Lourdes Font FGDA 2015
I would like to thank the committee and the Office of Academic Affairs for granting partial funding for my recent research trip to Paris. I am submitting my report late, past the deadline of June 29, because I extended my stay in Europe and only returned from the trip on June 28, and since then I have been dealing with a health issue, which thankfully is now much improved. I understand that I may not receive the funding award because of the lateness of my report.
The purpose of my research was to learn more about some of the first American fashion designers active in Paris in the early twentieth century, a subject I have been working on since my sabbatical leave two years ago. I have published an essay in a French exhibition catalog, and have another, bilingual publication pending. My goal was to answer lingering questions in time to make editorial changes to the second publication, and before pursuing the publication of a longer, definitive account of these designers in English.
I arrived in Paris on June 1. By that time I had determined that the most promising
sources were at the Archives de Paris, where business and real estate records are
kept. I spent June 2 through June 5 there, first consulting with an archivist to devise
an efficient strategy. On the first day I concentrated on the Bottin du Commerce,
the directories, by name, street and occupation, of businesses in the city. I was
interested in confirming the dates of operation for all of the designers in question
and in learning the full names of two couturieres -"Marjolaine" and "Mme Arnold."
During this phase of the research I learned that the house of "Ma1jolaine," which
I believed had closed soon
after the outbreak of World War I, since it disappears from the fashion press that had covered it quite favorably, was actually still in business as late as 1920. I discovered that there were not one but two couturieres named Arnold; it then became necessary to track both of them through the years at their various addresses and try to determine which was the American Arnold. I was able to push the establishment of another couture house, Green, back a year to 1908, and among the Archives' photographs of Paris streets, I found a photograph of its location on the rue de la Paix.
The next phase of the research was in the fichiers du commerce, bound volumes containing facsimiles of forms registering businesses. Having narrowed down the dates of their openings, I was able to find the forms for Green and for one of the Arnolds; the information in the fichiers then lead to the Actes de Societe, the actual legal documents pertaining to the companies. Through them I learned that one of the Arnolds was a team of two couturieres, one French and one Belgian, and therefore the other was the likely American couturiere. Unfortunately I did not find "Marjolaine" in the fichier du commerce, probably because registering a private business was not compulsory until after 1920, the last year the house was in operation. This was very disappointing; however I consider the finding that the house remained open throughout World War I and beyond to be quite significant. I will explore other possible sources and continue to pursue the question of "Mmjolaine's" identity.
On the whole I am satisfied that in only four full days (I left Paris on Saturday, June 6) I learned enough to make significant additions and corrections to my account of these designers. In the early mornings and evenings when the Archives de Paris were closed, I visited exhibitions, including the Velasquez exhibition at the Grand Palais, the Lanvin exhibition at the Musee Galliera, the 1971 Collection du Scandale exhibition at the Fondation Saint Laurent, and the exhibition on buttons at the Musee de la Mode et du Textile (Arts Decoratifs). At the end of my trip I was in Belgium, where I saw the Dries Van Nolen exhibition in Antwerp and the exhibition on Belgian Fashion at the "Bazar" pavilion in Brussels, the latter co-curated by one of my graduate students. All of these experiences will inform my teaching next semester and for years to come. On June 28 I traveled to the Paris airport from Brussels by train to catch my return flight.
Thank you again for supporting my research.