An article in the Times published in 1922 deemed Ascot to be “the best place in England to see beautiful women in beautiful clothes.” Since the very beginnings of modern horse racing, the tracks were used as a ‘catwalk-avant-la-lettre’ by ladies and fashion designers alike. Horse races were a golden opportunity for high society women to spot and to don fashionable outfits, while couturiers dispatched models to the tracks dressed in their latest creations. Especially in France - host to such legendary races as those in Auteuil, Longchamp and Chantilly - ladies and models ‘promenading’ in high-end fashion thoroughly influenced the development of the fashion industry and the growing reputation of Paris as the fashion capital of the world. But the 'trend' of races was soon taken up with enthusiasm all around Europe, making these sport events catalyst of new social behaviours characteristic of the modern age. Today, still, ‘Race day’ is as much about the clothes as it is about the sport, and dressing up in the finest garments and luxurious accessories is a self-evident requirement if you’re aiming at blending in with the in-crowd. Yet in this double guest-curated feature for our friends at the recently renamed ‘European Fashion Heritage Association’, managing also the sister-thematic collection ‘Europeana Fashion’ on Europeana.eu, we shift the focus to the early decades of the 20thcentury, when modern horse racing was reaching its heyday.
Fashionable crowd at a racecourse in Copenhagen (Denmark), circa 1900. Léon & Lévy.
Roger-Viollet / Parisienne de Photographie
The curations will be presented on EFHA Website and Tumblr and will run for two months, and then they will be included as co-curated galleries on the Europeana Fashion thematic collection. Zooming in on French fashion of the 1900s and 1910s first, then jumping ahead to the 1920s and 1930s in the UK, we follow major trends and changes on the racecourse-runways and discover through early photographic images that paddocks and stables, muddy tracks and groomed greens were among the first ever outdoor backdrops shown in fashion photography.
The curation will start tomorrow - stay tuned and visit the EFHA Tumblr.
About the Guest Curator:
Sofie Taes has been working as an online curator of early photographic collections for the Europeana Photography Thematic Collection for several years. She is affiliated both with Leuven university (KU Leuven, Belgium) and PHOTOCONSORTIUM: an expert hub on historical photography, uniting the experience and knowledge of photography professionals from all over Europe.