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In 1973–74, former Vogue editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland organized The 10s, the 20s, the 30s: Inventive Clothes, 1909-1939, an exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute. It showcased the flourishing of French fashion in the early twentieth century through the extravagant and revolutionary designs by Poiret, Vionnet, Callot, Molyneux, Paquin, Chanel, Schiaparelli, and Alix. In the foreword, Penn describes his enthrallment with the remarkable craftsmanship: examining them, he "felt a thrill [he] had not known as a fashion photographer known before." In particular, he felt they offered a stark contrast to the fashions of the 1970s, which did not hold up to being photographed in close-up. The designs were photographed on "uncomplaining plastic dummies" in an unused gallery at the museum where Penn improvised a studio.
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