Stage dress worn by Sarah Bernhardt

  • Madame André Pernet bequest
  • Circa 1900
  • Figured silk textile with ecru satin base and floral motifs of gilded metal thread, lamé embroidery with gilded metal thread, glass beads and cabochons (red and imitating real pearls).
  • GAL1972.45.2
  • Palais Galliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris

The 'divine' tragedienne Sarah Bernhardt (1844–1923) set great store by her attire, for everyday wear or on stage. She was a customer of the top couturiers – Worth, Laferrière, Félix and especially Doucet – and her success did wonders for their reputations.

Her image hinged so much on her clothes that it is sometimes difficult, in photographs, to know if she is wearing items from her own wardrobe or stage costumes. Sometimes she composed her costumes herself, to the point of altering them to emphasize the slenderness of a body in frank contradiction with the fashion of the times. The Palais Galliera is fortunate to possess not only a number of rare items that actually belonged to her, but also two stage costumes, including this one dating from around 1900.

Intent on dazzling a public that saw her as the true Parisienne, Sarah Bernhardt often opted for extremely luxurious stage ensembles. Here the magnificence of the fabric and its ornamentation reminds us of the period's fondness for old and exotic textiles like Renaissance crushed velvet and oriental brocades. Its style can be seen as a reflection of her favourite stage parts, among them Theodora, Empress of Byzantium and Gismonda, widow of the Duke of Athens.

Notice's author : Alexandra Bosc