Madame Carven Dies at Age 105

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Madame Carven and Model.

Madame Carven, the French couturier who traveled the world with her collections and brought back a trove of exotic influences, died at the age of 105, in Paris, this past Monday.

The doyenne of a generation that also included Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain, Marie-Louise Carven-Grog, born Carmen de Tommaso, launched her house in 1945 with the aim of dressing women of similarly small stature — making her one of the rare women couturiers in Paris after Elsa Schiaparelli and Gabrielle Chanel.

“I decided to make haute couture outfits in my size because I was too short to wear the creations of the top couturiers, who only ever showed their designs on towering girls,” the 5-foot, 1-inch designer said in 1950. “But I wanted to retain my style — sober, practical and young, with a lot of sports garments.”

Having studied architecture at the Beaux-Arts in Paris and taken classes with her brother-in-law, Robert Mallet-Stevens, Carven favored simple constructions and clean lines, exemplified by the green-and-white stripes that became the house signature.

By introducing comfort and freedom into the rarefied world of haute couture, her creations captured the insouciance of the post-World War II era in Paris, garnering a following among stars such as Leslie Caron, Édith Piaf and Michèle Morgan.

“I never did it for myself,” she told WWD in 2009, at a ceremony marking her 100th birthday. “I did it for the youngsters that came to see me, to teach them how to dress, to give them confidence in their own beauty — how to show themselves off through colors, styles, everything."

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