The Folies Bergere is a Parisian music hall which was at the height of its fame and popularity from the 1890s through the 1920s.
Built as an opera house by the architect Plumeret, it was patterned after the Alhambra music hall in London.
Opening on the 2nd May 1869 as the 'Folies Trevise', its acts included operettas, comic opera, popular songs, and gymnastics.
The Folies Bergere catered to popular taste. Shows featured elaborate costumes - the women's were frequently revealing, and shows often contained a good deal of nudity. Shows also played up the "exoticness" of other cultures, obliging the Parisian fascination with the negritude of the 1920s.
Some notable performers included the American dancer Loie Fuller who, in the early 1890s, starred at the Folies Bergere. Nearly thirty years later, in 1926, Josephine Baker, an African-American expatriate singer, dancer, and entertainer, became an overnight sensation at the Folies Bergere with her suggestive "banana dance", in which she wore a skirt made of bananas and little else.
French fashion designer Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, best known as the creator of the "little black dress" was born today (19th August) in 1883.
Style was everything to Coco. Her avant-garde tastes and defiance of social conventions transformed the fashion world. She invented modern clothing for women - at the height of the Belle Epoque, she stripped women of their corsets and feathers, bobbed their hair, put them in bathing suits, and sent them out to get tanned in the sun. She introduced slacks, costume jewellery, and the exquisitely comfortable suit. She made the first couture perfume, Chanel No. 5, which remains the most popular scent ever created.
Her designs borrowed heavily from men's clothing, belting their jackets and sweaters and pairing them with skirts to make comfortable suits for working women. She pioneered pants as evening wear for women and invented clothing that could be worn during the day and into the night. A crisp white collar was a common element in her designs. She decorated her unstructured Jersey knits with pearl necklaces and faux jewels and furs so that, despite their comfort, her clothes were always luxurious. As her design empire and fame grew, so did Coco's social circle. Igor Stravinsky, the Duke of Westminster, Salvador Dali, and Jean Cocteau numbered among her most intimate friends, while Princess Grace and countless Hollywood stars and European royalty were devoted to her clothes.
'In 1917 Gaby Deslys returned to France with a golden legend of royal amours, prodigous wealth - and jazz. A native of Marseilles, she brought back from New York millions of jewels - a living embodiment of the new-style Music-Hall in both old and new worlds.
Gaby also introduced the jazz-band to Paris. Its instruments ranged from saxphones to revolver shots. And for the first time a music-hall actress appeared on stage, smothered in plumes and feathers, bejewelled like a queen, performing dances 'of an almost insane ferocity'...the tone of modern music-hall was set and peole welcomed it as a long-awaited release from the old theatrical conventions.'
Excerpts from 'Les Folies du Music-Hall' by Jacques Damase. Accompanied by restored & coloured photos from our collection. Click on pics above to view more.
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