In a previous post, it was noted that Paul Poiret was one of the leading figures in re-defining female fashion in the first decades of the 20th Century. In contrast to the previous styles of the 1880s and 90s (and even early 1900s, for that matter), Poiret pushed for a loose, flowing silhouette and this became especially evident after 1910. Moreover, Poiret’s designs increasingly began to look towards non-Western sources such as those found in North Africa, the Middle East, Southwest Asia, China, and Japan for inspiration, a trend that was to become part of the broader cultural trend of Orientalism. Below is just one example of Poiret’s work that’s influenced by non-Western themes:
This outfit was originally created by Poiret for his 1002 Nights party in 1911, a public relations event that was used to promote his oriental-inspired fashions, and as such was based on Middle Eastern designs as filtered through Western perceptions and was an attempt to invoke the fantastical elements found in the Arabian Nights (One Thousand and One Nights). The jeweling and fabrics of this outfit was exquisite but probably the most notable feature is the basic design: the use of harem pants. While pants on females is commonplace today, it was not so in the early 20th Century and in fact was considered radical, if not downright subversive.
Orientalism was to exert an increasingly powerful influence in Poiret’s designs throughout the Teens and and while much of it was a passing fad, the basic ideas remained behind to be taken further by other designers. This has just been a brief look at some of the basic design ideas that formed the basis for Poiret’s work and in future posts we’ll be exploring these further. Enjoy! 🙂