the designers

In 1895 the four daughters of a Parisian antique dealer named Callot, their names being Marie, Marthe, Regina and Josephine, set up a salon on rue Taitbout, where they worked with antique laces and ribbons to fashion shirtwaists (blouses) and lingerie. Their father had been a painter and teacher of design, and their mother a lace maker.

Gradually the sisters formed a Couture house making all manner of wonderful garments. Although their married names were different, they called their salon Callot Soeurs (Sisters). In 1914 they moved to grander quarters in Avenue Matignon.

Madame Marie Gerber, the elder sister was in charge of design. She had worked earlier for Raudnitz, a famous dressmaking house. In the 1920's, Madame Marie Callot Gerber, the eldest sister, was referred to as the "backbone of the fashion world of Europe".

In 1920, Callot was also the originator of the "manteau d'abbe" the short cape flying from the shoulders of coats and evening gowns.

Madame Madeleine Vionnet was trained at Callot Soeurs, and credited them with training her in design techniques which enable her to achieve success with her own salon. She said "without the example of the Callot sisters, I would have continued to make Fords. It is because of them that I have been able to make Rolls-Royces." (she was referring to the cheap car and the luxury car.)

In 1928 Madame Gerber's son Pierre took over, and for a decade continued his mother's standards, but the fashions had changed and their popularity waned.

In 1937 the house was absorbed into the house of Calvet.

The Look

Their period gowns included pannier skirts and delicate floral patterns, pointed bodices, garnished with Alencon lace ruffles, after the style of Louis XV. They worked with exquisite and unusual materials, like rubberized gabardine and Chinese silks, with Orientalism a favourite theme. Callot Soeurs supplied day clothes, lingerie, dresses made from antique fabrics, period gowns, clothes made of lace, fine embroidered garments and exotic or Oriental gowns. Their clothes were known for their exotic detail, kimono sleeves, tasselled girdles, panels of embroidered satin or velvet, medallions, etc. Their lingerie was extraordinarily feminine, nightgowns and chemises of gossamer silks, worked with bands of golden lace or bouquets of silk flowers. They were among the first designers to use lame to make dresses. Silver and gold lame dresses were very popular in the 1910's and 1920's. For evening wear Callot Soeurs designed heavy satin gowns. Their designs were popular with actresses and international hostesses.

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