Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Sunday, 25 November 2007


My piece on Lanvin is in the Telegraph today:

When Alber Elbaz took over as the head of Lanvin in 2002, marking a sensational comeback for the half-forgotten house, few people remembered that during her heyday in the 1920s Jeanne Lanvin had rivalled Chanel. The name conjured up for me an expensive, decorative sophistication. I saw her as a designer who clothed women of a certain age. Hers was a label you might aspire to but never quite reach. In fact, I have, unknown to me, been wearing a dress based on Lanvin's landmark shape, the robe de style. My version is by Ghost, but the silhouette is more or less identical. It consists of a dress with a full skirt gathered from a slightly dropped waist, with flat panels at front and back, the hem falling a little above the ankles. Softly feminine, universally flattering, it acknowledges that a woman has hips and a stomach she doesn't want to exaggerate with bunched-up fabric. The robe de style was the look of the 1920s for women who could not wear the tubular lines of Chanel. Move the waist up, and it prefigures, by a quarter of a century, Dior's New Look, launched the year after Jeanne Lanvin died. And, of course, in fashion there is nothing new under the sun. The robe de style was itself based on what had gone before, Infanta frocks, Camargo frocks, picture frocks, portrait frocks - all those bouffant styles are what a woman needs who wishes to conceal the flaws in her figure. . . . Read on


twollin said...

Linda - for some reason I have this memory of reading something that Jeanne Lanvin was actually quite short and was quite unhappy that she was "dumpy" - and I right? And, here's a mind puzzle - has there ever been a Paris designer to specialize in clothing for petites? One wonders whether designers ever consider the fact that a large percentage of women in the world are NOT tall...or thin.

Linda Grant said...

She was certainly short and dumpy, though how she felt about it, the book doesn't say. I once had it explained to me by a fashion editor why designers only designed for tall women, it was quite a technical answer and I can no longer remember it.

Anonymous said...

Good article Linda. I do have to say that I don't think Karl was being dismissive in what he said about Lanvin. He was only, tactlessly as is his wont, stating that what made Chanel so strong over her female competition was that she was the best model Chanel ever had. Chanel designed for herself 1st and foremost (a radical concept then) and it shows. Even now, when you think of Chanel, has anybody ever topped Madamoiselle in wearing it?

The tall issue is about proportion. A tall figure can take far more extremes in proportion than a shorter one and therefore be used to show what the designer is capable of at their most high concept. Of course, clothes are scaled down and shapes altered when they appear at market (or in the case of couture, the individual customer's needs)....hence why, ironically, tall women have a hard time finding clothes off the peg.

This height thing even stands for plus sized models....


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this eloquent and informative piece about Jeanne Lanvin! I'm fast becoming a huge fan and it's great to find out more about the history behind the house of Lanvin.