Igor Ouvaroff for Vogue Enfants September 2011: Channeling Walter Blum and Marcel Marlier

Igor Ouvaroff for Vogue Enfants September 2011: Channeling Walter Blum and Marcel Marlier


This was the cover of a supplement – Vogue Enfants – given away free as an insert in Vogue France in September 2011 (just a month after the Thylane Blondeau fake scandal – she’s now sixteen, and has just become the new “face of L’Oreal” without a murmur). It gives me an excuse to revisit one of my favourite obscure photographers – German (resettled in Holland before the war – click for links) Walter Blum, since the whole ambiènce is so reminiscent of his fashion work back in the ‘fifties:

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…….I’m sure Igor Ouvaroff (the French stylist/set designer for the session) had no desire to copy Walter in particular – after all, once the outfits and setting are paying homage to the ‘fifties, the rest seems to follow almost naturally….. Here’s the rest of the set:













……and talking of Thylane and the supposed sexualising of children, the posting of some of the set on a Brazilian blog (at the time it was published in Vogue) invoked this exchange involving a commenter and the blogger Constance Zahn:

“Ana, September 16, 2011
I find this dangerous!
Children are not mini adults.

Constance Zahn, September 18, 2011
I do not think this fashion is for mini adults. This is a classic aesthetic of European children. In fact, casual (and so colorful) fashion is a very recent thing – both for children and adults. I wore a lot of “formal” children’s clothing as a child and I do not think it affected my creation in a negative way … In my opinion, it’s just another type of children’s fashion … and I particularly like both: formal and casual.
Kisses.” (babies.constancezahn.com)

I think Constance supposed Ana’s criticism was just referring to the perceived formality of the outfits – but in other blogs I’ve also seen complaints about the skirt lengths – and a number of the styles are in fact reasonably casual. The irony is that the fitted coats and barely-longer dress and skirt hems are classic ‘fifties – as well as the short full pleated skirts and short gingham shift worn in other shots.

In fact the most probable direct influence on Igor’s styling is an iconic Belgian illustrator: Marcel Marlier (1930 – 2011) – also given that half of Igor’s set feature the inevitable dachshund (Patapouf in Marcel’s Martine books – started in 1954). The skirts and dresses are usually quite brief, with the boys in shorts – but those really were the regular styles worn in northern European countries like France, Belgium (Marcel) and Holland (Walter) in the relevant period:


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…..as you can imagine, I’m not too keen on these sentimentalised, saccharine versions of girlhood – but as representations of the fashions worn, they’re fascinating. You can see the flounced, full skirts (often pleated) morph into smoother, shift-types as the ‘sixties arrive – compare the first dress with the last one…….

Walter was clearly another diligent recorder of the styles of the period – these are b&w portraits that I didn’t include in his two dedicated posts (plus the colour header):




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…….and they’re invaluable historical documents on many levels: logically millions of photographs exist from the period, but these are still useful records of hairstyles, play activities (he did a number featuring calisthenics for example, which aren’t relevant here) and artifacts, as well as fashion. For me they are also charming portraits of the models themselves – the two girls smiling at their up-turned toes, for example, is wonderful……



6 thoughts on “Igor Ouvaroff for Vogue Enfants September 2011: Channeling Walter Blum and Marcel Marlier

  1. Thank you for reminding me of Mr Marlier’s work. It’s been a while since I’ve seen his illustrations. As you say, they are rather idealised, but I do like their vibrance and cheerfulness. And they have such detail; for example, the knees. I’m always impressed by detailed knees!😊

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    1. I never saw one of his books as a child – they remind me of British “Ladybird” books in the general approach and ‘fifties aesthetic – tho’ that company used different artists, and were about half-and-half fiction/non-fiction.
      Interesting about the knees – nary a dimple! I imagine knees are rather difficult to render…..

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      1. I never saw Mr Marlier’s books when I was young either. What I had were “Little Golden Books”, which from memory had more stories about animals than people. I stumbled across the “Martine” books on the internet a few years back and I recall being amazed at the longevity of the series. But I never saw such a wonderful collection of Mr Marlier’s illustrations like the one you’ve put together.

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  2. These are so sweet, so ’50s! As far as short skirts have we already forgotten our sailor Shirley Temple? People have a twitter-short attention span these days.

    2nd pic: leashed cat, cool!

    This is wonderful, makes me think of Tom Sawyer’s Becky Thatcher for some reason, sitting in class.

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  3. Look at a Youtube video of “Good Ship Lollipop”, where Shirley sang to an audience of adoring young men: the comments are typically anachronistic jibes at her parents for supposedly “pimping” her, the studio for exploiting her, and any man within two hundred feet of being a leering pervert – all because she wore standard little-girl dresses of the time. If you look at the footage, it’s clear she was wearing “boys’ shorts” in a matching material under the dress – very typical of the time:

    You have American examples to relate to, like Shirley and what was probably a ‘fifties movie version of “Tom Sawyer” – and I don’t suppose the styles were very different from European ones in all reality…..a wonderful time for girls’ fashion – and modern stylists keep coming back to it…

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