Haute Couture

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Haute Couture: 1934. The scores of big and little couturiers to whom buyers Hocked last week may be divided roughly and not without argument into three groups. First are the older houses who are heavy with prestige but exercise comparatively little authority over fashion trends. In this class are Worth, Paquin, Callot Soeurs and Redfern, who was the first couturier to receive the red ribbon of the Legion of Honor. Next is a large group of comparatively young houses or old ones which have passed their prime. Although they may startle the trade almost any year with a new trend, they are not at present the most dominant influence in fashion. Preeminent among them are Lelong, said to be the best organized house in Paris, Chanel, Bruyere, Goupy, Louiseboulanger, Jane Regny, Lucille Paray, Martial & Armand, Marcel Rochas, Maggy Rouff, Vera Borea, Alix, Dilkusha, Jodelle and the redoubtable Jean Patou.

Finally there is a handful of houses now at or near the peak of their power as arbiters of the ultra-modern haute couture. They are not necessarily the most popularized, nor are they all heavily patronized by U. S. buyers. Regardless of who else might be included nearly every fashion expert would agree that in this group the following houses most decidedly belong: Vionnet, Lanvin, Augustabernard, Main-bocher, Molyneux and Schiaparelli.

Vionnet is in appearance a typical French seamstress. Small, nimble, birdlike, she is incredibly skillful with the needle, sews better than anyone in her shop. Although she is reputed to be the daughter of a Monte Carlo cocotte, her contemporaries speak of her with awe and respect, consider her the dressmaker's dressmaker. She achieves a classic elegance of line at the expense of color. To make her gowns cling to the figure she cuts her materials on the bias. A couturier for nearly 40 years, she designs her models on a famed wooden doll.

Lanvin made her first dresses at home for her daughter, who is now the Comtesse de Polignac. Others liked them so well that they went to Mme Lanvin to be dressed. Never an extremist, she bases nearly all of her designs on historical fashions or documents, adapting and reworking them to modern colors and materials. The results are regal and highly dramatic, which is one reason why she is patronized by European grandes dames, South Americans, French actresses.

Augustabernard, noted for her temper. is popular in the U. S. She is noted for her superb technique which makes her dresses the favorites of connoisseurs. Commercial buyers are less enthusiastic. Her gowns depend on expensive materials, are difficult to copy. But she has a large following among well-bred socialites, dresses some of the smartest women in Paris.

Captain Molyneux, an Irishman who was thrice wounded in the War and won a British Military Cross, is a favorite of young U. S. and English girls. In his grey-walled shop, his grey-clad -vendeuses specialize in selling slender evening gowns, tweed sports and town ensembles, nearly all designed by Molyneux himself.

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