(Exhibition text in English, referring to a QR code in the exhibition)

Fashion for the Modern Woman

Name: Coco Chanel, born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel
Born: 1883 in Saumur, France
Died: 1971 in Paris

Creates a fashion empire and becomes a living legend in the fashion world.

Coco Chanel grows up in an orphanage belonging to the Aubazine convent. Her upbringing is strict, but she learns how to sew. She moves to Paris and in 1909 opens a milliner’s atelier and after that her first shop. The hats soon attract attention, being worn by several famous actresses. Coco Chanel expands her business selling clothes, jewellery and perfume and establishes her own fashion house – Chanel.

In 1921 she creates her first perfume, the world-famous Chanel No 5. In the 1920s she designs garments for the modern woman, some in the new ’nouvelle pauvre’ style. Including the ’little black dress’. Her approach to fashion is that garments should be comfortable and functional, preferably in easy-care materials such as jersey. She dresses herself in long trousers and creates feminine garments inspired by men’s suits. Coco Chanel is her own brand ambassador, completely in tune with the taste of the times – young, slim with short-cut hair, independent and modern.

“I was born curious”

Name: Siri Derkert
Born: 1888 in Stockholm
Died: 1973 Lidingö, Stockholm

Transgressional dressmaker and modernist artist.

Siri Derkert begins her artistic career at an early age and studies at the Althin School of Painting and the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm. She sets up a studio in Paris and travels to Algeria, England and Italy. Her style of painting develops into a cubist-influenced modernism.

Back in Stockholm, she stages a dance performance together with her sister Sonja Derkert, Märta Kuylenstierna and Anna Petrus. They design the costumes themselves and have them made them at the Birgitta School fashion studio. This leads to Siri receiving more commissions to design clothes for the Birgitta School. She creates clothes as part of her artistry. Elegant, but original and idiosyncratic garments.

During the 1920s, she also draws fashion illustrations for the magazines Idun and Bonniers Veckotidning.

Alongside her artistic endeavours, Siri Derkert later becomes politically active. As a single mother of three children, she considers peace, women’s rights and the environment to be important issues. She continues to create until her death and throughout her career she is politically and artistically progressive.

The Märtha School of Sewing

In 1927, a new school opens in Stockholm. It offers sewing classes for young women. It is named the Märtha School after Princess Märtha, the school’s patron. The enterprising Marg von Schwerin is one of the founders. One aim of the school is to teach young women to make their own high-quality clothes and to counteract the increasing Americanisation of the clothing industry. But the school also has a French atelier where you can order garments and buy French haute couture.

New Practical Tutorials

In the early 1920s, seamstress is the most common female profession after being a maid. Many seamstresses work in their own homes, sewing both to order and all of the family’s own clothes. There are a number of pattern magazines and books that offer patterns in the latest fashions, mainly for women and children.
1922 sees the publication of Jumpers, a handbook for making all kinds of knitted and crocheted garments by Elsa af Trolle and in 1923 Sew your own underwear, by Célie Brunius, I published. Both are part of the series of practical handbooks published by the magazine The Housewife’s.

T.H. Lapidus builds New Factory

A new large clothing factory is built in the 1920s in Borås. One of Sweden’s oldest clothing companies, T.H. Lapidus AB, is expanding. The family business was started at the end of the 19th century by the enterprising Taube Hanna Lapidus. They have their own production of clothing and woollen goods. The business grows and by the mid-1920s they have around 300 home seamstresses producing children’s and women’s clothing, knitted underwear and workwear.

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