La Mille et Deuxième Nuits

Fantastical events and “happenings” as a means of pumping up publicity have been a staple of the fashion world for generations and while they may seem somewhat overdone in our era of social media and the 24/7 news cycle, they were a fresh idea back in Poret’s day and went a long way towards introducing new fashions. In this post, we consider one of the first fashion events that was staged by couturier Paul Poiret and ushered in a new era in fashion history. Enjoy! 🙂


Poiret Sultan

Publicity has always been a part of the fashion world and it’s the fashion world’s life blood. Paul Poiret was one of the first couturiers to actively utilize publicity as a marketing tool on a large scale and one of his most notable efforts was the 1002 Nights or Persian Celebration that he staged on June 24, 1911. Poiret intended the event as a launch for his brand of perfumes under the “Rosine” label, named after his eldest daughter.

Rosine Poiret

 

But there was more to the event than simply promoting perfume, he was also promoting his entire line of Oriental-themed fashions and in particular, the jupe cullotte or harem pants style. Harem pants (or any kind of pants for women) represented a radical departure in fashion and was considered by many to be scandalous- it was considered tantamount to being naked.

Lepape’s illustration ‘La fete Persane’, most likely Paul and Denise Poiret’s “The Thousand and Second Night” party, 1912

Georges Lepape, La Fête Persane, 1912; attributed to the 1002 Night

So, let’s take a closer look at the jupe culotte…here’s one of the more iconic examples that was worn to the 1002 Nights:

Jupe Culotte1

Paul Poiret, Jupe Culotte, 1911; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1983.8a, b)

Jupe Culotte2 Poiret

Jupe Culotte3 Poiret

Close-Up View

Jupe Culotte4 Poiret

What is especially interesting was the theatrical element to the 1002 Nights. The event was held at Poiret’s 18th Century mansion at 26 Avenue d’Antin1Recent research on our part seems to point towards Poiret actually staging this event at a rented mansion in another part of Paris- see the postscript. and Poiret invited some 300 people, making it explicitly clear that everyone was expected to wear Persian dress (if they didn’t have any, a suitable outfit would be provided at the entrance before they were allowed to enter). Poiret provided a feast accompanied by some 900 liters of Champagne along with all manner of entertainments.

1911 Paul & Denise Poiret 1002 party with Denise being released from her golden cage

The centerpiece of the 1002 Nights was Poiret’s wife Denise modeling the new jupe cullotte style, sitting in a large golden cage with Poiret taking the part of a sultan. The finale of the show was when at an appointed time, Poiret then made a big show of “releasing” Denise from her cage:

George Le Pape, "Denise Poiret at The Thousand and Second Night Party" : Paul Poiret designed this ensemble for his wife to wear to his infamous "Thousand and Second Night" party in Paris, 1911. in Paris, 1911

George Le Pape, Denise Poiret at The Thousand and Second Night Party, 1911

The 1002 Nights was a huge success and was widely reported in the press. Although Poiret denied that he’d staged the party as a publicity stunt, it was evident that it had been just exactly that and the publicity led to a subsequent explosion in sales of Poiret’s Oriental-inspired fashions.

1911 Denise and Paul Poiret at the 1002 night party

Denise and Paul Poiret at the 1002 Nights

In contrast to earlier couturiers, Poiret was a consummate showman and constantly strove to attract the public’s attention to his designs and for a long time he was successful. Unfortunately, the First World War was an interruption that Poiret never full recovered from and while Oriental themes still informed his designs, the public had moved on, favoring more simple designs that were being put forth by Chanel and others.


Postscript:

From what we can determine, the event may have occurred at a mansion located at 109 rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré (in the 8th Arrondissement) that he rented from a friend, an art dealer by the name of Henri Barbazanges. From checking on Google Maps, the location is currently occupied by some type of commercial building- whatever mansion that has been there is long gone. This location actually makes a little more sense in that the address is larger than the one at 26 Avenue d’Antin but again, only more research will tell and my French language skills are not the best. If anyone out there has better information, by all means comment. 🙂

 

Florals For Spring And Summer

Floral design motifs were a major element in dress styles throughout the late Nineteenth Century and especially during the 1880s and 1890s and came in many forms and were utilized both in the fashion fabric and trim to varying degrees. Here’s one interesting example from circa 1889 that was made by Maison Felix:

Day Dress c. 1889 Felix

Felix, Day Dress, c. 1889; Albany Museum of History and Art (u1973.69ab)

Day Dress c. 1889 Felix

Side Profile

The sheer expanse of the side panels utilizing the pattern is amazing and it definitely stands out.

Day Dress c. 1889 Felix

Close-up of  the fashion fabric.

Looking closely at the pictures, it appears that the fabric was most likely a silk brocade.

Style-wise, this dress is simple, sharply defined lines characteristic of the late 1880s and employs a pale green background fabric for the bodice back and sleeves as well as the front and back skirt that offsets the areas with the floral brocade with its various shades of green. The pleating and folds are used to create the effect of an overdress/robe but if you look closer, it’s actually one unit; the bodice and skirt appear to be joined at the waist but whether this is simply hooks and eyes or stitching, it’s hard to tell without a closer examination in person (Hmm..maybe a trip to Albany, New York is in order…). Finally, the total effect is enhanced by the lack of any extraneous trim- the fabric speaks for itself.

Below are a few fashion that show different uses of florals:

 Just for comparison, here’s another dress from the same year thereabouts:

Visiting Dress c. 1889

James McCreary & Co., Visiting Dress, c. 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art

Visiting Dress c. 1889

Side Profile

Visiting Dress c. 1889

Detail of Cuff

This dress has a more elaborate construction in that we see the use of a rich silk brocade executed in several different colors set against a dark brown brown shades of velvet and silk, creating a multi-tonal color pattern. Also, the luster qualities vary between the fabrics with the silks having far more luster from reflected light versus the silk velvet which tends to absorb light. The above examples give only a small glimpse of the variety of design possibilities and we hope that they might provide some inspiration for people recreating historic fashions.


And More Original Inspiration…

Some bodices break the rules! She never had a petersham at the waistline, most of the seams aren’t finished off, there’s been no obvious size alterations throughout the years. Yet…she’s pretty as a picture, and was carefully tended by someone many years ago. 🙂

 



And For Original Inspiration…

Details! I love the hand-drawn fringe, the pretty pleated watch pocket, and a complete set of her original buttons. It’s so lucky that there’s no silk shattering, so when I’m done today, back to her tissue-stuffed box she goes! 🙂



Inspiration Dress

This is the back of the inspiration dress that I patterned for my blue cotton dress. It’s from a suit of three pieces (princess seamed semi-polonaise, foundation skirt, and detachable train) that appears to have been a special occasion dress, not a designer dress…but most likely created by a local dressmaker or seamstress.