Muslins, or toiles, represent the initial step of the design process, both visually and functionally. The word toile means “linen cloth” or “canvas,” and refers to the fabrics that are used by patternmakers and designers to bring sketches to the three-dimensional scale. Muslins are draped, modeled, altered and fitted until shapes and cuts correspond with the designer’s vision. With haute couture, it often takes several muslins to be constructed and sewn together before all details are complete. The final muslin is then broken down again in a two-dimensional pattern. This detailed puzzle of pattern pieces is cut and sewn in the chosen fabrics to make the finished garment.
These Dior muslins from 1953 are rare, since muslins and work models don’t usually leave designers’ studios. They provide a peek into the intricate and somewhat clandestine process of designing a piece of clothing.