Grand Masters of Haute Couture: A Six-Part Course with Estela Mendes - Context Travel

Grand Masters of Haute Couture: A Six-Part Course with Estela Mendes


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This course will introduce the Couturiers or elite dressmakers who changed fashion history with the advent of Haute Couture. From seventeenth-century France and the court of Louis XIV to Charles Frederick Worth’s first fashion shows in the 1850s, we will trace the evolution of the fashion industry in France and its current role on the global stage.

By combining traditional dressmaking skills with innovative methods and materials, the designers we will study created the fashion industry as we know it today: they are the makers of our fashion fantasies. We will start with the historical roots of the idea of Haute Couture and then trace the personal trajectories of the creators themselves. We will follow the evolution of French Haute Couture through the last century focusing on couturiers who changed silhouettes, introduced new cuts and materials, or innovated the entire Haute Couture Business.

Lecture 1: History of Haute Couture

Our first lecture will focus on the establishment of France as the epicentre of international fashion. We will learn about Louis XIV’s political and economic contributions to the French fashion industry, how dress codes were established at court and how the fashion industry became one of the greatest sources of wealth for France. We will discover how Haute Couture became an established industry in the late nineteenth century with the creation of Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture.

Lecture 2: Pioneers

In this lecture we will learn about Charles Fredrick Worth, recognized as the creator of Haute Couture as we know it today. We will analyze how Worth’s establishment of a Couture House with seasonal collections opened the door for other couturiers to market and distribute fashion creations more widely than ever before. Paul Poiret was another pioneer, breaking with traditions, removing corsets and petticoats, and introducing trousers to traditional women's wear. Jeanne Lanvin pioneered the business of Haute Couture creating collections for children and men's wear in the same haute couture format. This couturier expanded her brand into interior design and created her own signature colour, the Lanvin Blue.

Lecture 3: Women for Women

In this third lecture, we will cover three women couturiers that changed the course of fashion for women. Coco Chanel, Madeleine Vionnet, and Madame Grès understood the needs of modern women and took the lead in dictating women's fashion trends. Coco Chanel defined 'chic' with her modern, signature style. Madeleine Vionnet introduced the bias cut which influenced 1930s fashion and a new regard for the natural form of the female body. Madame Grès connected art and fashion and transformed women into classical goddesses with her unique creations.

Lecture 4: From Extravagance to the New French Style

Elsa Schiaparelli brought new textiles and an element of fun never seen before in the history of fashion by merging surrealism with fashion. Mainbocher, the first American couturier, created one of the most important Couture houses of the 1930s, and introduced the wasp waist with corsets eight years before Christian Dior's ‘New Look’. Pierre Balmain, known as the architect of fashion, focused on elaborate construction instead of overly decorated creations. Balmain changed the silhouette with a very small waist and a full skirt. With Balmain the ‘New French Style’ is born.

Lecture 5: The Age of Glamour

Christian Dior, Cristóbal Balenciaga and Hubert de Givenchy defined the Age of Glamour of Haute Couture in the 1950s. With very distinct careers, each introduced complex and innovative creations. Christian Dior's 'New Look' defined the look of the 1950s with the small waist and big skirt and was copied by mainstream fashion all over the world. Cristóbal Balenciaga arrived in Paris in the late 1930s as an established couturier with a twenty-year career. His pursuit for new designs continued to grow, turning him into one of the most inventive fashion creators in the entire history of fashion. His 1950s and 1960s creations changed silhouettes. Balenciaga was inspired by ecclesiastic garments and Spanish art. Recognizing the genius of Balenciaga, Hubert de Givenchy studied the master and played with volumes and silhouettes. Givenchy became the darling couturier of the stars, his collaboration with film immortalized his work.

Lecture 6: Les Enfants Terribles

In the last lecture we will look into the creations of Yves Saint Laurent and Jean Paul Gaultier. The two enfants terribles of Haute Couture. They revolutionized the well behaved industry of Haute Couture by introducing extravagance, sexuality and defiance. Yves Saint Laurent started his career with Dior as the prodigy successor but soon fell out of grace with the big fashion house. His independent couture house brought a new approach, catering to a sexy and independent woman. Yves Saint Laurent understood the changes in 1960s and 1970s society and created a ready-to-wear line, Rive Gauche, anticipating the decline of the Haute Couture business. Jean-Paul Gaultier is the last generation of Haute Couture. He brings irreverence, extravagance and youth to Haute Couture. Starting his career in the 1970s, it is in the 1990's that Gaultier receives his acclamation as one of the most important couturiers.

Estela Mendes is an art historian with a MA in Museum Studies. Her research background is in Costume Design. Born and raised in Lisbon, she has been teaching about the beauty of the world for the past 15 years. After working in national palaces in Portugal, Estela moved to London where she spent 5 years working at museums like Buckingham Palace, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the British Museum, and the National Portrait Gallery, where she has delivered gallery talks focusing on Fashion. In Portugal she created a company of Costume Hiring and Historical Re-enactments working with Museums, Opera Companies, Theatre, and Film.

How does it work?

This is a six-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

Is there a reading list in advance?

Though the course is open to participants with no background on this topic, there are suggested readings for further investigation. You will receive this soon after course registration.

How long are the lectures?

Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.

How much is the course?

The course is $210 for six lectures.

Is a recording available?

Yes. If you need to miss a lecture, you will be sent a recording after the event.

This course is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

Based on 12 reviews
100%
(12)
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0%
(0)
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A
Anonymous (Santa Monica, US)
Excellent!!

The seminar was as great as all the others that Estela has done

D
DANIELA NICOLI LOUBERE (Nice, FR)
Passion & Exuberance

Estela continues to dazzle with her passion and exuberance in this 4th episode of Grande Masters of Haute Couture. Her meticulously prepared lectures, supported by wonderful photos and video clip continue to be interesting and inspiring. Estela so obviously loves and intimately knows her subjet that one is easily caught up in her enjoyment and enthusiasm. Even after her hour lecture, Estela has the energy to answer a wide range of questions which only show how deeply she knows and loves fashion. Her course is pure joy.

J
Jo (Pittsburgh, US)
Fascinating Fashion

I am always pleased with Ms Mendes' presentations and this course has proven to be no exception. I thought I knew a fair amount about haute couture, but this course has shown me that I have barely scratched the surface. What I like best is the way in which Estela weaves history, biography, business analysis, and artistry together and then ties it up in a glorious pink bow to give you a full concept of haute couture. The glamour is front and center, but the curtain is also drawn back to show the hard work and gritty business side of an industry that I find fascinating. I can't recommend this course highly enough.

N
Not Answered (Winter Park, US)

Guest did not leave comment

C
Cynthia Chaplin (Toronto, CA)
So enjoyable!

I've now participated in two of the six seminars by Estela Mendes. They have been wonderful: packed with so much information and wonderful visuals - all delivered by Estela with such panache. She is engaged and engaging - everything you could want in a teacher. Thanks!

Customer Reviews

Based on 12 reviews
100%
(12)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
A
Anonymous (Santa Monica, US)
Excellent!!

The seminar was as great as all the others that Estela has done

D
DANIELA NICOLI LOUBERE (Nice, FR)
Passion & Exuberance

Estela continues to dazzle with her passion and exuberance in this 4th episode of Grande Masters of Haute Couture. Her meticulously prepared lectures, supported by wonderful photos and video clip continue to be interesting and inspiring. Estela so obviously loves and intimately knows her subjet that one is easily caught up in her enjoyment and enthusiasm. Even after her hour lecture, Estela has the energy to answer a wide range of questions which only show how deeply she knows and loves fashion. Her course is pure joy.

J
Jo (Pittsburgh, US)
Fascinating Fashion

I am always pleased with Ms Mendes' presentations and this course has proven to be no exception. I thought I knew a fair amount about haute couture, but this course has shown me that I have barely scratched the surface. What I like best is the way in which Estela weaves history, biography, business analysis, and artistry together and then ties it up in a glorious pink bow to give you a full concept of haute couture. The glamour is front and center, but the curtain is also drawn back to show the hard work and gritty business side of an industry that I find fascinating. I can't recommend this course highly enough.

N
Not Answered (Winter Park, US)

Guest did not leave comment

C
Cynthia Chaplin (Toronto, CA)
So enjoyable!

I've now participated in two of the six seminars by Estela Mendes. They have been wonderful: packed with so much information and wonderful visuals - all delivered by Estela with such panache. She is engaged and engaging - everything you could want in a teacher. Thanks!