#03 the whimsical
Her Name in Lights
The mid-nineteenth century is the advent of the female “star” as object of all fantasies. The development of photography and the illustrated press favor the success of opera singers, café concert singers and soon actresses such as Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923).
The first international star, she performs triumphant tours across five continents. Her fame is based on the male roles she plays, including as Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Enamored of freedom, unconcerned with what others will say, she is the prototype of the stars of today whose every gesture tracked by the tabloids. Aware of the importance of her image, she appeals to Nadar, whose artistic photographic portraits contribute in large part to forging her aura, and on which she signs the first autographs. She commissions Alphons Mucha to design a new style of theatrical poster in which the actress is portrayed alone and life-size or larger.
The tragedienne places special importance in her clothes. She buys them from the best Parisian couturiers and chooses very luxurious outfits with fabrics richly decorated with jewels and brocades, in line with Orientalist tastes of the time. This type of work is mechanized thanks to the invention of the so-called Cornely embroidery machine, and Leavers lace is made more complex by the addition of new materials: cords, soutache, and sequins.