I first ran across the name of Maria Carine when I found a Jeanne Lanvin dress that was "éxécuté par Maria Carine sur autorization spéciale" (made by Maria Carine with special authorization). My interest was piqued. Then last week, my friend Carrie of Glad Rags & Curios found an earlier Lanvin Castillo suit with the same reference to Maria Carine. It was time to find out more!
Maria Moutet-Chenu wore haute couture as a young woman. When her fortunes changed in the late 1950s, Maria went to work for Jacques Heim in his Boutique. She worked with Heim to find a way his designs could reach a wider market and her business, Maria Carine, was born.
Maria worked with four couturiers: Heim, Jean Desses, Guy Laroche, and Lanvin-Castillo. After each couture showing, the designers would meet with Maria and give her a few sketches to work from based upon their haute couture designs. Maria was the modeliste. She would take the sketch and make a toile (muslin pattern) which the couturier would approve. These toiles were then used to make the ready-to-wear garments.
But this is not factory made ready-to-wear! Each garment was constructed with the identical fabrics and trimmings used for the haute couture garments. Maria employed hundreds of cutters in her workrooms. Each garment was cut one at a time by a cutter. And then each garment was sewn individually by one of the hundreds of seamstresses who worked for Maria Carine, many of whom worked in their own homes. Each garment was constructed with painstaking attention to detail, with couture techniques, and each garment was completed by hand. Thus, we had individually made ready-to-wear for the world with the same high quality as the couture, but at a lower price point.
In 1959, the US became the largest market for French ready-to-wear. By 1962 Maria Carine was producing about 3000 garments per season for the US market.
Late 1950s Lanvin-Castillo made by the Maria Carine workshop available at Glad Rags & Curios.
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