Decade per decade...

She started in the Fashion world by making sportswear clothes for herself. Her friends began to love it and she opened in 1928 her first fashion house called « La Maison de l’Amitié ».

Like Jean Patou et Coco Chanel, she is one of the pioneers of sportswear fashion.

The styles in the thirties were still fairly classic and were inspired by sports clothes: tapered trousers, short, divided skirts, flared jackets.

Madeleine de Rauch stood out however for the “thousand charming details that helped to make her [work] so attractive,” particularly her choice of high-quality fabrics: tweeds, felts, silks, velours, flannels, loden and furs….

Her outfits were executed in somber colors (dark blue, lovat green, brown, dark red to mention just a few), suggesting a “Britishness” and an aura of the Scottish highlands, and this brought her a large number of American and British clients. She was considered a designer for wealthy, and conservative, women.

Madeleine de Rauch also presented some collections that were essentially new both in terms of “innovative forms and the fabrics and personal accessories.” She showed riding breeches with high gaiters, jodhpurs, stirrup-pants that fitted snugly at the ankles. She boldly experimented with mixes of fabric and other materials: wool with suede, leather with jersey, knits with lizard, and produced astonishing collections of long and short jackets, bomber jackets and boleros.

Madeleine de Rauch did not close during the German Occupation but operated on a smaller scale, moving her workshops to the Basque country (in southwestern France). Like her competitors, her work showed the influence of the Vichy era and its directives. Her designs and collections reflected this influence as seen from the line she launched in 1941 called “mode martiale” in French or “military fashion” and her 1942 “Metro” collection.

A new silhouette appeared: square shoulders, accentuated waist, short skirts and high necklines. Suits and two-pieces were very popular.

As always, Madeleine de Rauch was praised for the quality of workmanship in her models and imposed her sober, elegant style. The tones tended to be soft, and the lines clean and graceful. She still gave individuality to her designs with the addition of many extras. In fact her accessories (turbans, scarves, pocket books, gloves and shoes), the contrasts in composition and color, and the myriad details made for a highly decorative effect. Madeline de Rauch made use of pleats, gathers, embroidery, godets, embellishments, furs, belts and original fastenings, hoods, unusual button fastenings, pockets (highly visible), collars, bows, ribbons, smocking, fringes, linings and even her initials.

After the war, a new look came into existence: “The Parisian woman became feminine again.” Grace and charm were the keynotes. Madeleine de Rauch was part of this movement, designing among other things long gowns that were particularly alluring. Nevertheless, she continued to be “the specialist” in sportswear and was particularly clever in designing garments for the sporting woman. She devoted several collections to ski apparel, and to pre-ski and après-ski outfits and likewise for golf. Her sports dresses, street outfits and travel outfits were more innovative than ever.

After World War II, women sought femininity, chic and elegance. They also wanted fashions to move with the times and to reflect the demands of the modern lifestyle. Madeline de Rauch continued to focus on sports clothes and all sorts of outfits for the open air. She successfully combined elegance and comfort, flexibility and form, youth and style.

In a general way, her collections were richer, with more varied accessories, new materials and greater diversity in lengths. For every event and every hour of the day there was an appropriate outfit: the suit for the morning, dresses for the afternoon, cocktail dresses, dinner clothes and fabulous evening gowns; along with coats, jackets of every description, travel outfits, clothes for skiing and hunting, and even beach cover-ups. Madeleine de Rauch also focused on details to give her designs their individuality. She added collars, pockets, bows and prints, etc. Lapels and belts came in a variety of styles, all different.

While felts, jerseys, tweeds, woolens, flannels were used for the soft ensembles traditionally associated with feminine elegance, Madeleine de Rauch boldly employed new materials (leather, cotton, crepe, artificial fabrics and synthetics) and played with their effects (drapes, pleats and even reversible garments).

Ever faithful to her style, the de Rauch collections were marked by their perfect distinction, sobriety and elegance. The cutting, which looked simple on the surface, actually concealed a great sense of balance and proportion. The decade also saw the emergence of the prêt-à-porter from the main couture houses. Madeleine de Rauch was again part of this and developed three labels.

The sixties saw the onset of a new culture in clothing. Fashion became a youth style, lost its elite status and became accessible to average people. It was a triumph for the ready-to-wear sector. Women now wanted clothes that above all gave them freedom of movement.

De Rauch’s collections at first retained their classical forms and sporting look. The lines were sure and elegant, without being aggressive; they were soft and sinuous: backs were blouson-style, dresses were billowy and jackets were rounded. Simplicity, sobriety and comfort were the order of the day and yet the designer was able to play with the effects. There were many trompe l’oeil effects-- with linings for instance, and with some details looking as if they were not attached; and there were faux two-pieces, faux sweaters and some highly successful garments such as the coat-dress.

Later on Madeleine de Rauch adopted the modern look and allowed herself to be influenced by the new fashion, but still within reason. Her lines were still sober but the movement characteristic of her work reflected youthfulness and elegance. The silhouette became more feminine and hugged the body more closely. Coats lost much of their volume, the waist was emphasized and collars became larger. Dresses were soft and floating. The bias cut was king. Fabrics changed, with the preference now being for light materials: linen, shantung, crepe and silk chiffon. Colors were luminous, joyful and vibrant.

The sixties were also the era of the “grand parade of perfumes.” The house had great success with “Belle de Rauch”, “Vacarme” and “Miss de Rauch,” with a complementary line for men, “Monsieur de Rauch”.

The hallmark of the de Rauch style continued to be a refined elegance: well-cut, comfortable coats, tailored suits, elegant slacks and easy fluid dresses thanks to the use of bias cutting which melded refinement and modernity.

The couture house of Madeleine de Rauch closed its doors in 1974.

One can only hope that one day she will have the renaissance she deserves.