Friday, May 29, 2015

Petite fashions provide dazzling history lesson

Costumed doll on display at le Musée de L’histoire du
Costume in Lauzun

In her sunny studio with bright blue walls, Madame Dolène Durieux is hard at work on her latest project: researching and creating pint-sized costumes from France’s Belle Époque. The equisite and finely detailed costumes are custom-fitted to dolls and soon will become part of Mme Durieux’s collection on display at le Musée de L’histoire du Costume. The museum is located just outside Lauzun (47) in a stone outbuilding on the property where her husband, Michel Durieux, grew up and where the couple settled after retirement. Much more than a doll collection, Mme Durieux’s museum features authentic costumes from ancient Egypt forward, all of which she designed and created herself.

Dolène Durieux explains how she researches, designs and creates authentic
costumes for her collection at le Musée de L’histoire du Costume in Lauzun.

Mme Durieux says that making a costume takes several weeks, but that it may be in the works for several years as she searches to find just the right fabric, notions and dolls to match her vision. Her studio contains stacks of research material. Her scrupulous attention to detail is also found in the museum, where visitors can cross-reference each costume’s history; the character and the process of creating the costume is cataloged on laminated cards alongside a binder containing historical context.

Fashions from the Belle Époque soon will be part of the collection
at le Musée de L’histoire du Costume.
Mme Durieux lived in Paris for 40 years where, she says, it was easier to research costumes in the city’s vast libraries. Surprisingly, she was not a seamstress by profession. Instead, her passion for creating costumes was sparked when she made clothes for her daughter’s dolls.

The petite models are, of course, an integral part of Mme Durieux’s collection. She scours vide greniers, estate sales and thrift shops, always on the lookout for just the right doll to match each costume. Additionally, she has received some dolls as gifts. She will change the wigs and style the hair as well as freshen “makeup.” Nearly all the dolls in her collection are adult women; there are a few younger girls, but no Y chromosomes here.

The first doll costume created by Mme. Durieux was
Tailleur Eté.
With more than 70 costumed dolls on display, it is uncanny how the faces match the historical figures that are portrayed. Especially impressive, a reenactment of the Franz-Xaver Winterhalter painting“L’Impératrice Eugéne et ses Dames du Palais.”

Display inspired by the Franz-Xaver Winterhalter painting
‘L’Impératrice Eugéne et ses Dames du Palais.’

Detail of costumed doll at le Musée de L’histoire du Costume

Le Musée de L’histoire du Costume is free and open all year round by appointment. To contact Mme Durieux, call or ask the Lauzun Tourist Office to schedule an appointment by calling or email Mme Durieux speaks only French, so the Lauzun Tourist office staff is happy to accompany English-speaking visitors to the museum.

Visitors to the museum can learn more about each costume via
Mme Durieux’s cataloging system.

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