Ville de Marseille

Juillet 2014 >

“Fashion at the races”, an elegant exhibition at the Château Borély

“Fashion at the races”, an elegant exhibition at the Château Borély

The exhibition “Fashion at the races”, organised in collaboration with the Alexis Vassiliev Foundation and in partnership with the Marseille Equestrian Club and the Borely Racecourse, celebrates 100 years of elegance until 12 October.


­­“This is a real first, I've never been asked by a museum to participate in an exhibition of fashion at the races even though I organise eight exhibitions a year, mostly in Russia and Eastern Europe,” says Alexandre Vassiliev, owner of one of the largest fashion collections in the world (more than 50,000 pieces) through his eponymous foundation based in Vilnius.­

To celebrate its first anniversary, the Museum of Decorative Arts, Ceramics and Fashion at the Château Borély is putting on a particularly glamorous exhibition of almost fifty couture outfits that graced racecourses between 1850 and 1950, each one more elegant than the next and accompanied by essential accessories including hats, bags, shoes, binoculars and parasols. Extremely popular with the upper classes and later with the general public, the races were an elegant affair where fashion designers could showcase their work.

This became a tradition with Charles Frederick Worth, the founder of the first haute couture house in 1858, and Jeanne Paquin, who understood only too well the opportunity presented by the Grand Prix for promoting her designs in 1891. 20th century couturiers including Gabrielle Chanel (whose outfits could be admired on these rare occasions), Paul Poiret, Jean Patou and Christian Dior followed in their footsteps... As shown in films and documents from the time.

Borely, an historic racecourse­

The Borely Racecourse was inaugurated in November 1860 while hundreds of racecourses were being opened in France, a sign of the great enthusiasm for the craze which came over from England during this period. A large painting at the beginning of the exhibition illustrates the events of that extraordinary day.

exposition sur la mode aux courses­
Photos DR

Wealthy racegoers often dressed in bright colours borrowed from jockey silks until this period of ostentation fell into decline with the democratisation of fashion, coming to an end in the 1960s. Yves Bachelier, the president of the Marseille Equestrian Club, remarked in December 2013 that: “The curator of the museum sent us the proposal for the exhibition and we were so seduced by the idea that we have set it up together. But why should this idea be a one-off? What's to stop the public making a sartorial effort for the Marseille Grand Prix which always takes place on 4 November? Beyond these considerations, we hope to raise the profile of the racecourse and appeal to new audiences through this exhibition.” As for Alexandre Vassiliev, he says he “adores Marseille and comes here every summer.” He put on an exhibition at the Pavillon M in 2013 and plans to open a fashion museum in Vilnius in a 17th century palace between now and 2020.