Karen LaMonte’s Etudes draw inspiration from Théâtre de la Mode, a collaboration of fashion designers, ballet dancers and artists who created fashion mannequins in one-third life-size scale in Paris following World War II. Dressed in haute couture, these mannequins were staged in miniature theater sets with the objective of helping re-establish the French fashion houses and by extension, revitalize the French economy. The Etudes thus represent the sense of optimism and renewed hope that emerged as the shadow of the war’s horrors lifted. They also highlight some of the ways in which fashion, and ultimately the way it portrays women’s bodies, has mediated between art, society and commerce throughout history.
LaMonte’s Etudes are featured in an exhibition at the Barry Museum of Art at Old Dominion University, VA, on view through January 2, 2022. Positioned in custom-designed sets, LaMonte’s Etudes are juxtaposed with a selection of fashion mannequins from the original Théâtre de la Mode. To watch talks from the exhibition organizers and a walk-through with Karen LaMonte, click here.