On the bill

Déshabillez-moi ! Pop and song costumes

October 15, 2016 - March 5, 2017

In 2016, The National Center for Stage Costumes celebrates its tenth anniversary. It will conclude its festivities with an exceptional exhibition, "Déshabillez-moi! Pop and song costumes".

L'exposition en images

The CNCS stages 100 years of “chansons”, or songs, through its most emblematic costumes: from Mistinguett’s rhinestone gowns to Renaud’s black leather jacket and bandana, to the Frères Jacques’ leotards and hats by Jean-Denis Malclès, to Johnny Halliday’s, Edith Piaf’s, Barbara’s and Alain Bashung’s black outfits, to the little Carven dresses worn and sung by Jacqueline François, to Joséphine Baker’s banana skirt or Etienne Daho’s and the Brigitte musical duo’s golden outfits, not to mention Couture creations that On Aura Tout Vu, Jean Paul Gaultier or Frank Sorbier have designed for French and international pop artists.

« First and foremost, costume is a conquest. That of visibility. To step out of the shade and appear under the spotlights, music-hall stars, yéyé idols, disco celebrities, pop music legends, rock ’n’ roll heroes, rap artists, and the popes of electro wear outfits differentiating them from ordinary mortals at first glance. More or less spectacular, their scenic metamorphoses aim at making their music visible in order to give it an image and a body. Far from being secondary, appearance is therefore a constitutive element of the musical expression, a bridge between the public and the artist. 

Costume reveals the very foundation of popular music: a music that is much more than music. Created by all and for all, popular music is straightforwardly connected to our lives. It fits our components and contradictions. It is both juvenile and intergenerational, immediate and yet a-temporal, conformist and yet rebel, traditional and yet innovative. Multiform and adjustable upon request, musician costumes perfectly embody these contradictory élans. 

That this show bears the title: “Déshabillez-moi !” or “Undress me !” underlines its ambition: to expose costumes and show them bare. Orphans of their owners, pop and song costumes reveal their magnetic solitude and physical materiality. The museum allows the visitors to focus beyond the musical scope to directly experience and exceptionally confront original objects belonging, or having belonged, to the most emblematic personalities of the musical stage. »

Stéphane MALFETTES,
Director of the Auditorium of the Louvre and Curator of the Exhibition

As soon as the visitor enters the exhibition, he or she is immersed into a musical universe thanks to a display of fans’ memorabilia (posters, autographs, souvenirs gleaned during a concert…) and cult objects belonging to “popular mythologies” (Joséphine Baker’s banana skirt, Maurice Chevalier’s straw hat, Renaud’s bandana…). Then, while walking through thirteen rich thematic rooms, the visitor leaves the music-hall era (Mistinguett, Maurice Chevalier, Les Frères Jacques…) to venture into the world of pop opera. One room focuses on “Pop Couture” with creations by Jean Paul Gaultier, Alexandre Vauthier, Thierry Mugler and On Aura Tout Vu that Beyoncé, Madonna, Conchita Wurst, Lylie Minogue, and Lady Gaga have worn. As witnessed by Edith Piaf’s and Barbara’s dresses and the advent of black leather jackets, black outfits are also highly prized by artists. Across this showcase, the “golden legends” glitter in all their glory thanks to Etienne Daho’s, the Brigitte musical duo’s and Maître Gims’ shiny golden outfits. The journey ends with a room entirely dedicated to a major artist from the contemporary French scene: Matthieu Chedid and his exuberant stage iconic double “M”, a type of extraverti super-hero, whose contrasting hairdo, customized glasses and multicolored suits are immediately recognizable.

French singers and pop music artists belong to a particular category of performing arts. Combining stage specificities and aesthetic choices, their costumes fully partake in the fabrication of their character. Sometimes it blends with the artist’s persona and becomes a means of identification for the public. In some instances, it even becomes a mythical object. After contemporary dance, the circus, the opera and the theatre, the National Center for Stage Costumes explores another form of performing arts to highlight the connections between singers, costumes and image, as well as the reciprocal influence, between fashion and music.

This genre of performing art is present at the CNCS, notably with the donation of gowns belonging to Jacqueline François (1922-2009), a singer who embodied French Chanson with chic and elegance from 1945 to 1965. Used to wear Carven Haute Couture on or off stage, she praised his dresses in Mademoiselle de Paris, a 1949 song. Relying on this set of costumes now part of the CNCS’s permanent collection, the museum wanted to pay homage not only to singers, but to the close bond the latter feel for their stage costumes..

Commissariat de l’exposition et direction artistique

Delphine Pinasa

Delphine Pinasa, is director and curator of the CNCS. This art historian specialized in stage costumes was delegate director of the CNCS from 2005, she worked for the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Ministry of Culture and Communication, then the National Opera of...

Delphine Pinasa, is director and curator of the CNCS. This art historian specialized in stage costumes was delegate director of the CNCS from 2005, she worked for the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Ministry of Culture and Communication, then the National Opera of Paris, where was notably in charge of the museographical collection of costumes, then head of the Costume Heritage Department of this theatre from 2001. Delphine Pinasa has been curator for a number of exhibitions in France and abroad and has published several books relating to these exhibitions and the history of stage costumes. 

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Stéphane Malfettes

Stéphane Malfettes is director of the auditorium of the Musée du Louvre, author (Art Press, Mouvement, special editions for Les Inrockuptibles) and co-founder of SuperTalk, a conference company. He is also curator of several exhibitions devoted to contemporary arts and popular music:...

Stéphane Malfettes is director of the auditorium of the Musée du Louvre, author (Art Press, Mouvement, special editions for Les Inrockuptibles) and co-founder of SuperTalk, a conference company. He is also curator of several exhibitions devoted to contemporary arts and popular music: "Mythomania" (2014) and “Fan attitudes. Adoring images” (2013) at 106 in Rouen (France). His book American Rock Trip (ed. Zones Sensibles, 2012) explores how American civilization constitutes a cultural heritage all its own with rock, blues, soul, and country music museums.

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Bernard Connan

Costume designer and maker, Bernard Connan has worked in a wide variety of theatres since 1987. In 1993, he joined the costume decoration workshop at the National Opera of Paris. Over the last few years he has begun a career as exhibition scenographer. He was exhibition scenographer for «...

Costume designer and maker, Bernard Connan has worked in a wide variety of theatres since 1987. In 1993, he joined the costume decoration workshop at the National Opera of Paris. Over the last few years he has begun a career as exhibition scenographer. He was exhibition scenographer for « Opéra côté Mozart » at the Centre culturel de Boulogne-Billancourt in 2006.

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