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:
Paul Poiret, Fancy Dress Costume, 1911; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1983.8a, b)
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! 🙂
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! 🙂
After last year’s success, I will once again be presenting at Costume College for 2017. For 2017, I will be giving an expanded version of the presentation I gave last year on US Army uniforms of the First World War Era from 1915 through 1918. Also, I will be giving presentations on Paul Poiret, entitled The King of Fashion: Paul Poiret and His World and a presentation on French couture of the late 19th Century entitled Early French Couture. It promises to be a full plate for 2017 and there’s a lot of work to be done getting prepared. 🙂
So what is Costume College? Well, it’s an event devoted to costuming in it’s many forms, whether historical, fantasy, or somewhere in between. Classes and presentations consist of both lecture and hands-on workshop formats and are all taught by volunteers. From my perspective, it give us an opportunity to present topics of interest to myself and otherwise get a view of current trends and ideas in the costume world.
Overall, it’s an interesting experience and one that I would highly recommend for anyone interested in the costuming in its various aspects.
Stay tuned for further developments!
Ok, maybe I’m reaching here… 🙂 This past weekend was the annual dinner for the Great War Historical Society which was held, appropriately enough, at the 94th Aero Squadron, a WWI/WWII-themed restaurant located in Van Nuys, California. I like this event because it gives me an opportunity to put on my nicer uniform and enjoy a night of socializing away from the muddy battlefield. 🙂
Although my impressions are mostly German and American, other members portrays a number of impressions to include French, Russian, Austro-Hungarian, British, Canadian, and New Zealand. 🙂
If you want to know more about the living history of the First World War Era, don’t hesitate to contact me.
Part of the fun of having an historic home is being able to dress up a bit so here are a few pictures from the Holiday Tour of Homes:
For Karin, the first step after getting dressed was to get the obligatory “selfie”… 🙂
And here we are in our finery awaiting our guests…
And naturally there are those last-minute adjustments to be made so that everything is just right. Msr. Poiret would be proud. 🙂
And of course, I had to take the opportunity to demonstrate the finer points of arranging the bridal veil…
And now we await our guests with the assistance of our greeter Molly…
Stay tuned for more! 🙂