The FIDM Museum is in the final months of a major fundraising campaign to purchase the Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection, a private collection of 1,400 historic garments and accessories from four centuries. Each Friday, this blog will present an exquisite piece from the Larson Collection.
Although virtually forgotten today, Maison Félix was one of the major Parisian couture houses of the late nineteenth century, competing directly with the so-called father of haute couture, Charles Frederick Worth. As one newspaper reported in 1901, "even in the palmiest days of Worth, often styled the greatest man dressmaker of the world, the house of Mr. Felix could boast a proud supremacy."1 Jointly owned by brothers Auguste and Emile Poussineau, the house dressed socialites and celebrities including actress Sarah Bernhardt; Countess Craven, who wore the gown above as her wedding dress; and "Madame X," who chose a Félix gown for John Singer Sargent's iconic portrait, before closing abruptly in 1901.2
The Larson Collection includes three ensembles by Maision Félix; two of them are currently on display as part of the exhibition Fleurs: Botanicals in Dress from the Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection. If acquired, they would complement a fourth Félix already in the permanent collection.
One of the Larson gowns has just been "adopted" for the museum by donors Joady and Jerry Goreclick, meaning that they contributed the funds necessary to acquire the piece. If the FIDM Museum meets its fundraising goal and purchases the Larson Collection, their names will be permanently attached to the gown, and it will be exhibited and published as the "Gift of Joady and Jerry Goreclick." Our heartfelt thanks to Joady and Jerry!
Curator Kevin Jones and donors Joady and Jerry Goreclick with the Maison Félix gown they adopted for the museum at the opening of Fleurs: Botanicals in Dress from the Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection
Helen Larson spent 50 years assembling her collection; now, it is in danger of being dispersed forever or absorbed into another private collection, inaccessible to students, researchers, and the general public. The FIDM Museum urgently needs your help to save the Larson collection. You can make a contribution of any amount online or by mail, or join our #4for400 social media campaign to donate $4 (or more) by texting "Museum" to 243725. Donations are tax deductible; if your company has a matching gift program, your support will go even further. The FIDM Museum has until the end of 2015 to finish raising the necessary funds, so please join the campaign and help make fashion history!
1Quoted in Heidi Brevik-Zender, Fashioning Spaces: Mode and Modernity in Late-Nineteenth-Century Paris (University of Toronto Press, 2015), 325, n. 102.
2Brevik-Zender 325, n. 102; Deborah Davis, Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X (New York: Penguin, 2003), 127.