|Mme Chéruit, by Paul-César Helleu, ca. 1901|
In the January 1899 edition of Le Jacquard, a trade journal for the wool industry, Huet & Chéruit are noted as having set up to sell gowns and confections in December 1898 at 13 rue Grange-Batelière, in the premises that were previously run by Mme Raudnitz (the source is a list of people admitted as experts in, I think, a legal court; it's interesting that Mme Worth is one of them). For some time, the sisters kept "Raudnitz et Cie" on their labels above or below their names, most likely in order to remind longtime Raudnitz patrons that this was the same company. It even remained in the early 1910s, when Chéruit had moved to 21 Place Vendôme (a much more fashionable address).
According to the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art, Chéruit purchased twelve of Paul Poiret's designs in 1898, which means that some of the first gowns the sisters showed under their own label might have been his. I'd like to have attended that show!
|same source as extract below|
The salerooms and fitting rooms of maison Chéruit are admirably decorated with wood and antique paintings. They are arranged with the most artistic taste. One of the rooms, amongothers, truly a little gem, possesses a remarkable ceiling, painted by Huet, which is a marvel of art and would be worthy of being in a museum.
Maison Chéruit is the meeting place of the most refined clientele. They know well that they will find in all her designs impeccable art and absolute care for line which has made the renown of the house.
What is meant by "line", this word that is said so often and without which there is never true elegance? It is a certain curved line with waving inflections in which artists have found all the elements of beautiful figures. And beauty, in effect, cannot be perfect if it doesn't have the subtle and necessary grace of the line. Chéruit's designs offer all the graceful simplicity of form which constitutes elegance and which multiplies a woman's seductions. ...
Such exquisite creations in gowns, cloaks, and furs does the grand couture house, which has such influence over fashion and which decides in some way what it will be tomorrow, present us. The taste of Mme Chéruit, so original, so fine, and so personal, has placed the house in the first rank, in Paris and in the whole world.
Further, we should not forget to add that, some years ago, Mme Chéruit created a new department for babies and little girls.I can find few sources from the earliest years of Huet & Chéruit; they pick up at the end of the 1900s, by which time the house is referred to only as Chéruit. In the Dry Goods Reporter (1903), it's referred to as Huet & Chéruit; a Parisian shopping guide (1907) refers to both sisters only in the index - in the main text, the house is known as Chéruit. (Some state or imply that the house became "Chéruit" in 1906; so far I've found no solid evidence of that, but the dating of these references make it seems likely.) Around the same time, Chéruit engaged in an affair with Paul Helleu, who drew numerous portraits of her.
- La Ville Lumière, 1909, pp.97-98
It's difficult to balance the positive statements about this or that designer being ahead of the trend in fashion magazines: they're made without actually knowing what's coming. But with the benefit of hindsight, we can read this article from the Woman's Home Companion (Fall fashion number, 1909) and interpret Paquin's princess cuts, Callot Soeurs' drapery, Drécoll's long suit coats, and, most significantly, Chéruit's raised waistline as trends that would continue into the 1910s.
|"French Evening Gown with Wrapped Overskirt" a Chéruit design, Woman's Home Companion, 1910|
In the same year, she was credited in several places as being a potential originator of the "panier effect", a piece of 18th century historicism, possibly drawn from her own collection of antique dress, that was the opposite of Poiret's lampshade tunic. The style might have been a precursor to a later skirt silhouette, popular in the late teens and very early '20s, which had more volume in the hips. Even without that influence, though, shorter overskirts were at the cutting edge of fashion at the time, and it's telling that Chéruit was a leading part of it.
|example of the panier fashion, Silk, May 1912|
Last Spring this establishment changed the existing line of a woman's figure by making its greatest circumference just below the knee, and it was then rumored that the next step would be to drop the tight underskirt that increased the seeming size of the tunic's hem and lengthen the tunic into a full skirt, having one garment instead of two.
This prophecy came true. Cheruit simply made the overskirt into a lower skirt, thereby putting the fullness at the shoetops instead of the line below the knees. And it really is at the shoetops, for never were gowns so short for street wear since the early days when our ancestresses went out in public far more uncovered than the modern woman dares to be.
The house of Cheruit was not alone in this simple adjustment of our lower garment which, however, spells such a drastic change in our apparel; all the other houses did it, showing some prearranged plan, no matter how much the Syndicate may deprecate it. Each house, however, had its own way of making the greatest circumference at the shoe tops, and Mme Cheruit's way may prevail, as her long tunic certainly gowned all the States last Summer, and is really doing so now. ...
|Chéruit summer gown, Gazette de Bon Ton, May 1914|
|Models from Harper's Bazar, January 1916|
(Sorry for not using the pictures of the extant pieces in the MMA - none of the photographs are released for academic use yet.)