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Mythical creatures

June 29, 2010

I’m always slightly confused when I come across croquis (or fashion sketches) like this one. I know that once upon a time couture houses would send them out to overseas clients, but they were usually stamped up with the house name (and legal copyright disclaimer!) and attached to little swatches of the fabrics used. (The client could then place an order while sipping a pink gin from the comfort of their chaise longue the other side of the Atlantic.) There were also croquis that were the original designs for an outfit, and I suppose those which were used for working reference in the workroom?

The ebay seller I bought this one from had acquired the archives of a Parisian couture house called Bernard et Cie. (As far as I know, et cie is simply short for et compagnie which translates as and company? French speakers please do correct me if that’s not right!). So (presumably in an era before cheap colour photography was widespread) it would seem that croquis were also used as an archival record of a couture house’s designs.

This single sketch is apparently from 1922 and is done in ink and coloured pencil on heavy ivory paper. The model name is  “Farfadet” (which I believe is a kind of goblin creature or French leprachaun!).

Intrigued, I just had to do a little research into the company in some back issues of L’Officiel de la Mode magazine. Ah, here’s an advert for the company from 1922. (By the way, Bernard was a popular name in the French fashion world in the 20s- there were companies called Augustabernard and Alice Bernard too. I wonder if they were related….)

And, ooh, a model wearing a Bernard et Cie dress called “Magicienne”….

And models in “Judith” and “Faust”…. (Does anyone else think they may have named that season’s collection after beings of myth and legend?)

Then I came across a little snippet of info on the company’s collection (click to enlarge). Its description of elaborate details, “the waist rather low and tighter at the hips, a blouse-wise arrangement of the bust certainly fits my croquis. As do the colours- “sweet beiges”, “blond tobacco hues and warm browns”….

Not that this will be my croquis for long- it’s destined to be a birthday present for “someone” who’s a huge fan of the 1920s. I can just imagine it framed on a wall. I only hope I can bring myself to part with it… :)

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