19 & 20 May 2012


Coco Chanel, always interested in the arts, often collaborated with the worlds of dance, theatre and film by designing costumes. In 1912 she started making hats for actress Gabrielle Dorziat, who was then playing in Bel Ami at the Théâtre du Vaudeville in Paris, and she kept designing costumes for plays, ballets and films of artists within her circle of friends, like Diaghilev, Jean Cocteau, Jean Renoir... This brought her to work alongside artists such as Picasso, Dalí, Stravinsky, Satie, Léonide Massine and Léon Bakst. At one point, in the early 30s, she even had a contract with Metro Goldwyn Mayer, when Samuel Goldwyn, during the Depression, thought he could increase box-office revenue by promising Paris fashions in his films. Although the Hollywood experience wasn't very fruitful, she continued to enjoy designing for films by her friends, like Renoir and Visconti, and established rewarding relationships with some actresses such as Jeanne Moreau, whom she dressed for the stage as well as both on and off-screen.


Victoria AND Albert Museum

Sat 19 may | 2.00pm – 5.00pm

Seminar in three parts with tea break and Q&A exploring the close relationship between the work of fashion designer Coco Chanel and film.

Chanel and her costumes for stage productions

Writer and fashion journalist Justine Picardie looked at how Coco Chanel started designing costumes for both theatre and ballet, and how she began with the hats she designed in 1912 for actress Gabrielle Dorziat for Bel ami at the Théâtre du Vaudeville and looking then at the costumes for various balles of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and for theatre and how this was possible thanks to the social environment in which she moved in Paris.

Chanel and French Cinema

This illustrated presentation by Prof. Ginette Vincendeau focused on how Chanel's designs for French films put her design flair to the service of particular constructions of screen femininity. The presentation focused on Chanel's classic designs for Jean Renoir's La Règle du jeu and Marcel Carné's Le Quai des brumes, and stars such as Romy Schneider and Delphine Seyrig.

Chanel and Hollywood

Justine Picardie talked abut Coco Chanel's contract with Metro Goldwyn Mayer and the resulting three films: Palmy Days (A. E. Sutherland, 1931), Tonight or Never (Mervyn LeRoy, 1931) and The Greeks Had a Word for Them (Lowell Sherman, 1932). Also about the relationship between Hollywood stars and Chanel in later years.


Justine Picardie is the author of four books, including Coco Chanel's biography. Former features director of British Vogue, she writes for several newspapers and magazines, including the Sunday Telegraph, Harpers Bazaar and Red.

Ginette Vincendeau is Professor of Film Studies at King's College London and the author of many books and articles on French cinema. She is currently completing a study of biopics of Chanel and a book on Brigitte Bardot.

Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL
      South Kensington




Sun 20 may


The Lovers Les Amants

France | 1958 | b&w | 88 mins | by Louis Malle, with Jeanne Moreau, Alain Cuny, José Luis de Villalonga | cert. 15 | in French with English subtitles

Jeanne is a mature woman living near Paris who is bored with her husband, her polo-player lover, her regular trips to Paris and nearly everything in her bourgeois life. Nevertheless she rediscovers love and passion unexpectedly when her car breaks down in one of her trips and she accepts a lift from a younger man. Jeanne Moreau, who had developed a close relationship with Coco Chanel, wears her creations in this film.


Tonight or Never

USA | 1931 | b&w | 80 mins | by Mervyn LeRoy, with Gloria Swanson, Melvyn Douglas, Alison Skipworth | cert. PG | in English

Nella Vago, an opera singer, is convinced that she will never be a great performer until she experiences true love, which she is certain she will never find in spite of her fiancé - until she meets Jim, whom she thinks is a gigolo. The film was Melvyn Douglas's debut next to one of Hollywood most established stars, Gloria Swanson, who was dressed for this film by Coco Chanel.

Ciné Lumière, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT
      South Kensington