History’s Heroines

Louise Lemaire Chéruit – First Lady of Fashion

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Louise Lemaire Chéruit 

1866 Paris – 1955

photo courtesy of alchtron.com

     Louise Lemaire Chéruit was born in Paris to a seamstress mother, just before the onset of La Belle Époche, a time of great optimism and prosperity. Louise’s mother taught both her and her sister, Marie Lemaire Huit, the fine art of dressmaking – a skill that would later lead Louise to be considered to be one of the greatest female courtiers of all time.

Coming of age in the 1880’s, at a time when the great Impressionists, Monet, Degas, Renoir, et al, were revolutionizing art, Louise and her sister were doing the same in fashion. It was then that the sisters took positions at Raudnitz et Cie, a prominent courtier fashion house in Paris. The two rose quickly through the ranks and by 1895, the sisters’ names were embroidered on the labels sewn into the house’s clothing. Just five years later, Louise and Marie took over the company, and thus the labels were again changed to read: Chéruit and Huit, Srs, formerly Raudnitz and Co.

With a company with over 100 employees and a prominent location in the Hotel Fontpertuis, Paris, Madame Chéruit was well on her way to success. Her client lists bore society’s top names and her shows were among the first to feature live runway models.
Her design style was fashion forward and lead the trend from Victorian to Belle Époche to the Jazz Ages, including her creation of the famous “Flapper Dress.” The House of Chéruit thus became one of fashion’s preeminent designers. Along with her contemporaries, in 1912, Louise worked collaboratively to create La Gazette du Bon Ton, the industry’s first fashion magazine, featuring Art Nouveau illustrations of the designers’ latest creations. She is also credited with launching the career of the now famous Paul Poirot.

La Gazette du Bon Ton photo courtesy of Circaa

           La Gazette du Bon Ton
          photo courtesy of Circaa

When war hit, in 1914, Madame Chéruit was one of the only houses to remain open. It was during this time that she met an Austrian man of noble birth with whom she fell in love. It was an affair that not only destroyed her almost twenty-year marriage to Prosper Chéruit, but would also cost her reputation, and empire. Her lover, being a high-ranking officer in the Austrian military was accused of being a spy for the German’s. Rumors soon spread of Chéruit’s involvement with the Austrian, and she too was thus accused of being a spy.

While the accusations were eventually proven false, Chéruit’s career was over. By 1915, she had sold the House of Chéruit to Madames Wormser and Boulanger who brought their own perspective to the company’s design style. Louise continued to design for the company for the next ten years behind the scenes, however, her taste for the opulent was no longer the leading trend in the post-war City of Light. She retired in 1923 fading into somewhat obscurity after being one of fashion’s greatest icons. In 1935, designer Elsa Schiaparelli took over the House of Cheruit’s 98-room studio and showroom.

Though the magazine is long out of print, La Gazette du Bon Ton can still be found in many local libraries. Louise’s legacy also lives on in Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, and Evelyn Waugh’s novel, Vile Bodies.
Madame Chéruit passed away in 1955.

Chéruit_Salon_Paris

Salon at House of Chéruit

By unidentified photographer – L’Illustration (magazine)

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