Paul Poiret was one of the most influential designers of the early 20th Century and one whose influence lives on to this day. Self-styled “the King of Fashion,” Poiret’s designs marked a sharp break with the conventions that had developed during the late 19th Century and while some of his claims were somewhat exaggerated, it’s safe to say that many of his ideas marked the profound re-defining of the female fashion with an emphasis on more loose, flowing styles that did not directly involve rigid body sculpting based on the corset. Of course it could be argued that while outward appearances changed, underneath foundation garments were still extensively used- basically, the body sculpting went underground, so to say. But nevertheless, with Poiret we see an emphasis on free movement and all that implied.
Poiret is also somewhat enigmatic with the seemingly contradictory nature of some of his innovations. While on the one hand he proclaimed that he had freed women from the rigid confines of the corset, he also introduced the hobble skirt which brought rigidity and confinement in another form. In looking at his life, we see that Poiret developed many of the marketing techniques that have become standard in the fashion industry. At the same time, we also see Poiret’s belief in his own infallibility clouding his judgement to the point where he stopped developing as a designer and ultimately leading to his downfall.
Poiret’s life is a fascinating mix of the fantastical and the commonplace and rife with seeming contradictions and as such, are worthy of further investigation and in the months to come, I’ll be sharing my findings here. Stay tuned for more! 🙂