Blog All blogpostsRSS

A Madame of Couture: Louise Chéruit

Since Charles Frederick Worth established his eponymous fashion house in 1858 and introduced the figure of the ‘couturier’ as it is known today, male dress-makers imposed their own idea of femininity over the female body. However, since the late nineteenth century, women’s started establishing prestigious couture houses that challenged those of their male colleagues. Among those, the couturiere Louise Chéruit.

The Chéruit atelier, directed by Louise Chéruit herself, occupied the hôtel de Fontpertuis in Place Vendôme, the same which would have been acquired by Elsa Schiaparelli in 1935. One of the most celebrated couturiers of her time, she was also one of the first supporters of Paul Poiret, whose sketches she bought in 1898.

Evening gown by Chéruit, ca. 1900. Courtesy Les Arts Décoratifs, all rights reserved.

Evening gown by Chéruit, ca. 1900. Courtesy Les Arts Décoratifs, all rights reserved.

Louise took over the seventeenth century hôtel de Fontpertuis in 1906, as a result of her and her sister Marie Huet increasing success inside the house of ‘Raudnitz & Cie’, which previously occupied the building. ‘Raudnitz & Cie’ was founded in the 1870s by Ernest Raudnitz and his sisters, who later directed the Maison when their brother left them in 1883 to open his own. There, Luoise and Marie trained themselves since the 1880s and saw, by 1900, their names sewn in the dresses labels of the maison. When they took it over, it counted one hundreed employees.

Woman in a dress by Chéruit, photo by Félix, ca. 1912. Courtesy Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, CC BY NC SA.

Woman in a dress by Chéruit, photo by Félix, ca. 1912. Courtesy Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, CC BY NC SA.

Remembered in Marcel Proust’s ‘À la Recherche du Temps Perdu’, as one of Parisian greatest couture houses, the creation of ‘Chéruit’ maintained a traditional femininity. In 1911, the maison also presented the ‘pannier gown’, inspired by the eighteenth century lines and volumes. In 1912, the press acclaimed Louise Chéruit, whose figure was drawn by the most fashionable artist of her time, among them her alledged lover Paul César Helleu, signed a collaboration which Lucien Vogel, which resulted in the prestigious fashion magazine ‘Le Gazette du Bon Ton’, a priviledged medium of promotion of French couture.

'La Fête Parisienne à New York' in 'Le Style Parisien', two afternoon dresses by Chéruit and one by Lanvin (in the middle), by Lucien Vogel, 1915. Courtesy Anna Russ, Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, CC BY NC SA.

'La Fête Parisienne à New York' in 'Le Style Parisien', two afternoon dresses by Chéruit and one by Lanvin (in the middle), by Lucien Vogel, 1915. Courtesy Anna Russ, Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, CC BY NC SA.

While the Maison ‘Chéruit’ continued its activity all through 1935, Louise Chéruit left the house in 1923, when her conservatist vision could not meet the needs of the exuberant flappers of the 1920s. The maison was acquired by Mesdames Wormser and Boulanger in 1915, after Luoise Chéruit incurred in a scandal which involved her lover, an Austrian noble and military officer, accused of being a German spy. The rumors, which also asserted that she would have been a spy herslef, impaired her celebrity, leading her to decline. Before closing in 1935, however, the maison was even mentioned in Evelyn Waugh’s bestseller ‘Vile Bodies’, published in 1930.

Discover the creations of Chéruit in the Europeana Fashion archive.

Leave a comment


6 − = 5