The Prints and Drawings Department is home to almost 55,000 items dating from the 18th century to the present day and includes prints, drawings, invoices and advertisements.
Situated at the crossroads between art and documentation, fashion drawing is a vital part of any understanding of fashion and its evolution.Whether from the hand of the couturier, the designer, a member of the studio personnel or the press illustrator – and whether it is an initial sketch or a studio drawing – the fashion drawing brings the design to light by putting it on paper. As a record of the creative process via couturiers' watercolours and sketches by famous couture personalities, it also served as a basis for publicity through engravings and the specialist press.
The first step in the process, drawings by creators, designers' maquettes and studio drawings loom large in the collection. At the industrial design level, for example, there are 199 examples of 18th-century embroidery designs for waistcoats and over 600 watercolours produced by Charles Pilatte for Madame Ghys. There are, too, the couture house drawings of Robert Piguet and Madeleine Vionnet, as well as those of Madeleine Panizon for Paul Poiret, Ara for Jenny and Michel Goma for Patou. 2012 was a special year for the Prints and Drawings Department: the patronage of the Pierre Bergé–Yves Saint-Laurent Foundation enabled the acquisition of 3000 drawings belonging to couturière Madame Grès, many of them by her own hand. Other remarkable collections include the archives of Boué Sœurs, Raphaël and Jacques Heim couture houses.
With regard to press illustrations – reproductions of creations made for the fashion papers – the Department can boast a group of 18 washes by Leclerc, Desrais and Saint-Aubin for the Galerie des Modes of 1780; and for the 19th century, 25 watercolours by Jules David, 25 by Héloïse Leloir and over a thousand pencil sketches by Anaïs Toudouze for La Mode Illustrée. These are accompanied by the work of the most famous illustrators of the 20th century, among them Paul Iribe, Georges Lepape, René Gruau, Christian Bérard, Bernard Blossac, René Bouët-Villaumez, Pierre Louchel, Pierre Pagès and Roger Rouffiange.
The department also composes of a large selection of engravings from the best-known fashion journals from the late 18th to the early 20th century, among them Le Journal des Dames et des Demoiselles, La Mode Illustrée, Le Moniteur de la Mode and L’Art et la Mode. Another outstanding feature of the collection is a stock of over 1000 invoices, advertisements and visiting cards from the different sectors of the fashion trade. Haberdashery is particularly well represented during the period 1780–1830, but there are also invoices from such leading couture houses as Paul Poiret and Lucien Lelong, famed couturières like Madame Roger, and novelty and department stores like Au Louvre and Le Printemps.