Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Haute couture

In June 2007 we visited the Château de Candé just outside the village of Monts, South of Tours. During previous visits of the region we had often driven past the castle, which always seemed closed to the public, but from the road we had caught glimpses of the elegant building. It sits on a low hill in the middle of a well-tended park with almost endeless green lawns and multi-centennial trees.

The château is mainly known because it hosted the wedding of the former English King Edward VIII and the American divorcée Wallis Simpson. To commemorate the 70th anniversary of this highly contested marriage, the ‘Département de l’Indre et Loire’ in 2007 organized a temporary exhibition dedicated to the event. It seemed like a unique opportunity to get a closer look at the castle. You can read all about our visit in one of my earliest posts.

2007: Feeling like Wallis Simpson ... but without the appropriate attire.

One of the highlights of the exhibition was the two dozen or so designer suits and gowns of Mrs. Simpson, who through her marriage with the former king became the Duchess of Windsor. They were on display in one of the rooms of the castle and you could just walk around them and even touch them. They were all by the greatest couturiers of the thirties, forties and fifties. The finest and most expensive fabrics had been used to produce these handmade clothes. Some were embroidered with beads and pearls. Most of them belonged to a private collector who had lent them out for the duration of the exhibition.

In a dressing room on the first floor matching shoes, handbags, gloves and copies of the Duchess’ famous jewels were on display in glass cases. It was impressive and yet depressing to see the wealth in which the couple lived in what can be considered as one of the darkest periods in history: the ante-bellum, the Second World War, the reconstruction of Europe and the Cold War.

In view of the great success of the temporary exhibition, the Département decided to acquire the collection. Since then, and in tourist season, the castle is now open 4 or 5 days per week.

Knowing that sewing and knitting are some of my friend B’s hobbies, I have included a visit of the Château de Candé in our 2010 program. When I told her about it, she immediately agreed. I felt a bit uneasy though, as I wasn’t quite sure that all the dresses would still be there. I therefore telephoned the castle last week to make some inquiries. The young lady, who answered my call, partially confirmed my fears. The owner of the gowns had agreed to sell part of the collection to the ‘Département’. Today only ten or so pieces are still on display and they are all behind glass.

Nevertheless, I’ve decided to leave Candé on our to-see list. We’ll probably go there on Thursday. But I’ll make sure to tell B. in advance about the reduced size of the collection and I will let her decide whether she thinks it’s still worth our while.

Although I like to watch fashion shows, I would never buy haute couture clothes (I can’t afford them anyway!). Some ‘creations’ are too weird for words. And they look so very uncomfortable, don’t they? I prefer a more casual attire. How about you?



Jean said...

For me, fashion has given way to comfort and practicality but I love fashion exhibitions.

I do often wonder if anyone ever wears the more outrageous designs for real or if they never get beyond the catwalk. You certainly don't see them in the places where I go !!

Last year I went to an exhibition of Vivienne Westwood's work and it was fabulous. In actual fact a lot of it was quite wearable, given the right occasion.

Nadege said...

My sister was a model. Clothes were made by hand, "sur mesures" for women who could afford it and it was "regular" clothes with gorgeous fabric. Nobody wears the catwalk designs.

ladybird said...

Jean, I think the catwalk designs end up in movies or maybe even 'freak shows' :)

Nadege, Wow, your sister was a model !? Did she do photo shoots too?

Nadege said...

My sister did few photo shoots but she was not a "top model". She worked for Pierre Cardin. 35 years ago, models were "workers", not superstars like they are now.