Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lanvin Robe de Style Savoir Faire

The 1920’s were an interesting times in Paris, especially where fashion was concerned. World War I had ended and the devastating effects of the Depression were a long way off. Paul Poiret, who had helped liberate women on the fashion stage, was on the way out and Chanel was in. le garcons ruled, with her shapeless body and shingled hair dancing the Charleston and drinking cocktails.

All the couturiers adopted this look, except one! The amazing Jeanne Lanvin, whose signature look was the “robe de style”. Other couture houses such as Callot Soeurs and Lucille had their own versions, however none were as successful as Lanvin’s. This was an alternative to the rather shapeless, straight cut chemise which was the height of fashion. Lanvin’s “robe de styles” were characterised by full skirts, with a dropped waist and fitted bodice. Petticoats, panniers and hoops emphasised the fullness of the skirts. These were then further embellished with intricate trimmings and extraordinary embroideries.

This was a look for a woman who did not have the figure to wear the tubular lines of the likes of Chanel or Patou. This was couture with an historical reference, harking back to the Infanta dresses of Spain. It was meant for afternoon teas, and tango dancing in the park; a kind of a cocktail, semi-formal ensemble. Lanvin made hundreds of variations on “the robe de style”; each one possesses its own unique charm.

Of course Lanvin produced fabulous outfits in keeping with the times and just did not limit herself the “robe de style”, however these stand apart to the savoir faire that Lanvin had.

The amazing thing is she never adopted the “robe de style” look for herself, but limited herself to discreet and simple outfits with minimal detail.


  1. Beautiful!
    Interesting to see how a fashion house can evolve in decades~

  2. The first dress is absolutely amazing! Although I do like the 3rd one too, it's more ballerina-like :D

  3. Your lovely post just reminded me of my always elegant mother. I remember her in her Lanvin dresses ... I wish she had kept them all!
    As always, a very elegant post. Thank you!

  4. I adore Lanvin's designs! The "robe de style" was a wonderfully romantic and whimsical counterpoint to the deco styles of the time.

    I will say though, that Poiret's "liberation" of women is a common misconception. He may have freed some women from the corset, but ultimately many women had to extend their corsets down to their hips to allow for the narrow skirts - the impact of his hobble skirt goes without saying. Brilliant designer, but not really a liberator of women.

  5. Then and now, Lanvin is always a favourite.

  6. Ricola, as a favourite of mine too!

    Cote, OMG don't you wish that she had kept them all!

    Spoiled, Such good taste you have!

    Nostalgia, You are so correct in your comments about Poiret!

    Jill, know a good seamstress?

    Lenore, they are aren't they?

  7. I've always been fascinated by Lanvin, and never really understood the "robes de style" until your explanation of them being a more elaborate, shapely dresses, contrasting with the straight flapper look the era was best known for. It makes sense, and I now have a better understanding.

    I like the image of the house...the Art Deco mother and daughter logo, the famous "bleu Lanvin", and the well known perfumes. I think that in the 50s and early 60s that Lanvin perfumes were as well known and prestigious as those of Chanel or Patou.

    Excellent observation that Jeanne Lanvin chose the simpler lines for herself. Isn't this always the case with designers? I see Ralph and Giorgio in t-shirts. And Marc Jacobs in nothing! Doesn't get simpler than that.


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