Claudine hides

Claudine Leroy was the daughter of Professor Auguste Leroy, who taught at the Faculty of Medicine at the Sorbonne University. Leroy was one of the professors who defended women’s right to higher education. Much acrimonious debate on the subject went on at the University and Leroy braved the disdain of his retrograde colleagues so that women could study at the establishment in the same way as men. Claudine inherited his feistiness and a stubborn desire to stick to her guns.

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Claudine was a brilliant young woman whose intelligence and immense kindness brought her much attention. She also happened to be an incredible athlete with a perfect body. However, because of a small birthmark on her face, her confidence in everyday life was not what it could have been. Thanks to the joyful group of friends she met in the Jardin du Luxembourg, Claudine slowly left her house more often, rather than returning there directly from school. As the youngest of the group, she benefited from the unflinching protection and support of the others, especially when subject to any harsh words or mockery regarding the mark on her face. In fact, Claudine almost always managed to hide her face, aided by the tricks and stratagems of Odette who tended to her like a little sister. Odette even manage to have Claudine attend a costume ball, thanks to a rather impressive beard!

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Claudine realised at an early age that she loved dance and sport, especially running which modelled her body into the perfect silhouette. Odette often spoke of Claudine’s perfect forms, making the latter blush and hide as soon as the matter came up.

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Claudine’s dreams of going to university were crushed when her mother died in 1920 from a rare strain of the plague that killed nearly a hundred workers in the Paris fashion industry, almost certainly due to imported rolls of fabric containing infected fleas. Claudine decided she had to stay at home to look after her father who was devastated by the loss of his dear wife. She nevertheless continued to run and never missed a dance class. Odette provided her with dresses from chez Chéruit. From time to time, she participated in private fashion shows organised by Odette for customers who were in awe of her amazing figure and not at all concerned by her birthmark. She never went unnoticed in the street, and many people would turn to admire her perfect form.

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Monsieur Leroy never got over the death of his wife. Very soon after her death he resigned from his job and spent all his time in his laboratory, which he rarely left. It is here that Claudine found his lifeless body one morning in 1930. Although she was deeply saddened by his death, she also felt a kind of relief, as the old man that Monsieur Leroy had become bore little resemblance to the brilliant father she had known in her youth. A little later, she discovered that her parents had left her with a comfortable amount of money, enough to allow her not to work. She sold their large apartment on the place du Panthéon and bought a superb duplex on Quai Saint Augustin. Claudine became increasingly interested in politics and women’s rights. Odette never understood why Claudine did not capitalise on the body she had worked so hard to sculpt through running, dance and gymnastics.

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When Robert Perrier, the founder of Scandale girdles asked Gruau to draw an ad for the company’s revolutionary new girdle, Odette – who had met Perrier while working chez Chéruit – managed to get Claudine to pose for the drawing, and her figure was used for many years to encourage men to buy for this accessory for their female companions. Claudine used her salary to finance various political and women’s lib organisations.



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