Les doigts de pieds en éventail

eventail_6I had so hoped to see the Paris Haute Couture show at the Hôtel de Ville when I was in France recently, but no luck. The exhibit doesn’t just feature 100 beautiful dresses that span 150 years of French fashion history, it celebrates les petites mains that made those garments possible. Here are some of the specialty trades that contribute to haute couture:

  • brodeurs – embroiderers (La maison Lesage has been doing exquisite work since LesageEmbr1924.)
  • plumassiers – feather workers (There were 425 plumassiers in Paris 100 years ago; now there are only 3. Lemarié works with haute couture.)
  • teinturiers – dyers
  • tisseurs – weavers
  • bottiers – boot makers
  • orfèvres – gold smiths
  • plisseurs (calandreurs) – pleaters (Madame Grès’ plisseurs could gather a full width of fabric into just a few centimeters, creating exceptional draping and flow for her sculptural dresses.)
  • paruriers floraux – flower makers (La maison Guillet makes flowers for haute couture. Each one can take 3 – 12 hours to create and some gowns display 6,000 euros of flowers. Chanel’s iconic gardenias are an example.)
  • éventaillistes – fan makers

ballon%201Today’s expression, les doigts de pieds en éventail (lay dwa duh pea-ay ehn ay-vehn-tie), means “toes fanned out.” (The word for “toes” is literally “foot fingers,” which always makes me giggle. It refers to sitting with one’s feet propped up, totally relaxed. To be sure, les petites mains of haute couture are hard workers who don’t sit around with their feet up. Without them, there would be no haute couture.

61pXTeBZPfL__SL75_Paris Haute Couture

About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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2 Responses to Les doigts de pieds en éventail

  1. Thought of you last night — a friend and I went to hear designer Naeem Khan give a talk at Alliance Francaise in NYC, interviewed there by the head of the Paris textile/fashion museum. It was fascinating! He mentioned Lesage and said they embroider from below while Indian seamstresses embroider from above the cloth. The things one learns…

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