Fashion, Costume, Textiles and Perfume Museums in France

In Les Rhums, the villa where Christian Dior spent much of his childhood, the museum has a vast collection of his haute couture dresses and accessories, photographs and prints. It opens from May to September each year with a glamorous temporary exhibition. You can visit the gardens, designed by Christian Dior and his mother, Madeleine, at any time free of charge. There’s a delightful tearoom open in July and August.

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International Center of Lace and Fashion


Calais in Nord-Pas de Calais was one of the great lace-making centers of France and produced the stuff of fashion by hand from the 16th to the 19th centuries and then by machine. In a former lace-making factory, the Cité Internationale de la Dentelle et de la Mode de Calais (International Center of Lace and Fashion) takes you through the whole story. Life-size models of ladies clad in dresses decked out with the gossamer-like material; sample books showing the changes of fashion as the middle classes took over fashion from the aristocracy; lace-making machines from Nottingham in England all show how this most delicate of materials was made and used. There are demonstrations, good videos showing how complex the process is, and  a section at the end bringing the material into the modern age with designs from the likes of Chanel, Christian Dior and Paco Rabanne.

There are several lace making centers in France such as Le Puy-en-Velay where you pass people producing hand-made lace as you walk up to the cathedral.

Information and Guide to the Lace Museum in Calais

More about Calais

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02 of 06

International Shoe Museum

Musee International de la Chaussure

If you’re in the Drôme department in the Rhone Valley and like most women, have a thing about shoes, you must visit the International Shoe Museum (Musée International de la Chaussure) in Romans-sur-Isère, a town which was dominated by the shoe industry in the 19th century.

The museum is housed in the former Convent of the Visitation, a huge ecclesiastic structure built between the 17th and 19thcenturies. Some 16,500 items show the history of what has always been more than just a covering of, and protection for, the foot. From ancient civilizations onwards, the story is invariably one of pain for the wearer and pleasure for the onlooker. The collection covers 5 continents and tells the story chronologically and geographically. Around 300 items are on display, with changing exhibitions each year adding to the somewhat bizarre picture you go away with.

The oldest shoe is from ancient Egypt; made of papyrus, it dates back to 1,500BC. Venetian shoes with extraordinarily high blocks as heels made from the mid 15th-century make you realize why in contermporary images the elegant woman is towering above her servants and desperately holding on to their shoulders. Coachmen’s boots, which were extremely heavy and were the origin of the phrase, seven-league boots, due to the distance that the coachmen rode between two post houses or coaching inns; shoes specially made for Chinese women whose feet had been irredeemably damaged by the process of binding them from birth; a pair of boots worn by Napoleon…It’s a fascinating place.

And for those who cannot get enough shoes, there’s a Marques Avenue factory outlet mall at 1 bd Voltaire which has a charles Jourdain shop.

Practical Information
International Shoe Museum
2 rue Ste-Marie
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 75 05 51 81

Open Jan-Apr and Oct-Dec Tues-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 2.30-6pm
May-June & Sep Tues-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 2.30-6pm
July, Aug Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 2.30-6pm
Admission Adult €5.10, 7 to 26 years €2.60
Free on 1st Sunday of each month

Audioguides: €2.50

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03 of 06

Museum of Gloves

Musee de Millau

The Museum of Gloves is a section within the Museum of Millau and the Grandes Causses, in Millau in the Auvergne. It’s a logical place for the museum: the area is in the heart of a huge sheep-rearing area which produced the leather industry. Millau specialized in gloves and still has some of the best glove-making firms in the world. Maison Fabre made the long gloves beloved by Princess Grace of Monaco; Nicole Kidman wore pairs specially made for her inGrace of Monaco, the opening film of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.

Here in this splendid 18th-century private house, the Hôtel de Pagayrolles, you can follow the history and the modern techniques, see the old tanning tools and gaze at haute couture gloves. Watch a documentary on the famous glove makers of Millau, immerse yourself in the recreated workshop and get your hand measured accurately to know your glove size.

Practical Information
Musée de Millau
Place Foch Hotel de Pegayrolles
Tel.: 33 (0)5 65 59 01 08

Open Oct-June Mon-Sat 10am-noon & 2-6pm
July, Aug daily 10am-6pm
Sept daily 1-am-noon & 2-6pm

Admission Adult €5.40, 19 to 25 years €4.10, 13-18 years €2.10.

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International Museum of Perfume

Perfumery Museum

Grasse is the world center of perfumes and parfumiers, that elite band of artists and craftspeople who have been creating scents and perfumes for over 300 years. Since 1989, the Musée Internationale de la Parfumerie has shown the history of the traditional trade through art, textiles, artefacts like the perfume organ, raw materials as well as a wonderful collection of perfume bottles including signed bottles from Lalique. You sniff your way through history.

Practical Information
International Museum of Perfume
8 pl du Cours

Open Apr-Sep daily 10am-7pm
Oct-Mar Wed-Mon 10.30am-5.30pm
Closed Jan 1, May 1, Dec 25 and 3 weeks after Nov 11
Admission Museum and temporary exhibition adult €6
Under 18 years free 

Within Grasse there are other perfumeries you can visit. Check out the Tourist Office website information

More about Perfume

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05 of 06

Textile Museum in Lyon

Before you have fashion you have to have materials and one of the most evocative, seductive and tactile of these is Lyon. And the main producer of silks historically in France is Lyon.

The Textile Museum in Lyon is part of the Museum of Decorative Arts, the two together giving a wonderful panorama of textiles, rugs, tapestries, costume, furniture and objects which together make up an encyclopedia of interior decoration from the 18th century. The textiles range from Coptic tapestries to Persian textiles, Italian and Sicilian examples.

Located in an 18th century palace, the costumes range from Japanese kimonos to dresses by designers like Sonia Delaunay, Worth, Paco Rabanne and Christian Lacroix. Quite rightly, one of the world’s largest collectons of textile is in Lyon. The city’s history is intimately tied up with the production of silk and you can see the quarters where the silk weavers lived and worked as well as seeing the famous Jacquard looms in action. Finally, it’s a good place to buy silks, either at the museums or the annual silk fair.

Practical Information
Musee des Arts Decoratifs
34 rue de la Charité
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 78 38 42 00

More about Lyon

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06 of 06

National Centre of Stage and Costume Design


Wit the most important collection of stage costumes in the world, this is a must for anybody interested in the extravagant, over-the-top, superb clothes that you see on stage. It started with pieces from the Bibliothèque National de France, the Comédie-Française and the Opéra National de Paris and was boosted hugely when the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation donated many of the costumes from the greatest male ballet dancer the world has known. 

The oldest costumes date back to the 18th century; delicate pieces for men made of lace and satin, velvet and silk. The major part of the collection is from the 1850s to 1900. 

The Museum puts on temporary exhibitions exploring different figures and costumes.

Practical Information
Quartier Villars
Route de Montilly
Tel.:  00 33 (0)4 70 20 76 20

Open daily
Sep-Jun 10am-6pm
July, Aug 10am-7pm

Closed December 25, January 1, May 1
Also check on the website before you go as when exhibitions are being changed over, the center can have restricted access and opening times.

Admission to temporary exhibitions and the Nureyev collection: adult €6, concessions €3, children under 12 free

Admission to temporary exhibitions: adult €62.50

Information and Guide to the Museum of Costume and Stage Design

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