Though our blog posts usually focus solely on FIDM Museum projects, today’s post explores another museum's collection. I recently visited the Maryhill Museum of Art, home of the legendary Théâtre de la Mode. Because of Maryhill’s location in rural Washington State, not many fashion enthusiasts have the opportunity to see this unusual collection. Experiencing the Théâtre de la Mode in-person was a fascinating experience, one worth sharing with all of our readers.
Perched on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River, the Maryhill Museum of Art is a long, long way from the haute couture ateliers of Paris. Located on the southern border of Washington State, Maryhill is also a long way (100 miles) from the nearest international airport in Portland, Oregon. Despite its distance from Paris, Maryhill owns a one-of-a-kind collection of Parisian haute couture, the Théâtre de la Mode. Consisting of 2 foot tall wire dolls dressed in haute couture from head-to-toe, this collection offers a unique snapshot of late World War II Parisian fashion.
Visitors to the Maryhill will see 41 of the original dolls on display, staged in three different backdrops. Balenciaga's pearl and bead embroidered evening gown, with matching hat, is front and center when you enter the exhibition. The backdrop is Le Jardin Merveilleux (The Marvelous Garden) by set designer Jean-Denis Malclès. The original backdrop was lost, but Malclès participated in a 1989 recreation of the original set.