When they enter the CNCS collection, costumes acquire a heritage object status. They are no longer worn on stage and are to be preserved in the best possible conditions.
The costumes are made of material that is particularly fragile. Discover in what conditions they are stored and how they are shown at their best.
The storage warehouse, designed by the architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, reproduces the volume of the south wing that once flanked the main building.
The raw concrete has been covered with steel meshing, in reference to the textile nature of the collections.
The collection imposes very specific standards for its preservation. The building is in conformity with the most demanding sanitary and physical requirements for the protection of the pieces, in particular the air conditioning that regulates the temperature (at 18°) and the stabilization of the hygrometry (at 50%).
This 1730 m2 building is made up of :
rooms for preservation and study work: inventory, labeling of pieces, removing of dust by micro vacuuming, taking of photographs, preparation for exhibitions, mannequin dressing, etc.
storage areas for preserving the collections are able to contain around ten thousand costumes (or more than 20,000 pieces). Each level is equipped with « compactus » type custom made furniture for the preserved pieces.
costumes and accessories are stored by collection (National Library of France, Comédie-Française, National Opera of Paris, Régine Crespin, Bagouet, …) and by show.
The « compactus » is a sort of cabinet including a wardrobe to hang costumes and drawers to place certain pieces horizontally. The cabinets are assembled in threes and form mobile rows placed on a false floor equipped with rails enabling them to be moved around.
The « compactus » provide optimal storage in terms of volume, preservation and security for the pieces. Once they are closed no empty gaps are left between them.
National Center of Stage Costume
Centre National du Costume de Scene (CNCS), is a French museum dedicated to stage costumes and sets.
It was inaugurated on 1 July 2006 in Moulins, Allier by Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres the Minister of Culture, Pierre-André Périssol the mayor of Moulins and Christian Lacroix, dressmaker and board chairman. The current director is Delphine Pinasa, whose portrait is exhibited at the museum.
The National Center of Stage Costume is the first preservation structure, in France or abroad, to be entirely devoted to the material heritage of theaters.
Its mission is the preservation, study and valorization of a heritage collection of 10,000 theater, opera and ballet costumes in addition to painted stage sets, provided by the three founding institutions of the center, the National Library of France, the Comédie-Française and the National Opera of Paris. The center has also received numerous donations from artists and theaters.
Made up of around 10 000 costumes and scenery elements from the middle of the 19th century to the present day, the collections come from theatres, operas, ballets like the national Opera of Paris, the Comédie-Française and the National Library of France.
The museum has a collection of Rudolf Nureyev’s costumes, as requested in his will to be a “place of memory”. Nureyev, who has been the Paris Opera Ballet director had wished to have his collection placed in a museum in Paris, but suitable locations could not be found. So, his collection was placed in the museum in this Auvergne region museum, which is about 3 hours by train from Paris. It is “a permanent collection that offers visitors a sense of his exuberant, vagabond personality and passion for all that was rare and beautiful.” The collection has historical artifacts from Nureyev’s career including film and photograph material, in addition to 70 costumes.
Nureyev sought a matador look, with a snug-fitting jacket cut short to lengthen his legs. The armhole seam had to be exactly placed so his movements would not be hindered. He favored details that underscored artistic themes. A silver-blue jacket for his Prince Siegfried from the first act of a 1984 Swan Lake echoes the watery locale where the hero meets his true love, with metallic threads flowing over the shoulders like rapids. For Don Quixote, Nureyev preferred a billowing sleeve, as evidenced by a creation from Greek designer Nicholas Georgiadis in rust, wine and gold. The velvet cascades of the women’s dresses, trimmed in coins and tassels, hint at the choreography’s noisy fury.
— Sarah Kaufman, The Washington Post
It was shown the De Young Museum in San Francisco, California through 17 February 2013 in a show entitled Rudolf Nureyev: A Life in Dance.
Several stage companies and theatres, including the Comédie Française and Paris Opera, send their costumes to the museum after their final show. At the museum they are available to be exhibited and preserved. They are also available to researchers and students for study.
The collections: the memory of legendary institutions and artists
Even if stage costumes represented a most important heritage in terms of expenditure and property for the theatres, there had never been a real policy of protecting them until the creation of the center. They bear witness to the creativity of the costume designers that drew them and the know-how of the workshops that made them. They carry in them the traces of the artists that enhanced them on stage.
The oldest costumes date back to the 18th century. They are authentic clothes (male frock coats and waistcoats) given to or bought by the Comédie-Française after the French Revolution to be used in a repertory of 18th century inspiration (Marivaux, Beaumarchais…). In addition to these exceptional pieces, the collection includes mostly costumes from productions created since the second half of the 19th century. The project originated in 1995 when the Ministry of Culture and Communication solicited the major national institutions, the National Library of France (Performing Arts Department), the Comédie-Française and the National Opera of Paris to constitute the first collection made up of 8500 costumes for the opening of the CNCS.
The collection provided by the National Library of France reflects the richness and variety of the Performing Art Department’s collection. It includes the costumes of the Renaud-Barrault troop, the Théâtre de l’Atelier under the direction of Charles Dullin, the Théâtre du Campagnol directed by Jean-Claude Penchenat in addition to Philippe Guillotel’s costumes for the Albertville Olympic Games dramatized by Philippe Decouflé, in 1992.
The collection of the Comédie-Française covers three centuries of the history of this great theatre. The costumes were made in well-renowned sewing workshops notably for the historical clothing. Certain were created by Suzanne Lalique, Lila de Nobili or Thierry Mugler and worn by Sarah Bernhardt, Mounet-Sully or Jean Marais…
The collection of the National Opera of Paris includes 5000 opera and ballet costumes covering a period of a hundred and fifty years from 1872, with costumes designed by Bakst, Benois, Derain, Cocteau… Most of them were made in the sewing workshops of the opera and worn by all of the greatest stars, Serge Lifar, Yvette Chauviré, Maria Callas, Rudolf Nureyev, Régine Crespin, Luciano Pavarotti…
The CNCS houses an exceptional collection of around 2000 drawings and models of costumes created by Christian Lacroix for stage (opera, dance and theatre). The fashion designer Frank Sorbier has also donated his costume models for two operas, the Traviata and The Tales of Hoffmann.
A collection of stage scenery elements
The National Center of Stage Costumes and Scenography houses a collection of painted canvases, decorative elements and stage machinery (chassis, lifting equipment, masts, praticables, tools) dating from the middle of the 20th century. In this continuity, several contemporary dance troops have bequeathed some of their stage sets along with their costume donations.