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C'est chic! Impressionism taken down the runway

Associated Press Modified: September 21, 2012 at 3:36 pm •  Published: September 21, 2012

PARIS (AP) — Paris fashion week will soon open in style, with an exhibit that puts impressionist art down the runway — literally.

The exhibit, "Impressionism and Fashion," opens Tuesday at the storied Musee d'Orsay and explores how the late 19th-century Impressionists made Parisian fashion one of the great painting themes.

The exhibit travels to the New York Metropolitan in February.

It's well known that Impressionist artists such as Renoir, Monet and Degas tried to capture passing moments or "impressions" through painting. Less known is that dramatic changes in 1860s Parisian fashion played into the Impressionists' hands.

Rigid crinolines — the metal undercages that fanned out skirts — were abandoned in favor of a freer-flowing silhouette with layers of different materials and soft textures.

"The Impressionists used these new flowing fashions to capture the fleeting impressions of modern life," said co-curator Philippe Thiebaut. "Not only were they living, moving women now, but also the fashion trends themselves were changeable. It was the ultimate Impressionist subject."

Indeed, the blurred woman in a flowing, textured black dress in Edouard Manet's 1975 masterpiece "The Parisienne" looks almost as lifelike and real as many of the 60 actual dresses that make up the exhibit.

"We wanted to show how lifelike and modern all the Impressionist fashions were," said Robert Carsen, the famed Canadian set designer who designed the exhibit.

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