20 Handmade Dolls Tell the History of Fashion

This is the story of how a series of exquisite handmade dolls, representing the history of French haute couture made their way to the United States as an expression of gratitude.

The year was 1948 and France was still suffering from the effects of World War II. Housed in boxcars and dubbed the “Friendship Train”, American aide organizations had sent large-scale relief the year before.

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Now it was France who wished to show its gratitude for America’s generosity by creating the “Gratitude Train”—a set of 49 box cars filled with French-made gifts, like handmade toys and priceless works of art.

The French fashion houses banded together to create something very special.

They tasked their most talented designers with creating a set of fashion dolls that would show the evolution of French fashion.

Measuring 24 inches tall with bodies made from open wire, the designers used human hair to fashion the hairstyles.

Using period paintings, literature, and fashion plates as references, each designer chose a year between 1715 and 1906.

Representing their creative interpretations, the designers used the same level of care and attention to detail as they did for full size work.

It was a unique moment in the history of French couture.

“1715 Doll”. Marcel Rochas (French, 1902–1955)

"1715 Doll". Marcel Rochas (French, 1902–1955)
“1715 Doll”. Marcel Rochas (French, 1902–1955)

“1733 Doll”. Jean Bader (French)

"1733 Doll". Jean Bader (French)
“1733 Doll”. Jean Bader (French)

“1755 Doll”. A. Reichert (French)

"1755 Doll". A. Reichert (French)
“1755 Doll”. A. Reichert (French)

“1774 Doll”. Jean Dessès (French (born Egypt), Alexandria 1904–1970 Athens)

"1774 Doll". Jean Dessès (French (born Egypt), Alexandria 1904–1970 Athens)
“1774 Doll”. Jean Dessès (French (born Egypt), Alexandria 1904–1970 Athens)

“1779 Doll”. Lucille Manguin

"1779 Doll". Lucille Manguin
“1779 Doll”. Lucille Manguin

“1785 Doll”. Maggy Rouff (French, 1896–1971)

"1785 Doll". Maggy Rouff (French, 1896–1971)
“1785 Doll”. Maggy Rouff (French, 1896–1971)

“1787 Doll”. Mendel

"1787 Doll". Mendel
“1787 Doll”. Mendel

“1791 Doll”. Martial & Armand

"1791 Doll". Martial & Armand
“1791 Doll”. Martial & Armand

“1808 Doll”. Madame Grès (Alix Barton) (French, Paris 1903–1993 Var region)

"1808 Doll". Madame Grès (Alix Barton) (French, Paris 1903–1993 Var region)
“1808 Doll”. Madame Grès (Alix Barton) (French, Paris 1903–1993 Var region)

“1820 Doll”. House of Patou (French, founded 1919)

"1820 Doll". House of Patou (French, founded 1919)
“1820 Doll”. House of Patou (French, founded 1919)

“1828 Doll”. Henriette Beaujeu (French)

"1828 Doll". Henriette Beaujeu (French)
“1828 Doll”. Henriette Beaujeu (French)

“1832 Doll”. Marcelle Dormoy (French)

"1832 Doll". Marcelle Dormoy (French)
“1832 Doll”. Marcelle Dormoy (French)

“1866 Doll”. Marcelle Chaumont (French)

"1866 Doll". Marcelle Chaumont (French)
“1866 Doll”. Marcelle Chaumont (French)

“1867 Doll”. Jacques Fath (French, 1912–1954)

"1867 Doll". Jacques Fath (French, 1912–1954)
“1867 Doll”. Jacques Fath (French, 1912–1954)

“1873 Doll”. Madeleine Vramant (French)

"1873 Doll". Madeleine Vramant (French)
“1873 Doll”. Madeleine Vramant (French)

“1884 Doll”. Nina Ricci (French, 1883–1970)

"1884 Doll". Nina Ricci (French, 1883–1970)
“1884 Doll”. Nina Ricci (French, 1883–1970)

“1892 Doll”. Germaine Lecomte

"1892 Doll". Germaine Lecomte
“1892 Doll”. Germaine Lecomte

“1896 Doll”. Bruyère (French, founded 1928)

"1896 Doll". Bruyère (French, founded 1928)
“1896 Doll”. Bruyère (French, founded 1928)

“1902 Doll”. Robert Piguet (French, born Switzerland, 1901–1953)

"1902 Doll". Robert Piguet (French, born Switzerland, 1901–1953)
“1902 Doll”. Robert Piguet (French, born Switzerland, 1901–1953)

“1906 Doll”. Elsa Schiaparelli (Italian, 1890–1973)

"1906 Doll". Elsa Schiaparelli (Italian, 1890–1973)
“1906 Doll”. Elsa Schiaparelli (Italian, 1890–1973)

References
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Art for the Day – Daniel Ridgway Knight

More than 100 years ago, high above the banks of the Seine River in Rolleboise, France, Daniel Ridgway Knight set up his easel to paint working women in the fields, vineyards, and gardens surrounding the beautiful valley.

Today, if you were to sit and have lunch at the restaurant of Hotel Domain de la Corniche, you would be overlooking the same stretch of river depicted in several of Ridgway Knight’s paintings.

Hotel Domain de la Corniche
Hotel Domain de la Corniche

Born in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania in 1839, Knight trained in Paris under Gleyre at the École des Beaux-Arts. Gleyre taught a number of prominent artists, including Monet, Renoir, Sisley and Whistler.

After some years working under Meissonier, a painter of immensely detailed Napoleonic military scenes, Knight bought a house and studio in Poissy on the Seine.

Winning several awards at the Paris Salon, the Exposition Universelle, 1889, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Daniel Ridway Knight is best remembered for his soulful depictions of women going about their daily work in and around the Seine River valley—sometimes stopping to talk, to rest, and to dream.

A Garden above the Seine, Rolleboise by Daniel Ridgway Knight
A Garden above the Seine, Rolleboise by Daniel Ridgway Knight
A Field of Flowers by Daniel Ridgway Knight
A Field of Flowers by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Women Washing Clothes by a Stream by Daniel Ridgway Knight, 1898
Women Washing Clothes by a Stream by Daniel Ridgway Knight, 1898
Watering the Garden by Daniel Ridgway Knight, 1912
Watering the Garden by Daniel Ridgway Knight, 1912
Two Women Fishing by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Two Women Fishing by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Three Women in a Landscape by Daniel Ridgway Knight, 1881
Three Women in a Landscape by Daniel Ridgway Knight, 1881
The Siesta by Daniel Ridgway Knight - 1882
The Siesta by Daniel Ridgway Knight – 1882
The Sewing Circle by Daniel Ridgway Knight
The Sewing Circle by Daniel Ridgway Knight
The Seine at Vernon by Daniel Ridgway Knight
The Seine at Vernon by Daniel Ridgway Knight
The Rose Garden by Daniel Ridgway Knight
The Rose Garden by Daniel Ridgway Knight
The Meeting by Daniel Ridgway Knight, c. 1888
The Meeting by Daniel Ridgway Knight, c. 1888
The Honeymoon Breakfast by Daniel Ridgway Knight
The Honeymoon Breakfast by Daniel Ridgway Knight
The Flower Boat by Daniel Ridgway Knight
The Flower Boat by Daniel Ridgway Knight
The Grape Harvest by Daniel Ridgway Knight. Image courtesy of Rehs Galleries, Inc., NYC
The Grape Harvest by Daniel Ridgway Knight. Image courtesy of Rehs Galleries, Inc., NYC
The Dancing Lesson by Daniel Ridgway Knight
The Dancing Lesson by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Madeleine in a wheat field by Daniel Ridgway Knight. Image courtesy of Rehs Galleries, Inc., NYC
Madeleine in a wheat field by Daniel Ridgway Knight. Image courtesy of Rehs Galleries, Inc., NYC
The Conversation by Daniel Ridgway Knight
The Conversation by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Spring Blossoms by Daniel Ridgway Knight. Image courtesy of Rehs Galleries, Inc., NYC
Spring Blossoms by Daniel Ridgway Knight. Image courtesy of Rehs Galleries, Inc., NYC
Reverie by Daniel Ridgway Knight, 1866
Reverie by Daniel Ridgway Knight, 1866
Picking Flowers by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Picking Flowers by Daniel Ridgway Knight
On the Terrace by Daniel Ridgway Knight
On the Terrace by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Mending by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Mending by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Julia on the Terrace by Daniel Ridgway Knight, 1909
Julia on the Terrace by Daniel Ridgway Knight, 1909
In the garden by Daniel Ridgway Knight, 1898
In the garden by Daniel Ridgway Knight, 1898
In Her Garden by Daniel Ridgway Knight
In Her Garden by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Hailing the Ferry by Daniel Ridgway Knight, 1888
Hailing the Ferry by Daniel Ridgway Knight, 1888
Girl by a Stream, Flanders by Daniel Ridgway Knight, 1890
Girl by a Stream, Flanders by Daniel Ridgway Knight, 1890
Flower Girls by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Flower Girls by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Fishing by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Fishing by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Fishing by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Fishing by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Far Away Thoughts by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Far Away Thoughts by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Daydreaming by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Daydreaming by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Daydreaming by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Daydreaming by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Contemplation by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Contemplation by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Confidence by Daniel Ridgway Knight - circa 1899
Confidence by Daniel Ridgway Knight – circa 1899
Coffee in the Garden by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Coffee in the Garden by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Chrysanthemums by Daniel Ridgway Knight, 1898. Image courtesy of Rehs Galleries, Inc., NYC
Chrysanthemums by Daniel Ridgway Knight, 1898. Image courtesy of Rehs Galleries, Inc., NYC
Brittany Girl Overlooking Stream by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Brittany Girl Overlooking Stream by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Baiting the Hook by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Breakfast in the Fields by Daniel Ridgway Knight, 1884. Image courtesy of Rehs Galleries, Inc., NYC
Breakfast in the Fields by Daniel Ridgway Knight, 1884. Image courtesy of Rehs Galleries, Inc., NYC
Autumn Evening by Daniel Ridgway Knight
Autumn Evening by Daniel Ridgway Knight
A Pensive Moment by Daniel Ridgway Knight
A Pensive Moment by Daniel Ridgway Knight

The Changing Face of the Second Empire

In the 1860s and 70s, there was an architectural style that took the world by storm.

It was called “Second Empire”, named after the French Second Empire of Napoleon III’s reign as Emperor of France (1852-70).

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Napoleon III by Alexandre Cabanel, 1865
Napoleon III by Alexandre Cabanel, 1865

Napoleon III wasn’t just the emperor of France during the Second Empire, he was its chief architect. Under his ambitious vision, Paris underwent a dramatic transformation, replacing medieval alleys with wide avenues and grand buildings adorned in a new style, aptly named the “Second Empire.” Napoleon III not only championed this eclectic blend of Renaissance, Baroque, and contemporary elements, but actively fostered its development by commissioning iconic projects like the Palais Garnier opera house and the Louvre extension. He saw architecture as a tool for both national prestige and social welfare, showcasing France’s power while providing much-needed jobs and housing. So, while talented architects like Hector Lefuel crafted the finer details, it was Napoleon III’s grand vision and unwavering support that truly molded the Second Empire’s architectural aesthetic, leaving a lasting legacy of opulent beauty and urban grandeur.

Period paintings give us an idea of what Paris was like during the French Second Empire.

Music in the Tuileries Gardens, by Edouard Manet (1862). The parks of Paris, particularly the Tuileries gardens and the new Bois de Boulogne, provided entertainment and relaxation for all classes of Parisians during the Second Empire.
Music in the Tuileries Gardens, by Edouard Manet (1862). The parks of Paris, particularly the Tuileries gardens and the new Bois de Boulogne, provided entertainment and relaxation for all classes of Parisians during the Second Empire.
Party night at the Tuileries, June 10, 1867 by Pierre Tetar van Elven, 1867.
Party night at the Tuileries, June 10, 1867 by Pierre Tetar van Elven, 1867.
The Avenue de l'Opera, one of the new boulevards created by Napoleon III. The new buildings on the boulevards were required to be all of the same height and same basic façade design, and all faced with cream-hued stone, giving the city center its distinctive harmony.
The Avenue de l’Opera, one of the new boulevards created by Napoleon III. The new buildings on the boulevards were required to be all of the same height and same basic façade design, and all faced with cream-hued stone, giving the city center its distinctive harmony.

And the opulent interiors hark back to an age of extravagance.

The Grand Foyer of the Opera Garnier, Paris. Image credit Degrémont Anthony.
The Grand Foyer of the Opera Garnier, Paris. Image credit Degrémont Anthony.
The Salon doré (Golden Room), office of the President of the French Republic. Image credit Chatsam.
The Salon doré (Golden Room), office of the President of the French Republic. Image credit Chatsam.
Second Empire style Grand Salon in the Apartements of Napoléon III, Louvre palace.
Second Empire style Grand Salon in the Apartements of Napoléon III, Louvre palace.

The Second Empire style was characterized by a multifarious mix of earlier European styles—particularly Baroque—often having mansard roofs and square based domes.

An abundance of Neo-Baroque decorative elements on the south façade of the Opéra Garnier in Paris, France. Image credit Paris16
An abundance of Neo-Baroque decorative elements on the south façade of the Opéra Garnier in Paris, France. Image credit Paris16
Roof detail of a Second Empire style house in Salem, Massachusetts
Mansard roof detail of a Second Empire style house in Salem, Massachusetts
A square-based domes tops the Mitchell Building, an 1876 office building, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Image credit Kenneth C. Zirkel
A square-based dome tops the Mitchell Building—an 1876 office building, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Image credit Kenneth C. Zirkel

Second Empire could be easily scaled, making it good for a variety of municipal and corporate buildings.

The Élysée Palace (Official residence of the President of France since 1848). Image credit Remi Mathis.
The Élysée Palace (Official residence of the President of France since 1848). Image credit Remi Mathis.
Baltimore City Hall, Baltimore, Maryland. Complete 1875
Baltimore City Hall, Baltimore, Maryland. Completed 1875
Alfred B. Mullett's former State, War and Navy Building, Washington, D.C., begun during the Grant administration and built between 1871 and 1888.
Alfred B. Mullett’s former State, War and Navy Building, Washington, D.C., begun during the Grant administration and built between 1871 and 1888.
Central Post Office, Buenos Aires, Argentina (1909 - 1928). Image Credit Albano Azarian.
Central Post Office, Buenos Aires, Argentina (1909 – 1928). Image Credit Albano Azarian.
Facade of the Brussels Stock Exchange, Belgium. Built 1873. Image credit Ben2.
Facade of the Brussels Stock Exchange, Belgium. Built 1873. Image credit Ben2.
Mansard rooftops along Boulevard Haussmann in Paris constructed during the Second French Empire. Image credit Thierry Bézecourt.
Mansard rooftops along Boulevard Haussmann in Paris constructed during the Second French Empire. Image credit Thierry Bézecourt.
Caldwell County Courthouse, Lockhart, Texas. Built 1894. Image credit CMBJ.
Caldwell County Courthouse, Lockhart, Texas. Built 1894. Image credit CMBJ.

The style spread throughout Europe and across to the United States, where the tower and mansard roof were often the most notable Second Empire elements.

Cresting around the roof and tower became a popular decoration in the US and sometimes acted as a lightning conductor.

 Ornate creasting across the roof of Glanmore Mansion was completed in 1883 for John Philpot Curran Phillips. Image credit Bill Badzo, flickr.
Ornate cresting across the roof of Glanmore Mansion was completed in 1883 for John Philpot Curran Phillips. Image credit Bill Badzo, flickr.
Cresting around the mansard-roofed tower of the Joseph R. Bodwell House, Hallowell, Maine. Built 1865. Image credit Taoab.
Cresting around just the tower of the Joseph R. Bodwell House, Hallowell, Maine. Built 1865. Image credit Taoab.

Made of wood, brick or stone, elaborate examples often had paired columns as well as sculpted details around the doors, windows, and dormers.

Heck-Andrews House in Raleigh, North Carolina, completed in 1870.
Heck-Andrews House in Raleigh, North Carolina, completed in 1870.

For the nouveau riche, the opulent Second Empire style was the perfect choice to express their new found wealth.

But by the 1880’s, it started to fall out of favor. In came the Queen Anne style, with its wraparound porches, round towers, overhanging eaves and painted balustrades.

By the mid-20th century, thousands of Second Empire homes were demolished in sweeping urban renewal programs.

Instead of harking back to a glorious age, the style became associated with horror thanks to TV shows like the Addams Family and the 1960 movie Psycho.

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The Psycho set on the Universal lot, featuring a Ford Custom 300 similar to that driven by Janet Leigh in the film.
The Psycho set on the Universal Studios lot, featuring a Ford Custom 300 similar to that driven by Janet Leigh in the film.

Today, Second Empire is comparatively rare, but some outstanding examples live on as reminders of a glorious bygone era.

Shard Villa (The Columbus Smith Estate) Salisbury, Vermont. Completed 1874. Image credit Don Shall.
Shard Villa (The Columbus Smith Estate) Salisbury, Vermont. Completed 1874. Image credit Don Shall.
The Second Empire style Hegeler Carus Mansion on Seventh Street in LaSalle, Illinois. Image credit Terence Faircloth, flickr
The Second Empire style Hegeler Carus Mansion on Seventh Street in LaSalle, Illinois. Image credit Terence Faircloth, flickr
Second Empire in St John, New Brunswick, Canada. Formerly known as Earl House and built in 1870.. Image credit Julien Duguay
Second Empire in St John, New Brunswick, Canada. Formerly known as Earl House and built in 1870.. Image credit Julien Duguay
North Adams Public Library (North Adams, Massachusetts). Built in 1865 for Sanford Blackinton. Image credit C Hanchey, flickr.
North Adams Public Library (North Adams, Massachusetts). Built in 1865 for Sanford Blackinton. Image credit C Hanchey, flickr.
Glen Auburn, Second Empire in Natchez, MIssissippi. Credit Tom Barnes.
Glen Auburn, Second Empire in Natchez, MIssissippi. Credit Elisa.rolle.
George Wise House/Bibber Memorial Chapel, Kennebunk, ME. Built 1868. Photo credit Doug Copeland, flickr.
George Wise House/Bibber Memorial Chapel, Kennebunk, ME. Built 1868. Photo credit Doug Copeland, flickr.
Bossler Mansion, St. Anne's Hill, Dayton, Ohio. Circa 1870s. Image credit  Bossler Mansion on Facebook.
Bossler Mansion, St. Anne’s Hill, Dayton, Ohio. Circa 1870s. Image credit Bossler Mansion on Facebook.

Music of the Second Empire

Jacques Offenbach became known for his operettas satirising the French court of Napoleon III during the Second Empire. But it was good-natured and Napoleon so enjoyed it that he personally granted Offenbach French citizenship and the Légion d’Honneur.

“Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour,” Jacques Offenbach’s iconic aria from the opera “Les contes d’Hoffmann,” resonates far beyond the stage. Composed in 1881, just one year after the fall of the Second Empire, it carries whispers of the era’s opulent excess and fleeting pleasures. The song’s dreamy waltz rhythm and melancholic lyrics – “fleeting time doth ne’er return, but bears on wings our dreaming” – echo the Second Empire’s own bittersweet legacy. Just as the glittering reign of Napoleon III crumbled under political turmoil, leaving behind a nation grappling with change, “Belle nuit” celebrates a love both passionate and transitory, a mirror to the empire’s own ephemeral grandeur. Its popularity in the years following the empire’s demise suggests a yearning for lost romance and escapism, a nostalgic ode to a bygone era even as France moved towards a new republic. Thus, “Belle nuit” holds a unique position, acting as both a lament for the Second Empire and a timeless expression of love’s bittersweet beauty.

A Journey Back in Time Down the Avenue des Champs Élysées

The Avenue des Champs Élysées is a boulevard in Paris 1.9 km (1.2 mi) long and 70 m (76 yds) wide, which runs between the Obelisk of Luxur at Place de la Concorde, and the Arc de Triomphe at Place Charles de Gaulle.

Champs Élysées means “Elysian Fields”—the final resting place for heroes from Greek Mythology.

In France, they call it la plus belle avenue du monde “the world’s most beautiful avenue”.

1200px-Avenue_des_Champs-Élysées,_street_sign

Listen to Gabriel Fauré as we travel back in time down the Avenue des Champs Élysées.

Atop the Arc de Triomphe, one hundred years unfolds in the following two images.

Where once cobbles clattered and horse-drawn carriages danced, where the air hummed with the melody of strolling musicians and the lively bustle of Parisians in elegant hats and flowing robes, engines now roar, neon signs hiss, and the air pulsates with the murmur of a million conversations.

The Champs-Élysées as seen from the Arc de Triomphe in 1900.

Whispering stories of a bygone era, the Avenue has become a vibrant tapestry of lives, a melting pot of cultures, and a testament to the ever-evolving soul of Paris.

The Champs Élysées as seen from the Arc de Triomphe 2011.
The Champs Élysées as seen from the Arc de Triomphe, present day.
Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile. Credit Hansueli Krapf
Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile. Credit Hansueli Krapf

From the Place de la Concorde to the Rond-Point, we travel through the Jardin des Champs Élysées (Gardens of Champs Élysées), a park which has the Grand Palais, the Petit Palais, the Théâtre Marigny, and several restaurants, gardens and monuments.

The Champs-Elysees by Jean-François Raffaëlli c1880.
The Champs-Elysees by Jean-François Raffaëlli c1880.

Before Louis XIV, the area of the Champs Élysées was fields and kitchen gardens.

In 1667, French landscape architect André Le Nôtre, who had designed the gardens of Versailles, extended the Tuileries Garden to form the Champs Élysées gardens—together, a place where Parisians celebrated, met, promenaded, and relaxed.

At the Champs Elysees Gardens by Victor Gabriel Gilbert – 1897.

By the late 18th century, the Champs Élysées had become a fashionable avenue.  Trees on either side formed elegant rectangular groves.

Lane of Trees on the Champs-Elysees by Jean-François Raffaëlli - circa 1893.
Lane of Trees on the Champs-Elysees by Jean-François Raffaëlli – circa 1893.

Gardens of townhouses belonging to the nobility backed onto the formal gardens of the Champs Élysée. The grandest of these was the Élysée Palace, which became the official residence of the Presidents of France during the Third French Republic.

The Promenade on the Champs-Elysees by Jean-Georges Béraud.
The Promenade on the Champs-Elysees by Jean-Georges Béraud.

Le Nôtre planned a wide promenade, lined with two rows of elm trees on either side and flowerbeds in the symmetrical style of the French formal garden.

View of the Champs-Elysées from the Place de l'Etoile by Edmond-Georges Grandjean - 1878.
View of the Champs-Elysées from the Place de l’Etoile by Edmond-Georges Grandjean – 1878.
Scene on the Champs-Élysées by Jean-Georges Béraud
Scene on the Champs-Élysées by Jean-Georges Béraud

In 1828, footpaths and fountains were added, then later gas lighting.

Evening, Champs-Elysees by Frederick Childe Hassam - c. 1898.
Evening, Champs-Elysees by Frederick Childe Hassam – c. 1898.
Parisienne Au Rond-Point Des Champs-Elysees by Jean-Georges Béraud.
Parisienne Au Rond-Point Des Champs-Elysees by Jean-Georges Béraud.

In 1834, under King Louis Philippe, the architect Jacques Ignace Hittorff was commissioned to redesign the Place de la Concorde and the gardens of the Champs-Élysées.

April Showers, Champs Elysees Paris by Frederick Childe Hassam - 1888.
April Showers, Champs Elysees Paris by Frederick Childe Hassam – 1888.

The main monument of the Boulevard, the Arc de Triomphe, was commissioned by Napoleon after his victory at the Battle of Austerlitz.

After Napoleon’s fall from power in 1815, the Arc de Triomphe remained unfinished—eventually being completed by King Louis Philippe in 1836.

The Champs-Elysees, The Arc de Triomphe by Jean-François Raffaëlli.
The Champs-Elysees, The Arc de Triomphe by Jean-François Raffaëlli.
L'Arc de Triomphe, Paris by Eugène Galien-Laloue
L’Arc de Triomphe, Paris by Eugène Galien-Laloue

Emperor Napoleon III selected the park as the site of the first Paris international exposition—the Exposition Universelle of 1855.

Covering 322,000 sq ft, a giant exhibit hall once stood where the Grand Palais is today.

Exposition Universelle 1855.
Exposition Universelle 1855.
Detail of the engraving 'Paris in 1860. Bird's eye view, taken above the Champs-Elysees roundabout' representing the Palais de l'Industrie
Detail of the engraving ‘Paris in 1860. Bird’s eye view, taken above the Champs-Elysees roundabout’ representing the Palais de l’Industrie
Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées. Credit Eric Pouhier
Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées. Credit Eric Pouhier

Following the Exposition, in 1858, the gardens were transformed from a formal French design into a picturesque English-style garden, with groves of trees, flower beds and winding paths.

Beautiful rows of chestnut trees replaced the old tired elms.

The Champs-Elysees during the Paris Fair of 1867 by Pierre Auguste Renoir - 1867.
The Champs-Elysees during the Paris Fair of 1867 by Pierre Auguste Renoir – 1867.

In 1860, merchants along the Avenue joined together to form a syndicate—the oldest standing committee in Paris—to promote commercial interests along the Champs Élysées.

La Patisserie Gloppe au Champs Elyssées by Jean-Georges Béraud - 1889.
La Patisserie Gloppe au Champs Elyssées by Jean-Georges Béraud – 1889.
Portrait of a Lady on the Champs Elysees by George Vaughan Curtis - 1893.
Portrait of a Lady on the Champs Elysees by George Vaughan Curtis – 1893.

Traditionally home to luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss, Lancel, Guerlain, Lacoste, Hôtel de la Païva, Élysée Palace and Fouquet’s, the Champs Élysées now also hosts popular chain stores.

Woman at the Champs-Élysées by night by Louis Anquetin.
Woman at the Champs-Élysées by night by Louis Anquetin.