By  on December 8, 2008

PARIS — The fashions of the Second Empire are being revived and celebrated in an exhibition at the Musée Galliera here featuring the opulent and more sober dresses of the era.

The exhibit, “Under the Empire of Crinoline,” also highlights the rigid hooped petticoat that led a nation’s women into the forefront of fashion and into the classical portraits of Franz Xavier Winterhalter.

“It has been 35 years since such an exhibition has come together,” said Galliera curator Catherine Join-Dieterle. “Paris is the capital of luxury. This exhibition incorporates textiles and accessories, from the modest to the more bling-bling.”

There are more than 300 pieces on display that chart fashions from 1852 to 1870: ballgowns reflecting the lavish lifestyle of the well-heeled, daywear fit for ladies of leisure and illustrations of the garments worn and the craft of the dressmakers of the Second Empire.

“It was not simply about show,” said Join-Dieterle. “There is a very refined side to the fashions during the period of Napoleon III.”

Silhouettes move from rigid pinched waists and voluminous skirts to more modern, free-flowing gowns, but the exhibition underlines that, although fashions may change substantially, the preparation and care that is required for a woman’s wardrobe is ever present and always important.

The preserved 150-year-old garments will be on display until April 26, after which the Galliera will start to prepare for its fall exhibition on the glamour of the Fifties.

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