Paul Poiret & Resisting Change

Paul Poiret has always been fascinating to us and his designs and innovations never fail to amaze. At the same time, Poiret is also a cautionary tale on the dangers of not adapting to a changing zeitgeist (the spirit of a particular historical period). Poiret was a bit of showman and he utilized all manner of publicity in order to advance his innovations such as eliminating the corset-created silhouette as an essential design element (even though other couturiers were working on similar designs at the same time such as Jeanne Paquin) and the introduction of the jupe-culotte.

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

Poiret was also instrumental in introducing a simpler, less structured silhouette starting with the Directoire style in 1906:

The First World War disrupted the French fashion industry and Poiret was no exception. Called up for military service, Poiret was assigned to work on simplifying the production of uniforms and while he was successful in this area, his fashion house barely kept itself afloat financially. After the war, Poiret tried to pick up where he’d left off in 1914 but the fashion world had moved on with an emphasis on more simple designs such as those created by Coco Chanel. Poiret’s designs failed to catch on and combined with financial mismanagement and a nasty divorce from his wife Denise, he was ultimately forced to close his fashion house in 1929. In future posts, we’ll delve into some of Poiret’s post-WWI designs and the overall decline of Poiret’s influence as a designer.

The Early Teens Walking Suit- A Brief Look

 

The walking suit represented a major step in the evolution of women’s wear during the late 19th and early 20 Centuries. Starting in the early 1890s, the walking suit was considered an essential part of a woman’s wardrobe and by the Teens, it occupied a prominent place in fashion. Style details, construction, and fabric varied depending on price point but the objective was always the same- a outfit that a woman could wear out in public that was practical yet stylish. In response to the growing popularity of walking suits, clothing manufacturers produced walking suits in a variety of fabrics, colors and styles. Walking suits became to widespread that even the major couturiers couldn’t ignore it.

Walking Suit 1910

Walking Suit, 1910

In response, couturiers began to offer an ever-expanding line of practical day wear of which the walking suit was a key element and each couturier put their own twist on the basic design as with this walking suit by Paquin:

Fb104684.jpg

Paquin, Walking Suit, 1912; National Gallery of Victoria (2015.670.a-b)[National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased with funds donated by Mrs Krystyna Campbell-Pretty in memory of Mr Harold Campbell-Pretty, 2015 © Paquin]

The above example illustrates one jacket style was designed to give the effect of a robe or kimono; naturally, this effect tended to work better with a lighter fabric such as a linen.  Here’s another one from Maison Worth:

Walking Suit Worth c. 1913

Worth, Walking Suit, c. 1913; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1980.16.3a, b)

Jackets also followed more conventional styles such as with this one:

Paquin Walking Suit 1910 Front

Jeanne Paquin, Walking Suit, Spring/Summer 1910; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.474a–d)

The walking suit below from Redfern features a more tailored jacket (which would come as no surprise given Redfern’s background):

c. 1911 Walking Suit Redfern

Redfern, Walking Suit, c. 1911; V&A Museum (T.28&A-1960)

c. 1911 Walking Suit Redfern

Three-quarter rear profile.

And jackets could also have more of a greatcoat style:

Walking Suit Redfern c. 1910

Redfern, Walking Suit, c. 1910; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.107a, b)

And just to round things off, here are a few from unknown makers:

Walking Suit c. 1912

Walking Suit, c. 1912; McCord Museum (M976.35.2.1-2)

Walking Suit c. 1912

And here’s one from 1915:

Walking Suit 1915

Walking Suit, 1915; McCord Museum (M983.130.3.1-3)

Walking Suit 1915

And sometimes, it was hard to tell where “suit” left off and “dress” began…here’s an example from 1911:

Walking Suit 1911

Walking Suit, 1911; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1976.290.7a–c)

The above examples are only a small fraction of what was out there but it’s clear that the walking suit had arrived as a major wardrobe item. We hope that this will serve as a source of inspiration for those looking to recreate the day wear of the early Teens. And finally, just to tie this into something more contemporary, consider this:

Boarding Dress3 Titanic Movie Walking Suit

Enjoy! 🙂

Bridesmaid Dresses…

Bridesmaid dresses have been a staple of weddings for over 100 years and even today are a fixture for most weddings. For the typical wedding involving two or more bridesmaids, it is standard for the bridesmaids to be wearing dresses of a uniform style and color, thereby providing a canvas for the the bride to show brightly (after all, it is HER day… 🙂 ). However, the bridesmaid dress is often of a style that pleases nobody and in recent years there’s been a lot of resistance to the idea to the point where they’re being dispensed with for some.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th Centuries, wedding customs evevolved and by the early 1900s, the typical wedding that we know today had taken form to include the distinct bridesmaid dress. Here are some examples:

Wedding Party c. 1900

Judging from the dress and hat styles, this was probably taken sometime around 1910 or so and what’s striking about it is that the bridesmaid dresses s are fairly uniform. While they appear to be of one style and made from the same material, there are variations in the trim on each woman’s skirt.

And here’s a few more from roughly the same time:

Victorian wedding group by lovedaylemon, via Flickr

In this picture, the bride is almost indistinguishable from the bridesmaids except for the hat.

It’s an interesting to see that uniform bridesmaid dresses were a thing a hundred years ago. In future posts, we’ll look a little further back so stay tuned! 🙂

Selections From The FIDM Museum

W

hile the the 26th Motion Picture Costume Design Exhibition at the FIDM Museum was a bit of a disappointment, there were some items in the Museum’s permanent collection that made up for it immensely. One such item was an evening gown designed by Gustave Beer circa 1912 – 1913:

Evening Gown Gustave Beer c. 1912-1913

Gustave Beer, Evening Gown, c. 1912 -1913; FIDM Museum

The gown is constructed from a gold silk charmeuse combined with a jeweled applique floral pattern. The silhouette is the loose Classic Grecian inspired nouveau directoire style with empire waist. In contrast to the tightly sculpted structural styles of the 1890s and early 1900s styles, this dress was draped, relying only on the garment itself to create its lines. While corsets are still utilized for foundation wear in 1912-13, it was now submerged, masked by the flowing lines of the dress. Here are some more views:

Evening Gown Gustave Beer c. 1912-1913

Three-Quarter Front Profile

Evening Gown Gustave Beer c. 1912-1913

Close-Up Three-Quarter Front Profile

Here we get a better look at the decoration and trim. Jeweled netting sweeps over the dress from the waist down, serving to emphasize the decorative pattern on the dress front.

Evening Gown Gustave Beer c. 1912-1913

Side Profile

This somewhat blurred picture (unfortunately, other visitors kept getting in the way) give a side view of the dress, emphasizing the slender, cylindrical silhouette of the dress while at the same time showing off the train.

Evening Gown Gustave Beer c. 1912-1913

The Train

The train itself is magnificent and it’s a piece of art in itself, serving as a canvas for an elaborate jeweled/embroidered floral pattern. The outside border is especially striking and very reminiscent of classical design motifs. This dress was a definite bright spot in our day! 🙂