I don’t think that it will travel, because the items are very fragile. It’s one of the reasons why the Palais Galliera doesn’t remain open year round, only during the special exhibit times. I do wish that it traveled, because the collection is spellbinding. Angela of NST who visited the exhibit was there during a school visit, and she said that it was fun to hear little boys exclaim “magnifique!” as they eyed the gowns. 🙂 August 13, 2014 at 11:21am Reply

      • Ariadne: Wonderful post!!! What is even more incredibly marvelous about this exhibit is the clothing is NOT displayed behind glass. This is really the only way the visitor can appreciate the details you mention which are not just the hallmark of couture but the art of the dressmaking craft and a reflection of cultural modes.
        Changing the direction of cloth weave to hang at a 45 degree angle to the ground is an example of this that had great impact that persists today. Jean Harlow would not have been the same without this detail. Chanel did of lot of her ‘art’ on the inside of her designs. She removed a lot of the constricting interior structure or garment armature, intentionally very much in common spirit with the changes happening in women’s roles and self-image.
        I love that they show the whole spectrum of this period of women’s dress at this exhibit. August 13, 2014 at 2:00pm Reply

        • Victoria: Yes, that’s the most special part, because you can really see the details. People talk about the genius tailoring of great designers, excellent fabrics, etc, but the small touches really make the biggest differences–how the lining is attached, how the interior structure is handled, how the seams are finished, and so on. August 14, 2014 at 6:43am Reply

      • Aurora: I’m so glad you’ve seen it. It must really be special for you to want to see it again.

        Yes, it’s too bad Le Palais Galliera is not open year round. Another museum worth seeing in the 16eme area of Paris is Balzac House – so moving – and looking like a country cottage. They have his coffee pot as an exhibit, he lived on coffee and would work through the night on La Comedie Humaine. You can probably tell he’s one of my favourite writer.

        Angela’s story about the French schoolboys is adorable. August 14, 2014 at 6:54am Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you, Aurora! I haven’t visited Balzac House, so your recommendation goes onto my list. The next time I’m in Paris for work, I will make sure to carve some time out for a visit.

          Which of Balzac’s works are your favorite? August 14, 2014 at 7:06am Reply

          • Aurora: Thank you, Victoria. So glad it picks your curiosity.

            My favourite works are Illusions Perdues, Le Pere Goriot, and La Duchesse de Langeais. But really I often feel I can plunge into La Comedie Humaine anywhere – it’s a world in itself.

            Do you have a favourite? August 15, 2014 at 8:32am Reply

            • Victoria: I haven’t read any Balzac since high school, and I was thinking of picking up his works again. So, your comment was helping me figure out where to start. I recall reading Le Pere Goriot and really being captivated by it, so maybe I will re-read it next. Great books, like great perfumes, only improve on being revisited. August 16, 2014 at 10:52am Reply

              • Aurora: Definitely, rereading great works is always fruitful especially Balzac who is so dense.

                In Le Pere Goriot you find Rastignac and Vautrin who both reappear in other novels and novellas – for eg Vautrin is also in Illusions Perdues and its follow-up Splendeurs & Miseres des Courtisanes.

                Happy reading Victoria. August 18, 2014 at 7:49am Reply

                • Victoria: Oh, then I’m starting off well, and I will read Illusions Perdues next. Thank you again for ideas and inspirations. 🙂 August 18, 2014 at 11:20am Reply

  • solanace: Angela´s story is so funny! Thank you for the links, the pictures are exquisite. August 13, 2014 at 12:35pm Reply

    • Victoria: My pleasures! It’s a bit of eye candy for today. 🙂 August 14, 2014 at 6:40am Reply

  • Kaleigh Bickleman: I just got married in June and our wedding attire and decor were influenced by the 1950’s, it’s such a fascinating period. I would absolutely love to see this. I wish that it would travel, preferrably to NYC. August 13, 2014 at 2:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: Congratulations, Kaleigh! I can just imagine how gorgeous you looked. I agree that the fashions of that era were so beautiful and very flattering. August 14, 2014 at 6:39am Reply

  • AndreaR: I would love to go back in time and attend a party where these exquisite creations were worn. August 13, 2014 at 7:02pm Reply

    • annemarie: Me too. But what would we wear?! 🙂 August 14, 2014 at 4:31am Reply

      • Victoria: L’Interdit, for me, I’ve decided! As for clothes, I would not mind the pale pink dress with rosettes (you can see it if you follow the Vogue link). Or for something completely different, the dark grey dress in the photo above (1st from the left). August 14, 2014 at 6:45am Reply

    • Victoria: Me too, just for that short while. Diorissimo would be a natural choice, but maybe Givenchy Le De and Givenchy’s L’Interdit would be even better. August 14, 2014 at 6:39am Reply

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