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

Audrey Hepburn in Amazing Valentino Dresses for Vogue (1969)

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Audrey Hepburn in Valentino Dress, photographed by Paolo Barbieri for Vogue, 1969 via

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Audrey Hepburn in Valentino Dress, photographed by Paolo Barbieri for Vogue, 1969 via

Jean Patou Dress by André Durst (1939)

French fashion designer Jean Patou ( 1880-1936) was the founder of the Jean Patou brand.

Patou’s clothes were marketed mostly to rich American women. When the stock market crashed, however, so did the market for luxury fashion. The House of Patou survived through its perfumes, which remain well known today.

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Jean Patou, Dress, photographed by André Durst for Vogue, 1939 via

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Jean Patou, Dress, photographed by André Durst for Vogue, 1939 via

The Royal Bridal Gown of Queen Elizabeth (nee Bowes Lyon), 1923

Prince Albert, Duke of York, and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon were married on 26 April 1923 in Westminster Abbey. Elizabeth’s wedding dress was made from deep ivory chiffon moire, embroidered with pearls and a silver thread. It was intended to match the traditional Flanders lace provided for the train by Queen Mary. Elizabeth’s dress, which was in the fashion of the early 1920s, was designed by Madame Handley-Seymour, dressmaker to Queen Mary.

A strip of Brussels lace, inserted in the dress, was a Strathmore family heirloom. A female ancestor of the bride wore it to a grand ball for “Bonnie Prince Charlie”, Charles Edward Stuart.

The silver leaf girdle had a trail of spring green tulle, trailing to the ground; silver and rose thistle fastened it. According to an era news article:

“In the trimming the bride has defied all old superstitions about the unluckiness of green.”

Unlike more recent dresses, details of this one were publicly revealed in advance of the wedding day. However, the dress was worked on until the last possible opportunity: the day before the wedding, Elizabeth divided her time between the wedding rehearsal and her dressmakers.

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Queen Elizabeth (nee Bowes Lyon) wearing her long bridal veil of old point de Flanderes lace (1923) via

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Queen Elizabeth (nee Bowes Lyon) in her wedding dress (1923) via

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Queen Elizabeth (nee Bowes Lyon) & Prince Albert wearing RAF full dress in the rank of group captain, his senior service rank at the time of his marriage (1923) via