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Lingerie Lovers: Jean Paul Gaultier

Jean Paul Gaultier ‘Classique’ Perfume Bottle, 1993

Continuing in the spirit of last week’s blog on Dolce & Gabbana, I thought it would be nice to explore the work of other high fashion designers with a love for lingerie.  One has to search no further than the work of couturier, and enfant terrible of French fashion, Jean Paul Gaultier for looks that incorporate undergarments into their designs.

Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture, Fall 2009

Jean Paul Gaultier seems to have been born with fashion in his blood; as a young man Gaultier decided against traditional fashion schooling, and instead landed a plum design job with Pierre Cardin in 1970 after showing sketches to the older couturier.  He worked in and around fashion throughout the seventies, finally launching his own signature collection in the early 1980s. Today, Gaultier designs men’s and women’s ready-to-wear collections, as well as haute couture (he is, in fact, the last French couturier in business).

The Gaultier style is characterized by its juxtapositions; his fashions are at once cheeky and provocative, glamorous yet sinister. Starting with his early collections in the 1980s, Gaultier was a pioneer of incorporating brassieres into his evening gowns.  The stiff, rocket shaped bras of the 1950s seem to hold a special place in Gaultier’s work; of his interpretation of this vintage lingerie the designer has said, “ I have always tried to balance the eccentric and the classic.”

Jean Paul Gaultier, Bustier and Bra for Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour, 1990

On the topic of Gaultier’s cone bras and bustiers, one has to mention his long term professional relationship with Madonna.  It was his iconic pink satin cone-shaped bustier that Madonna wore during her Blond Ambition tour of 1990, and which started a real fad in the early nineties for underwear as outerwear. Not only did Gaultier design bras and bustiers for the Material Girl herself, he also toyed with traditional gender roles in creating black velvet cone bras for her male backup dancers.

In addition to bras, corsets also are a preoccupation of Jean Paul Gaultier.  In 1993, his perfume Classique was released in a torso shaped bottle wearing a pink corset (which looks surprisingly like an Elsa Schiaparelli perfume bottle from the 1930s designed by artist Leonor Fini).  This pale, lingerie pink has appeared again and again on his runway; think of the now famous image of model Sophie Dahl laced tightly into a floor length corset-like pink gown from from his 2001 Haute Couture collection.

Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture , “Des Robes qui se Derobent’ Spring 2001 Collection

If you find yourself in Montreal, Canada this summer, make sure to visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to see the first ever retrospective show of JPG’s work. You can be sure to see plenty of lingerie inspired fashion!  The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk is on exhibit from June 17 to October 2, 2011.  Visit the MMFA website at for more information.

Information sources:

Valerie Steele, Fifty Years of Fashion: New Look to Now, 1997.

Images taken from Landov and The



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