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Anyone looking to brush up on Paris’ fashion scene during the Seventies and Eighties should head to Les Arts Décoratifs, where the first installment of the museum’s new exhibition, “An Ideal History of Contemporary Fashion, Volume I,” opens today.

The show, which focuses on those two decades, was conceived by resident curator Olivier Saillard, who also authored the same-name tome on which the exhibition is based. Released in the fall, the book covers 120 of the most seminal collections since the Seventies, a decade that contributed significantly to the democratization of fashion.

This story first appeared in the April 1, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“A lot of visitors to the museum expect to see couture, but this was possibly one of the last moments when fashion was so close to the street, so wearable,” says Saillard, who uncovered a number of rare catwalk videos, which will be projected on screens.

Saillard’s semichronological tour of the time period kicks off with two pillars of the Seventies: Yves Saint Laurent and Issey Miyake. The show opens with Saint Laurent’s spring 1971 heart-splashed, Forties-inspired collection which, as a contemporary collection referencing the past, was considered scandalous by clients who had lived through the era, but was applauded by their daughters.

Next are pieces by Miyake, such as tattoo-printed bodysuits from 1976 — “long before Jean Paul Gaultier and Maison Martin Margiela did it,” Saillard notes. Unlikely Seventies’ protagonists such as Madame Grès, who filled the pages of Vogue at the time, are also included. “Fashion in the Seventies was actually quite simple and greatly influenced by the Thirties,” Saillard says.

Karl Lagerfeld’s Seventies crepe dresses for Chloé, inspired by belle epoque dancer Loie Fuller; Liberty looks by Cacharel, and vibrant gypsy-inspired pieces by Kenzo Takada (who Saillard says greatly influenced the decade’s folklore trend) are on show, too. In a video of one of Takada’s shows, Grace Jones, Jerry Hall and Pat Cleveland strut down the runway in what many considered to be the first big-scale production.

The Seventies close with a selection of Claude Montana pieces, loaned by Danielle Luquet de Saint Germain, who was one of the first redheaded models to walk for Saint Laurent and later became a Montana muse.

Upstairs in the exhibit, there is a twisted electric blue angel-wing gown by Thierry Mugler, part of his fall 1984 collection presented to the general public in the city’s Zenith stadium, live horses and all. Other Eighties highlights include a black dress with embroidered trompe l’oeil necklaces from Lagerfeld’s first couture collection for Chanel in spring 1983, the first corset dress by Jean Paul Gaultier in the early Eighties, and archive Comme des Garçons pastel organza looks.

On Nov. 25, the museum continues the exhibition series with “Ideal History of Contemporary Fashion, Volume II,” covering key collections from the Nineties through today.

“An Ideal History of Contemporary Fashion, Volume I” is at Musée Les Arts Décoratifs through Oct. 10. “Ideal History of Contemporary Fashion, Volume II” opens Nov. 25 and runs through May 11, 2011.

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