A Little Turn Of The Century Street Style For The Spring…

Here’s a little street style, 1890s or early 1900s style in New York. It’s not the best picture but it’s obvious that it must be in the warmer months judging from the chiffon day dresses that these two ladies are wearing. As for dating, most likely it’s either late 1890s or perhaps early 1900s- the sleeves are built up but it’s hard to discern the distinct pouter-pigeon look in the bodice so who knows? Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see an everyday picture of actual people.

Trending For 1918- Morocco & Paul Poiret

Paul Poiret was fascinated with non-Western styles and motifs and these often found their way into his designs. Morocco, in particular, was a constant source of design inspiration and one such design was a coat that he made in 1918 based on the traditional Berber Burnoose, cloak-like garment usually made from wool.

Image result for burnoose

Below are some pictures of the prototype made by Poiret’s for his wife Denise:

Paul Poiret, Jacket; Metropolitan (2005.201)

One of the interesting features of this coat is that while the collar was made as a funnel-shaped collar, it could also be worn open which Denise Poiret’s favored.

The prototype was made for Poiret’s wife Denise and she tended to wear it with the collar open as shown above. The coat was made of a finely woven wool that provided a luxurious feel while at the same time preserving the rustic hand-loomed natural effect of the traditional Burnooses. At the same time, coat was sewn together with a meticulous attention to detail and matching of the stripes along the seams. Subsequently, several versions of this design were made starting in 1921 and from all accounts, it was a success, reflecting the post-WWI trend towards looser, more comfortable clothing. In many respects, the design seems to us like something that Chanel would have done (which is ironic given the antipathy that both designers shared towards each other). To us, this design is almost timeless and would work as well today as it did when he made it in 1918 and the early 1920s.

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.