The recently opened Costumes Parisiens exhibition at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin Castle is a veritable feast for the eyes.

Fans of fashion, costume, ornaments, opulence and all things French should pay The Chester Beatty Library a visit: Their Costumes Parisiens exhibition is a truly a dalliance with the sartorial past, a handsome insight in to a well-dressed history.

The compact exhibition features over one hundred illustrations from the fashion magazine Journal des Dames et des Modes, which was published between 1912 and 1914 – the final years of La Belle Époque.

Lucie Delarue-Mardrus quote
La Belle Époque was a time of peace, prosperity, optimism and a thriving period for the arts. It was also a glamorous era – when the fashionable set would dress three to four times a day. The Journal featured fashion reports, society columns, poems, art reviews and short stories but the fashion plate illustrations were its main draw.

These vivid illustrations bring the fashions of the period to life in this exhibition, with some accompanying costumes featured alongside.

The designs was characterised by opulence and exoticism. Moving away from the rigidity of Edwardian style necklines were lowered, empire-lines embraced, skirts narrowed and corsets abandoned.

Costumes Parisiens at the Chester Beatty Librbary, Dublin
Orientalism and Chinoiserie influenced French reproductions of turbans and kimonos. Rich fabrics, vivid colours and intricate embellishment also featured heavily in the era’s haute couture. It’s no small testament to the illustrators that the fashion plates so clearly depict the detail and design, wowing a modern audience so accustomed to fashion photography.

It’s thought that Chester Beatty’s fashionable second wife Edith Dunn Stone (pictured below) encouraged his acquisition of the fashion plates. Though they shared an interest in art and literature she encouraged an eclecticism in his collections.

Edith Dunn Stone, wife of Chester Beatty © Trustees of Chester Beatty Library
The fashion plates and the Costumes Parisiens exhibition is a welcome addition to The Chester Beatty Library experience. It’s not too big so you certainly won’t need more than an hour, though do make the effort to watch the entertaining video. Pop in during a shopping trip to town and take away some truly unique fashion inspiration.

Costumes Parisiens, fashion plates from 1912-1914 runs until 30 March 2014. Admission is free. Open Tuesday to Friday, 10.00am to 5.00pm (Closed Mondays), Saturday, 11.00am to 5.00pm, Sunday, 1.00pm to 5.00pm.

Chester Beatty Library
Dublin Castle
Dublin 2

Tel: 01 407 0760

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Lead image ‘Les Belles Sauvagettes’ by Georges Berbier; all other images © The Trustees of the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin


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