The Collection Brings the Couture, Literally!

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The Collection (2017) is an Amazon series that should be right up most Frock Flicks fans’ alley — it’s set in a just-post-World-War-II haute couture fashion house. The year is 1947, and brothers Paul and Claude Sabine are struggling to keep their couture atelier afloat, when the opportunity arises to take the lead in returning Paris to its central role in the fashion world. Also in the mix are the employees and clients of the fashion house, most notably young, troubled seamstress Nina, and the brothers’ family, like Paul’s American wife Helen (played by Mamie Gummer, daughter of Meryl Streep).

So far, I’ve only caught two episodes, but what I saw, I enjoyed! It’s a British production, so the accents threw me a little — specifically Paul’s (Richard Coyle) English accent that was more working class than most of the other cast (I spent a good part of the first episode thinking, “Is he supposed to be FRENCH?” Which, yes).

The characters and stories that are being set up are interesting: Paul is the determined brains behind the business, Claude is the artistic genius, but their lives are complicated by some currently-unspecified-wartime-misdeeds on Paul’s part, and the fact that Claude is gay in an era where that Wasn’t Done. Their mother, Yvette (played by the fabulous Frances de la Tour), is a strong force in both of their lives. Meanwhile, young seamstress Nina has some skeletons in her closet that she is wrestling, plus she is being pursued by eager American photographer Billy for both artistic and amorous purposes. And there are other interesting characters who are clearly going to be developed.

I would like to see a bit more of the design/making process, but of course, that’s because I’m a sewer myself. There’s been a bit of it, most especially when designer Claude has a medication-induced dream in which he imagines his next collection — but not much in the way of sewing. Yet? I’m hopeful!

But let’s get to the important stuff, eh?

 

Costumes in The Collection

The costume designers are a French team who go by Chattoune + Fab, both of whom also designed Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (2009). The two told The Telegraph that they wanted to show the specifics of post-war fashion, avoiding the 1940s/1950s dichotomy and instead focusing specifically on 1947 — but avoiding making direct references to famed fashion designer Christian Dior (Inside The Collection, possibly the most glamorous series on TV).

The I-think-translated-from-Dutch-language-and-not-very-well site Hoholok.com has a detailed interview with the two, where they talk about balancing accuracy with the dreaded need-to-connect-with-a-contemporary-audience (all weird wordings are from this site, not typos!):

“We are both, however, if not historically accurate. We try to be as good as possible in the spirit of the time, but we are, of course, not in 1947, and have other materials, tools, and bodies available. The drawings are based on drawings from that time. We are in the archives of Palais Galliera, the modebibliotheek in Paris, go, go. For days we have all the fashion magazines from the forties studied. Was delicious that. The New Look of Christian Dior saw that year was born, and that is nicely documented in these archives… [Creator] Oliver [Goldstick] wanted to, of course, also that the clothes the contemporary audience. So not only we tried historically accurate, we also tried looks to create that contemporary feel. The old and the new combine to a certain degree of recognition. We want the public surprised about the beautiful haute couture. Fortunately, the New Look continued to be popular. Oliver is American, and you can see that the aesthetics of the show. Everything is a bit over the top. Because it’s a television show, and not real life, everything just got a little bigger, heavier and overdadiger’” (In the costume department of the television drama The Collection).

In general, I like what I’ve seen on screen! They’re definitely bringing the glamour, showing class and character differences, and hitting that just-post-war, just-barely-New-Look style of the late 1940s:

The Collection (2016)

The guys are, of course, in suits, but there’s some good details here — notice how the lapels on the suits are wider than your typical WWII look, but not yet super-wide 1950s.

The Collection (2016)

And hey, ain’t nothing like a gent in a well-fitted suit.

The Collection (2016)

Brash young American photographer Billy is all bohemian layers, but would he really get away without wearing a hat as much as he does?

The Collection (2016)

Claude, the artistic genius who is gay to boot, is all bohemian French (although that hair had better be just-out-of-bed if it’s going to pass for 1940s!).

The Collection (2016)

Mother Yvette (right) is all 1930s overdone glamour — big furs, short curly Jean Harlow hair. I’m thinking this family must be new money? Meanwhile Paul’s wife Helen (left) is lovely but much more current and much more proper-wife with her pearls and gloves.

The Collection (2016)

Yes, this is maman’s daytime makeup!

The Collection (2016)

The seamstresses mostly wear aprons and work coats, but there’s a nice range of hairstyles. I’m also glad to see historically accurate inclusion of at least one person of color!

The Collection (2016)

Ingenue Nina’s first go at modeling. She’s all tousled innocence!

The Collection (2016)

But Nina (left) is clearly going to become the poster child for the house’s new, sophisticated post-war look!

The Collection (2016)

The range of featured characters, including two models up on the ladder.

The Collection (2016)

The purple dress is from last year’s collection, but it’s still gorgeous!

The Collection (2016)

Meanwhile this amaze-balls sailor-suit-inspired look came out of Claude’s fever dream.

 

Have you caught The Collection yet? How well do you think they captured Parisian fashion in 1947?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

13 Responses

      • Daniel Milford-Cottam

        Hope you don’t mind if I point out a few more nods and parallels as/if I spot them! I really want to see this now, it looks so good and actually quite well done.

        Reply
  1. Christina LaBonte

    I caught this the other week and quickly came here to search to see what you all thought of it. It’s a great show, so glad you are reviewing it!

    Reply
  2. Susan Pola

    Dior and Charles James look very much so, but very gorgeous. I haven’t seen it yet, but hopefully I can find a DVD of it since I don’t have Amazon. Hopefully, more persons of colour will show up. Josephine Baker, American-French singer/resistance member/Legion d’Honneur recipient still was in Paris at the time…

    Reply
  3. LadySlippers

    That purple dress…..is sublime.
    I think I’m in love.😍

    I’ll need to watch this because the costumes do appear to be works of art. Fantastique! 💖

    Reply
  4. Kris

    This reminds me of the Masterpiece Theatre series “The House of Elliott” abt 2 sisters but in late teens early 20’s in London! That ran for 2 seasons and I have on vhs tape!! That had Fabulous Clothing 😃
    Will watch this – thx for the heads up!

    Reply
  5. Kathleen Norvell

    Our local PBS stations are showing this on “Masterpiece” Sunday nights. Check your TV schedules.

    Reply

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