Theatre de la Mode Dolls at Maryhill Museum

Last week I got to go with my husband to a conference in Seattle, and afterward we had two days to see some of Washington’s other sights.  I could have had a difficult time choosing which to visit, but fortunately I remembered the Théâtre de la Mode, and that is where we went.

The Maryhill Museum of Art is in Goldendale, Washington, about 220 miles from Seattle.  It turned out to be a great side trip from Seattle, bringing us through about four of Washington’s ecoregions, letting us experience a variety of rock formations, and plant life from towering pines to sagebrush steppes, within short distances.  We had some pockets of fog, but for most of the trip the weather was clear and sunny, and we got to enjoy  spectacular fall foliage that we never have in Texas.

The Maryhill Museum of Art with the dry grassy hills behind.

The Columbia River gorge seen from the grounds of the Maryhill Museum.

I knew that just one third of the dolls are exhibited at a time, but even that made for a rich display.

Ma Femme est une Sorciere (My Wife is a Witch) set by Jean Cocteau for the Theatre de la Mode (reconstruction).

The first grouping of dolls is in a set by Jean Cocteau, that was inspired by a movie called “Ma Femme est une Sorcière” (My Wife is a Witch).  An apt setting for today, Halloween.  (But I wonder what the fashion designers thought about their beautiful creations being placed in a scene of destruction, especially Marcel Rochas who designed a wedding dress that ended up being displayed on a supine doll, instead of upright in all its glory.  On the other hand, with all the wartime destruction they had endured, maybe it didn’t strike them as unique.)

The dolls are displayed out in the open, not behind glass, which allows you to see them really well, and photography is allowed.  I was thrilled to be able to take all the pictures I wanted, to really zoom in on the details, but I didn’t find the right camera settings to compensate for the low light conditions, and most of my pictures did not turn out well.

Evening gowns from Worth and Mad Carpentier.

Detail of the Worth gown, showing the silk damask fabric and the gold embroidery.

Detail of the Carpentier gown, showing the black lace embroidery on the overskirt.

Cocktail dresses by Raphael (gray-blue), and Ana de Pombo (shell pink).


Croquis de Paris (Sketches of Paris).

Scene de Rue, featuring designs by Vera Borea, Blanche Issartel, Marcel Rochas, Jacques Fath, and Lucile Manguin.

The Scène de Rue was created when the dolls underwent restoration for their 40th anniversary.  The dress on the far right above, is credited to Lucile Manguin on the museum card, but I believe it is the same dress is credited to Maggy Rouff in the book Théâtre de la Mode.

Instant couture!

I was so thrilled to get to see these dolls in person!  I guess I will have to go back twice more to see the other sets!

If you get a chance to go, be aware that the museum is only open for the year from March 15 to November 15.  But during that time, it is open every day, which makes it easy to fit a visit into your itinerary.

And you can see the second collection, the Merci Train dolls, online from the Brooklyn Museum.