Iam pleased to announce that three of my class proposals have been accepted for the upcoming 2018 Costume College on July 26-30, 2018. Held annually in late July, Costume College is an event devoted to costuming in its 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. For the past several years, I’ve been giving presentations on various aspects of costume to include American Army uniforms of the WWI Era, Paul Poiret, and Couture of the 19th and early 20th Century.
This year I will be reprising my Paul Poiret presentation (revised and expanded) as well as presentations on designers Charles Frederick Worth and Elsa Schiaparelli. While Worth and Poiret make sense, given our primary areas of emphasis, Elsa Schiaparelli seems a bit of a stretch…well, not so! Here at Lily Absinthe, we are interested in all eras of fashion and we draw inspiration for all eras when it fits the particular design objective we may have in mind and especially when it comes to designers who came after the Belle Epoch.
Schiaparelli in particular has always been a source of fascination for both Karin and I in that she combined the shocking and outrageous with the practical and down-to-earth ranging from surrealist-inspired shoe-hats and immaculately tailored suits and elegant evening dresses. Moreover, we’re fans of her widespread use of pink- she even has a distinct shade of pink she named “shocking pink.” 🙂
July is a ways away but I’ll be busily preparing my presentations and it promises to be an exciting time. More to follow! 🙂
Early films can sometimes tell us a lot about earlier fashions. Below is some newsreel footage taken in 1909- although it’s labeled “Paris Fashion Week 1909,” I suspect that it was simply filmed in the Spring. In this footage, you see a mix of older and newer fashions to include the Nouveau Directoire and “Delphos”/Classical Grecian styles that were coming into vogue then; designs pioneered by couturiers such as Paul Poiret and Jeanne Paquin. Enjoy!
For Paul Poiret, the war years were a professional void. Recalled to military service in 1914, Poiret spend most of the war serving in a number of positions centered around the provision of uniforms. for the French Army. To read his autobiography, it’s evident that the war years were both financially and professionally unsatisfying. However, Poiret was able to keep his hand somewhat by creating designs that were to be licensed for production in the United States. Below is just one design that appeared in the March 1916 issue of The Women’s Home Companion:
And here’s some more details:
Suitable for sorts of afternoon and informal evening occasions, this costume designed by the couturier Paul Poiret can be made at home from a Woman’s Home Companion pattern. The price of the pattern is $1.50; its number 2990 and it is cut in 36, 38, and 40-inch bust measures. It may be ordered from the Pattern Department, Woman’s Home Companion, 381 Fourth Avenue, New York City.
The illustrator has done an excellent job of presenting this design in the most optimal manner, portraying a simple, one-piece unstructured garment with a relatively short skirt and pleated hem. With it’s simple lines reminiscent of his earlier Nouveau Directoire and Classical Greek inspired styles, this dress was a reflection of the the changes fashion was undergoing during the second decade of the 20th Century.
Poiret’s signature hobble skirt is gone, replaced by something far more free-flowing and practical. Spurred by the impacts of the war, fashion had evolved to more practical styles and it would seem that Poiret was adapting. Of course, this also could simply have been his effort to keep his name out in the market (and supplement his meager Army pay) by churning out quick and simple designs. It certainly poses some interesting questions in that it’s clear that Poiret was quite capable of designing practical garments in spire of his learning towards the more fantastical.
This is an area that bears further examination and hopefully we’ll be able to unearth further examples to post here.
When it comes to couture houses of the late 19th/early 20th Centuries, Maison Rouff was one of the more obscure and in many ways is an enigma. Today, except for the occasional reference (at least in English), Maison Rouff has pretty much been lost to history except for the fact that Jeanne Paquin got her start there before venturing out on her own in 1891. Complicating matters is that it’s often confused with the designer Maggy Rouff who was originally born Marguerite de Wagner in 1896 and ultimately bought Maison Rouff in 1929 and subsequently adopted the pseudonym of “Maggy Rouff.”
From what little information we do have, Maison Rouff was founded in 1884 by a one L. Rouff. Originally located in Vienna, the house at some point moved to Paris (Interestingly enough, Maison Rouff is noted as having participated in the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago). Unfortunately, it’s going to take some real digging into non-internet sources to find out the total story but in the meantime, below are a few images of some styles for Fall 1901 that were featured in the September 1901 issue of Les Modes:
First we start with a visiting dress:
And here’s two images of a dinner dress (it appears to be the same dress from two different angles):
In all the above styles, the s-bend corset definitely creates the foundation and in all instances, the skirts have a train. Naturally, the train on in the dinner dress depicted above is the most elaborate of all and it’s quite impressive, enhanced by two very large ribbons extending down from a bow. Otherwise, the styles are fairly typical of the early 1900s. The history of Maison Rouff certainly bears more study and we hope that in future posts that we’ll have more to reveal.
Textiles are a major element in any fashion style and a good designer will always seek to utilize the right fabric so that a specific style looks its best. For Charles Worth, fabrics played a major role in the design process to the point where he would commission textile manufacturers to create textiles for his exclusive use. Drawing on his background as a draper, Worth created relationships with a number of textile manufacturers, most notably the silk weavers of Lyon, France.
Worth’s opinion of the role of textiles was neatly summarized in an interview quoted in the March 24, 1896 edition of the Los Angeles Herald:
When a manufacturer invents any special fabric or design, he sends me a pattern asking if I can use it. The fabric may require a severe style of dress, or if light and soft it is adapted for draperies and puffings. If the material pleases me, I order a large quantity to be mades specially for me, and design my dresses accordingly. A purchase by a large firm of a great quantity of material influences other firms, and that material, with the style it is suited to, becomes the fashion. All my models are first made in black and white muslin, then copied in the material and coloring which I select.
Worth notes that with enough yardage and the right design, one can create a popular fashion. In the above quote, Worth notes that the textile manufacturer would come to him in the hopes of an order. However, knowing Worth’s tendency to commission custom fabrics, it was a two-way process in that Worth’s designs often drove textile development. In future posts we’ll be covering this in more detail but it’s interesting to hear from one of the leading designers of the day.