Evelyn Nesbit by Otto Sarony (1901)

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Otto Sarony, Portrait of Evelyn Nesbit, 1901 via

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Otto Sarony, Portrait of Evelyn Nesbit, 1901 via

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Costumes de Théâtre by Redfern (1908)

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Exposition à l’Hôtel des Modes. Photograph in Les Modes : Revue mensuelle illustrée des arts décoratifs appliqués à la femme, 1908 via

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Exposition à l’Hôtel des Modes. Photograph in Les Modes : Revue mensuelle illustrée des arts décoratifs appliqués à la femme , 1908 via

Revolutionary Belle Epoque Fashion: Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix

Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix has been neglected by fashion historians. She inherited her couture house from her mother Mme. Margaine, in 1899. The following year she changed the name to Margaine-Lacroix.

She influenced the new slender line of fashion. She was famous for her revolutionary corsetless dresses and her ground-breaking front-lacing corsets. In the 1900s, Paris was the fashion capital of the world. Couturiers routinely sent mannequins to the racecourse, wearing their latest designs. Her models caused a sensation at Longchamp in 1908.

Three mannequins walked onto the racecourse dressed in blue, white and havane brown creations by Margaine-Lacroix. According to newspapers, spectators called the three women a “monstrosity”, accused them of being semi-naked and showing revolting décolletage .

However, soon women everywhere were wearing dresses after Margaine-Lacroix’s design.

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In the Spring of 1908, three women walked onto the Longchamp racecourse in Paris and caused a scandal by the semi-naked clothes they were wearing via

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Longchamp racecourse, Paris 1908 via

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Tanagréenne back drape on Sylphide dress by Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix. Here is an example of her slender, corsetless line, the robe-tanagréenne. It is worn by her favourite model, who small bust and simple hairstyle were avant-garde for the time and contrasted strongly with the generally accepted ideals of fashionable feminine beauty in the first decade of the twentieth-century, 1908 via

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Sylphide dress with Tanagréenne back drape by Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix, 1908 via

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Margaine-Lacroix mannequins pictured in the Parc de Vincennes in March 1910, wearing the new jupe-culotte – an early version of trousers via

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March 1910. Margaine-Lacroix mannequins in the new jupe-culotte via

Two Drawings of Louise Chéruit by Paul César Helleu

Madame Louise Chéruit (1866-1955) was among the foremost couturiers of her generation, and one of the first women to control a major French fashion house. Her salon operated in the Place Vendôme in Paris under the name Chéruit from 1906 to 1935.

Chéruit is best remembered today as the subject of a number of portraits by artist Paul César Helleu, with whom she conducted an affair before opening her couture house and for the appearance of her name in two celebrated works of literature, Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past (1910) and Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies (1930).

Her name is also frequently associated with the fashion photography of Edward Steichen whose favorite model, Marion Morehouse, often wore gowns from the house of Chéruit for Vogue magazine in the 1920s. One particular Steichen image has become iconic: Morehouse in a jet-beaded black net Chéruit dress, first published in 1927.

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Louise Chéruit by  Paul César Helleu (1859-1927)

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« Madame Chéruit », drypoint etching by Paul-César Helleu, reproduced as plate XXIX in: Montesquiou, Robert de (1913), Paul Helleu, Peintre et Graveur, Paris: H. Floury (circa 1900)

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France, Turn of the Century, by The Seeberger Brothers


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By Fréres Seeberger (Jules, Louis et Henri)

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By Fréres Seeberger (Jules, Louis et Henri)

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By Fréres Seeberger (Jules, Louis et Henri)

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By Fréres Seeberger (Jules, Louis et Henri)

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By Fréres Seeberger (Jules, Louis et Henri)

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Lily Elsie in the operetta The Merry Widow (Dressed by Lucile)

Lily Elsie (8 April 1886 – 16 December 1962) was a popular English actress and singer during the Edwardian era, best known for her starring role in the hit London premiere of Franz Lehár’s operetta The Merry Widow.

Early 20th-century fashion designer Lucile designed the costumes (including the plumed hats that became an extraordinary fad) and thereafter used Elsie to promote her fashions, designing her personal clothes and costumes for several of her other shows.

Lucile later wrote:

“I realised that here was a girl who had both beauty and intelligence but who had never learnt how to make the best of herself. So shy and diffident was she in those days that a less astute producer than George Edwardes would in all probability have passed her over and left her in the chorus.”

The production opened in June 1907 and ran for 778 performances at Daly’s Theatre. The show was an enormous success for its creators and made Elsie a major star.

Lily Elsie in The Merry Widow dressed by Lucile, 1907

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NPG x135274; Lily Elsie (Mrs Bullough) as Sonia in 'The Merry Widow' by Foulsham & Banfield, published by Rotary Photographic Co Ltd

Lily Elsie in The Merry Widow dressed by Lucile (1907)

by Foulsham & Banfield

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© National Portrait Gallery, London

NPG Ax160392; Lily Elsie (Mrs Bullough) as Sonia and Joseph Coyne as Prince Danilo in 'The Merry Widow' by Foulsham & Banfield, published by Rotary Photographic Co Ltd

Lily Elsie as Sonia and Joseph Coyne as Prince Danilo in ‘The Merry Widow’ (1907) by Foulsham & Banfield

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© National Portrait Gallery, London