FROM GARY ALSTON ~ COSTUME DESIGNER:
The magical and luminescent art of Parisian Haute Couture has reigned supreme over the world of fashion for more than 150 years. Unrivalled and inaccessible it continues to enthral and captivate us.Haute Couture’s savoir faire is steeped in historical tradition. Indeed, it can be traced back to the court of Louis XIV. Ironically, it was a Briton, Charles Frederick Worth, who founded the first two houses of Haute Couture in Paris in 1858. Yesterday’s Haute Couture existed in a more formal world and in answer to the needs of a certain social class, for clothes for their grand occasions, such as gala balls, first nights, embassy and presidential dinners etc. This is the era I sought to recreate when designing Milou’s ‘L’Ouverture’ collection, which features two separate costumes along with the ‘Vent Doux’ dressed doll. My approach to the project was to design outfits for a human being, rather than an inanimate object, whilst uppermost in my mind was the ‘simplicité de luxe’ concept which Milou so perfectly embodies. The results of this endeavour can be seen in the two new Milou designs: ‘L’Heure Six’ – a charming cocktail suit, and ‘Belle Epoque’ – a stunning eveningwear ensemble. Both of these costumes were painstakingly researched and put together using the finest fabrics; in addition, they feature precision tailoring and extraordinarily fine detail rarely witnessed on this scale. The ‘L’Ouverture’ collection is understated, luxurious and timeless and is possessed of its own unique ability to captivate and charm. It was born of a true admiration, respect and fondness for not only a particularly auspicious period in the history of fashion, but for a world and time when good manners, refinement and breeding counted for something. I hope that you will enjoy the fruits of my collaboration with Wendy Roper and Mannequins de la Mode as much as I have.
FROM WENDY ROPER ~ CREATIVE DIRECTOR MANNEQUINS DE LA MODE
“Exclusive is a word that is used too often and applied indiscriminately these days to market a product. But in this small collection of costumes designed by Gary Alston the word fits like a glove. You will not find this quality of design, fabric and construction in the large, mass-produced ranges of doll outfits. In fact, I believe this debut collection for Milou is the best and the finest evocation of the original Theatre de la Mode that there has yet been. Each of the three costumes is a miniature masterpiece of museum quality. Together they form a beautiful and enchanting work of art that will gain in charm and interest as the years go by. Gary discusses at length the fabrics and details that make this collection cohere, but I would like to draw your attention to the lovely vintage colours we have used: antique gold, bronze olive and cafe au lait all classically teamed with black. These subtle and unusual shades evoke so charmingly the immediate, post-war Paris of 1945. To my original vision and design brief for Milou Gary has added not only his creative talent but his extraordinary integrity of execution, coupled with a complete surrender to quality in all its aspects.”
All three costumes in the ‘Ouverture’ collection are linked via their tailored silhouette, colour and fabric. The finest materials have been utilised in their execution – taffeta being the fabric of choice not only here, but for many eveningwear looks during the 1940’s. Attention has been given to the smallest detail – from the most delicate of Miyuki beads to luxurious silk linings. Here follows a detailed description of the two new separate costumes…
A charmingly detailed cocktail suit cut from silk taffeta, featuring a form-fitting jacket with layered peplum waist along with an ‘A’ line knee-length skirt. The jacket bodice is cut with princess seams to provide the perfect fit whilst the double-layered peplum features a contrasting top layer fashioned from an exclusive sequinned cloth (perfectly in scale & lined in taffeta) with a draped sash effect at the jacket waist opening. The short, set-in sleeves are ruched at the centre of their bottom edge (an attractive style of the day) and accented with hand-sewn clusters of miniature bugle beads. This same process of beading forms the three ‘buttons’ on the jacket’s centre front edge. At the neckline a delightful silk contrast forms a draped, scarf effect; the silk is also used throughout the cocktail suit as a lining. The ‘A’ line skirt is cut in the classic style of the era. It sports an inverted pleat at centre front along with a darted waistline for a perfect fit.The ensemble is completed by a draped silk turban with hand-sewn beaded accent and a pair of three-quarter length black gloves.
A stunning eveningwear costume which perfectly captures the look and mood of an era, ‘Belle Epoque’ is actually two designs in one as the evening gown can also be displayed in its own right, sans jacket. The ensemble consists of a strapless evening gown and hip-length evening jacket in silk-taffeta. The evening gown’s bodice is cut in princess seamed panels with a dropped waistline forming a shallow ‘V’ shape at the front and a deeper ‘V’ shape at the back .The bodice is painstakingly mounted with black lace then hand beaded with ‘Smoked Topaz’ Miyuki beads which also trim the lower bodice edges and miniature bow at the bottom of the back bodice. The skirt part of the gown is cut in an ‘A’ line silhouette with centre front seam which opens into a curved edge slit at the centre front hemline. At the back a delightfully gathered godet panel in the centre back seam forms an attractive, flared train effect. The breath-taking evening jacket exhibits all the hallmarks of Haute Couture. Cut in silk taffeta it features a notched lapel, two-piece ‘leg-of-mutton’ sleeves and beaded sash effect at the centre front waistline opening edge. The hip-length bodice of the jacket is darted to fit perfectly over the evening gown. The sumptuous detailing includes mounted, hand-applied lace on the jacket top collar and lapels, the yoke on the jacket front/back and hand-cut lace appliques on the sleeve heads.In addition, the lace has then been hand-beaded with the same Miyuki beads as for the evening gown. On the inside of the jacket there are miniature shoulder pads covered in black lace – in the true Haute Couture manner! Accessories include a luxurious dark brown fur muff lined in the taffeta of the jacket and full-length black opera gloves.
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