Tuesday, 15 October 2013


One of the biggest misconceptions that I hear about cities are that they're too expensive. Sure, the rent's extortionate, a Starbucks latté costs 4 Euros and the Eiffel Tower is the world's biggest rip-off but there are so many incredible things to do over here on a budget, and being a student over here (or just young in general) gives you access to a staggering array of discounts and freebies. For example, all Paris museums are free to EU citizens under 26 years old, and on the first Sunday of every month they're free entry to everyone! So today I decided to abuse this privilege and go to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs to see 'Le mécanisme des dessous', an exhibition documenting the internal structures of historical garments such as corsets and crinolines. Although the synopsis makes it sound pretty niche, there's a room at the end which shows the influence of these pieces on modern fashion, and there are pieces from Comme des Garçons, McQueen and Mugler whose undisputable beauty can appeal to everyone.

Comme des Garçons, 'White Drama'
The exhibition is an interesting social commentary too - it shows the suffering that women would go through to create the illusion of a perfect silhouette and also how men had to constantly conform to visual interpretations of 'virility'. The women would wear 'faux-culs' (fake arses - genuine translation) to contrast their waists which were clasped shut with corsets made from metal wires, while the men would wear calf padding and wear cups to enhance their, erm, 'masculinity'. The Victorians were, apparently, all about mating.

Metal-wired crinoline
While all of this was both a revealing and genuinely interesting insight into how people would use fashion to conform to impossible standards of beauty (a phenomenon which hasn't exactly disappeared in modern culture), it is interesting to see the garments that were essentially a real-life form of airbrushing. The REAL treat (for me at least, I'm a complete fashion nerd), was getting to see the designer pieces at the end of the show. 

Dolce & Gabbana S/S 2007
There were pieces from Mugler's iconic 'Les Insectes' couture collection, a heartbreaking piece from Comme des Garçons 'White Drama' collection (which is mind-bogglingly intricate in real life - a crinoline moulded from layers of stiff organza and lace) and even the hand-painted dress from McQueen's 'Sarabande' collection that had been modelled on a mannequin of the female body and engineered in soft leather and hand-painted with decorations of birds. At one point I heard one woman (/moron) exclaim 'Mais c'est ridicule! Qui peut porter ça?" - a notion that is both understandable but also slightly misses the point of fashion that is exhibited in a museum. It's not meant to be wearable, it's meant to be beautiful. And OH MY GOD it was. 

On a side note, the gift shop there is surprisingly affordable, and is kind of like a more accessible version of the hip concept store 'Colette'. It's definitely a great place to do a spot of Christmas shopping, with its hand-painted tea sets, customised notebooks and huge collection of fashion books and magazines, all of which are surprisingly affordable. For example, I managed to pick up a program from an old Yohji Yamamoto exhibition for just 1 Euro, complete with illustrations and a brief profile of the designer himself - one of those amazing things that make you feel WAY more chic than you realistically can ever hope to be. 

- Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 107 Rue de Rivoli, 75001, Paris

(L'exposition 'La Mécanique des Dessous' est jusqu'a 24 novembre 2013)

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