Updated: Mar 9, 2022
1927 Bal De La Couture poster. I love this design. I got a real kick out of producing it, and it was one that, as an illustration, just fell nicely into place.
The lines and the composition flowed beautifully in the original sketch. I am not for one moment (Heaven forbid!) suggesting that this process was easy, as there was a great deal of research went in before committing to the design. But once the concept was developed the image almost designed itself. The viewer’s eye is drawn to the girl’s face (whose gaze follows you around the room) and then it circles that area for a while following the line of the hat before being led down to the text by the broad line of the gentleman’s white scarf. The girl is clearly the star of the show and the silhouetted figure of the gentleman is very much in a supporting role. I am also pleased with the fact that there is something a little enigmatic in the expression on the girl’s face. We cannot quite tell if she is happy to be on the arm of the doubtless wealthy but shadowy gentleman. Is that expression one of comfortable contentment or is it perhaps a trifle uneasy?
Lights from a Toulouse-Lautrec poster from 1891 of the dancer La Goulue at the Moulin Rouge, shown on the left. (“If you’re going to steal, steal from the best.” Who said that, I wonder?) ‘La Goulue’ (meaning, would you believe, ‘The Glutton’, real name Louise Weber) was the most famous quadrille dancer of her day and a regular performer at The Moulin Rouge, The Moulin de la Galette and other famous Parisian venues of the time, with her dancing partner Valentin-le-Décossé (seen in the foreground).
I did play around with the lettering for quite a while before I felt that it was right, and the typestyle shown on the poster now is the second complete version. The lettering is hand drawn, unique to me, although based on existing type styles of the period.
The text is taken from an original Bal De La Couture poster of 1925 (designed by the great illustrator George Lepape) published two years earlier than the date featured in my design, so the details are correct. Note the price of admission: 100 francs, approximately 200 Euros in today’s money*, so the ticket price must have pretty much guaranteed to the guests that they were unlikely to be rubbing shoulders with any of the Parisian riff-raff once they stepped inside the Theatre des Champs-Elysees.
The magnificent art deco structure of the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, opened in 1913 as a venue for contemporary music, dance and opera, in contrast to the more conservative Paris Opera. In its first season it hosted the Ballet Russe’s staging the world premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring on May 29th, an event which became notorious for the ensuing riot amongst the audience.
A revival of the fashion ball has, since the early 1990s, been combined with the tradition of the debutants ball by Ophélie Renouard as Le Bal des Débutantes, in which the daughters of celebrities, aristocrats, artists, politicians and other wealthy influencers are dressed by haute couture and couture fashion houses in order to promote their reputations and products. This event was first held in 1992 at the Hotel de Crillon in Paris, which continues to serve as the venue to this day.
* 100 French franc [1795-1960] in year 1927 could buy 5.929687134057057 gram gold. The price of 5.929687134057057 gram gold in year 2015 was 199.38334777129657 EU euro [1998-2015].