European Fashion Heritage Association

Journal EFHA World

Meeting Fashion Heritage: Palais Galliera

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Meet the latest addition to our network of museums and institutions championing fashion heritage

The Palais Galliera was built by Paul-René-Léon Ginain at the request of Marie Brignole-Sale, Duchess of Galliera, to house her extensive art collection. This highly cultured woman’s desire to make paintings, sculptures and objets d’art available to as many people as possible was the driving force behind the commission.

Construction of the Palais began in May 1879 and was completed in February 1894. The building, though freely inspired by classical and Renaissance architecture, is nevertheless technically very much of its time. After years of various uses, the Palais turned consecutively into a museum of industrial art, a Salon for Painters typical of the period and an auction house. It was in 1977, when the city’s collections were transferred to the Palais Galliera, that the Palais Galliera became the great museum of Fashion and Costume.

Since its renovation in 2013, the Musée de la Mode de Paris has become the absolute reference point for amateurs of the subject. The collections, with more than 200,000 garments, accessories, photographs, drawings, illustrations and prints, are among the most comprehensive in the world. The textile pieces reflect French dress conventions and clothing habits from the eighteenth century to the present day. Whether extravagant or precious, plain or everyday, the pieces reflect the creative genius of fashion – up to and including its latest and most contemporary manifestations. The museum has historically presented objects from its priceless albeit fragile collections exclusively through a programme of temporary exhibitions.

These exhibitions were either monographic (e.g. Givenchy, Fath, Carven, Castelbajac, Grès, Alaïa, Jeanne Lanvin, Fortuny, Martin Margiela) or thematic (e.g. The History of Jeans, Japonisme in Fashion, Fashion and Gardens, The Roaring Twenties, Sous l’Empire des Crinolines, The 1950s) and they attracted an ever-increasing number of visitors. In order to provide a wider and more satisfying experience for the public, the museum found a way of doubling its exhibition space by transforming the basement level into new galleries.

By combining the two levels it will now be possible to host large-scale temporary exhibitions or to present the permanent collection – periodically renewing it due to the fragility of the pieces – so that the visitor is presented with a fascinating history of fashion from the 18th century to the present day.

In 2020, the museum reopened with an ambitous exhibition dedicated to Gabrielle Chanel, “Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto” and the first presentation of the Palais Galliera collections, a turning point in the museum’s history.

Miren Arzalluz, director of the Palais Galliera since 2018, is the driving force behind thematic exhibitions that engage and resonate with contemporary social issues such as “Frida Kahlo, beyond appearances”, « A history of fashion at the Palais Galliera » and “Fashion in Motion”.