Paul Poiret – The “New Look”

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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:

Poiret 1911

Paul Poiret, Fancy Dress Costume, 1911; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1983.8a, b)

Poiret 1911

Poiret 1911

Poiret 1911

Close-Up View

Poiret 1911

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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.

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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! 🙂

The King Of Fashion – Paul Poiret

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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.

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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! 🙂

Let’s Do It Again- Adam’s Atelier Travels To Costume College

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.

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Overall, it’s an interesting experience and one that I would highly recommend for anyone interested in the costuming in its various aspects.

Adam Group 1918

Stay tuned for further developments!

Adam’s Atelier Travels To Costume College

This weekend, I spent two days at Costume College both as an participant and a presenter.  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.

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Overall, it’s an interesting experience and one that I would highly recommend for anyone interested in the costuming in its various aspects.


Today was the big day for my presentation at Costume College and overall, I think it was a success. When I first decided to chose the topic of US Army Uniforms from 1915 through 1918, it was with a little bit of trepidation since the Costume College audience is probably 80% to 90% and I thus I thought that perhaps there wouldn’t be much interest. But at the same time, I also thought that from a fashion clothing perspective, it was a fascinating story to tell. But in the end, I was pleasantly surprised.

Adam 1918

I chose to use a combination of a PowerPoint presentation (yes, I know, “death by PowerPoint” 🙂 ) and two friends of mine who came wearing various uniforms and accessories to help give people a better view of the actual parts of the uniform. Also, just as an aside, all of us are members of Company G, 364 Infantry which is a member unit of the Great War Historical Society, an organization dedicated to preserving the history of the First World War.

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Adam Group 1918

Although we had an early time slot of 9 am, we had pretty good attendance although the room was about half-filled with perhaps 30 people. In a way that was good in that I was able to have to utilize my assistants to the best advantage to help demonstrate my talking points.

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I had a good time doing this presentation and I am looking forward to presenting some more topics for next year, 2017. 🙂

Over “There”…US Army Uniforms, 1915 – 1918

Finally, the big day is here and I am off to give my presentation on US Army Uniforms, 1915 – 1918 at Costume College. I have a ton of information far in excess of what can fit into a one-hour presentation (note to self, if I do this again, push for at least an hour and a half time slot). So we’re off and I’ll have more later. 🙂

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