Better Dressed Than Barbie

Balenciaga, Schiaparelli, Nina Ricci, and Hermès are all names associated with French high fashion, but in 1944, each designer tried their hand at outfitting a much smaller client–a miniature wire mannequin measuring at just a third of the size of a real person. These dolls were made for the Theatre de la Mode, a Parisian traveling exhibition that was intended to champion the skill of French couture at a time when the industry had been hit hard by the war.

After their hugely popular 1945 world tour, the dolls sat in storage and were later acquired by the Maryhill Museum of Art in Washington. In 1990, the dolls were rediscovered and sent back to Paris to be restored and then re-showcased at the Musée de la ModeThe magic of these impeccably dressed dolls was captured by fashion photographer David Seidner, who gave each of the fashion dolls its own photo shoot for the book Theatre de la Mode. 


David Seidner, Jean Patou “Fleurs de Mal,” 1990 (2009.27.6)


David Seidner, Balenciaga1990 (2009.27.5)


David Seidner, Robert Piguet, Raphael, Pierre Balmain1990 (2009.27.1)

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2 Responses to Better Dressed Than Barbie

  1. bertie says:

    Thank you for posting this. I always enjoy David Seidner’s photography even though I am more of a documentary photographer myself.

  2. Jan Moran says:

    Excellent post! Enjoyed it very much!

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