Paris’ reputation as the center of brilliant elegance was the upshot of a long history of ruthless efforts to, if not obviate a critical mass of rustic obtuseness, at least circumvent it. Versailles and the chateaux of the Loire valley were, to a significant extent a, not very effective, attempt to place a cordon sanitaire between intentions of profane power (the aristocracy) and intentions of more stolid, pious power.
With the onset of the Industrial Revolution, economic wealth began to foster strivings for a Belle Epoque of increasingly gratifying comfort and excitement. Paris, then, became the scene of inventions to attract those intent on unprecedented wonders of sensual discovery. There, in particular, decorative activities of fashion design and graphic design promotion of such a metier caught fire.
These days, in Toronto, we have, in a ponderous chateau-facsimile, namely, the University of Toronto Robarts Library, an exhibit of the output of a major exponent of that Paris phenomenon.
Nestled within that odd monstrosity (looking like an armory for soldiers of fortune), there is the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, an amazingly apt scene of the pochoir and other print majesty of George Barbier (1882-1932).
The hand-colored lithographic configurations, deriving from the rather frail powerhouse that was Barbier, were characterized by panache and perfection of composition and color. Here the bearing of this costume translates into a virtual Firebird.
Barbier’s winning line of attack situated itself within the passion of his era, between 1910 and 1930, for sweeping lines and playful geometry—a predilection that came to be known as art deco.
Before partying close to the Alps, visit one of the great Paris furriers, for instance, Max and Leroy.