A Fantasy of Fashion: Articles of Interest #7

In the wake of World War II, the government of France commissioned its most prominent designers to create a collection of miniature fashion dolls. It might seem like an odd thing to fund, but the fantasy of high fashion inspired hope in postwar Paris. These dolls also forever changed the curator who discovered them almost 40 years later, in a strange museum perched on a cliff in rural Washington state.

[Content warning: This story contains mentions of disordered eating]

Left to right are a black wool cocktail suit by Marcel Dhorne with a black ciré toque with black ostrich feathers by Simone Cange; an apple green crepe dress with square neck by Mendel with a green felt hat by Nelly Levasseur; and a cocktail dress in black silk faille and black point d’esprit by Agnès Drecoll. All 1945–46 and 27” tall [Photo Credit: Collection of Maryhill Museum of Art]
Théâtre de la Mode: “La Grotto Enchantée” (The Enchanted Grotto), original 1946 fashions and mannequins from a décor by André Beaurepaire (recreated c. 1990 by Anne Surgers) [Photo Credit: Collection of Maryhill Museum of Art]

Articles of Interest is a limited-run podcast series about fashion, housed inside the design and architecture podcast 99% Invisible. Launched in 2018, the show encourages people to rethink the way we look at what we wear and what it says about us.

This second season of Articles of Interest features six interlocking episodes examining luxury and our collectively held ideas of glamour across the United States, from Chicago to Canal Street. Think of it like a podcast concept album, with recurring themes and threads that examine the ways we signal success and authenticity in America.

Articles of Interest was written and performed by Avery Trufelman, who spoke with Linda Tesner, Melissa Leventonand Anna Goodwin for this episode. This season was edited by Chris Berube, scored by Rhae Royal and Sean Real, fact-checked by Tom Colligan and Graham Hacia; mix and tech production by Sharif Youssef with additional mixing by Katherine Rae Mondo; opening and closing songs by Sasami; photography by Austin Hobart and graphic design by Helen Tseng.

Special thanks to the whole 99pi team for support, insights, and edits, including Joe Rosenberg, Emmett FitzGerald, Vivian Le, Lasha Madan, Kurt Kohlstedt, Delaney Hall, and Katie Mingle. And Roman Mars is the true fantasy of this whole series.

Coat and dress ensemble by Alex, hat by Maude & Nano, and coiffure by Georgius; c. 1946, 27” tall, from Jean Saint-Martin’s “Croquis de Paris” (Paris Sketch) décor; Collection of Maryhill Museum of Art
  1. Betty J Long-Schleif

    Thank you for this interesting program from a particular point of view. Linda hired me as Collections manager/Registrar in 1988 to catalog and prepare the TDLM mannequins to travel to Paris for restoration and curation. For the next 22 years I accompanied and installed them in many venues in the U.S, Japan, Britain and Spain.

    They were a fascinating collection that appealed to such a wide audience, not just Fashionistas. You did not mention the incredible sets that they are exhibited in. Although only 9 of the original 12 sets were recreated in 1989/90 they were done with great detail paying homage to the original designers.

    I had the privilege of working with many fashion historians and researchers who were interested in the collection. Like Anna I managed all of the art collections in the museum but the Theatre de la Mode will always hold a special place in my heart. I retired in 2010 and going back to Maryhill Museum is like revisiting old friends.

  2. Kim nichols

    I’ve been to Maryhill several times. Theatre de la Mode is a sight to behold, from the manikins with the exquisite clothing to the teeny tiny purses and shoes. The museum itself is breathtaking to come upon sitting out in the middle of nowhere and perched directly above the mighty Columbia. It’s worth a trip!

  3. Sara J Tarr

    I looove love love the mannequins and the Maryhill Museum. It’s the only place I have sat with a glass of wine on the terrace above the Columbia River and had the wind blow the wine right out of the glass…strong winds and beautiful view. There is a very interesting connection to the royalty of Romania with clothing and furniture from the queen. In the lowest floor is one of the better Indian basket collections I have seen. Worth the trip!

  4. CTB

    Loved this episode so much! Former fashion design student at F.I.T. in NYC ’79-’81. Thank you sincerely for making this series. Wishing I could see these in person – maybe one day…

  5. This was fascinating – I work for Leeds Museums and Galleries and squeaked out loud when Leeds was mentioned as a place where the exhibition toured to. We’re going to have a look in our archives to see if we have anything from it.

    Love this podcast, never ceases to inform, entertain and surprise. Thank you!

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