Boué Soeurs

Quite a change in subject matter, but I've started working on a story set in 1920 and my costume thoughts have been there lately.

The Boué sisters, Madame Sylvie Montegut and Baronne Jeanne d’Etreillis, opened their Parisian fashion house in 1899.  (It's speculated that Sylvie was more involved in design and Jeanne was more of a businesswoman.)  Few extant garments from their early years survive, however, and so the two are associated more strongly with the 1920s.

From the Renseignments Commerciaux, "Formations des Sociétés," of Le Jacquard (1901).

"Toilettes, par Mmes Boué Sœurs", Femina, p. 592 (1905):
Robe de tulle point d'esprit noir incruste de dentelle blanche pailletée. Corsage de point d'esprit recouvert d'une berthe de dentelle. Gros nœud de liberty ciel à la jupe.
Robe empire en velours chiffon vert, grand empiècement à jour en malines, petites couronnes de taffetas vert.
Robe de mousseline de soie rose, garnie de volants de point d'esprit recouvert de dentelle. Corsage mi-partie volants de dentelle et mi-partie, petits volants de point d'esprit; petites couronnes de taffetas rose.
Gown of black point d'esprit tulle, inlaid with sequined white lace.  Bodice of point d'esprit covered with a lace bertha.  Large blue Liberty [ie, from Liberty of London] bow on the skirt.
Empire gown in green velvet chiffon, large up to date yoke of Méchlin lace, little wreaths of green taffeta.
Gown of pink mousseline de soie, trimmed with ruffles of point d'esprit covered with lace.  Bodice partially ruffles of lace and partially little ruffles of point d'esprit; little wreaths of pink taffeta.

From Gotha Français (1906): "Corselet skirt in taupe wool, decorated with pinched pleats at the waist, and with two large similar pleats at the bottom of the skirt.  Gathered taupe mousseline de soie blouse, Valenciennes yoke.  Short sleeves decorated with the same Valenciennes lace, tightened with a large liberty bow.  A large gold buckle tightening the corselet."

The Maison Boué Soeurs staff, 1906

In an article she wrote for Arts & Decoration in 1922, Jeanne stated that the two had begun to sew clothing for their dolls at a young age, and then progressed to making dresses for themselves.  They opened their house at 9 Rue de la Paix when they were about eighteen, and by 1902 they could be listed alongside established greats such as Worth, Doeuillet, Redfern, and Lacroix.  Most of their extant pieces, however, date to after 1914, when they opened a branch at 13 W56th St, in New York.  According to Jeanne, they met immediately with success there - despite a mild scandal in 1915, in which the sisters illegally imported some of their French workers, who in turn illegally brought over couture gowns and declared them at customs as their own property.  A year later, they brought their own case to court, prosecuting Hickson Incorporated, who bought one of their outfits and was promising to sell copies of it: a common problem for couture houses at the time.
 Vogue (1917)

 ca. 1919, MMA 1979.129.2a, b

The New France (1920): "Exquisite toilette of fine black serge trimmed with dark blue and purple silk and embroidered with blue and purple cross-stitches in heavy silk floss. (Boué Soeurs Creation)"

ca. 1920, MMA 1979.129.3

ca. 1922, MMA 1979.569.42

ca. 1923; MMA 1976.270.2

ca. 1923 or 1927, MMA 1976.263

Nightgown, 1920s, Vintage Textiles

Jeanne said that the secret of their success was in the excellence of the materials they chose: "every kind of beautiful fabric of the character first developed at the time of King Louis XIV".  In addition to seeking out good manufacturers, they developed extremely lightweight fabrics to achieve the frothy, delicate look and exquisite embroidery that were their trademarks.

ca. 1925, MMA 2009.300.1251a, b

1928, MMA C.I.68.48a–e

ca. 1928, MMA 1974.59.1a, b

ca. 1928, MMA 1994.204.1

The sisters seem to have closed their Parisian house during the 1930s, but reopened it in 1948.  Unfortunately, by this time their light and lacy style was out of fashion, and they failed to continue as a commercial success. In the 1950s, the closed first the Parisian branch, and then the one in New York.


  1. This is a very interesting site. There is a great deal of information and useful links. I learned more about Boue Soeurs which is very nice because the Boue sisters were my grandmother and great-aunt. Thank you for your work on this.
    Christine M. Roussel


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