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.
With the shift towards unstructured fashions during the 1910s, it appeared to many that the corset’s days were numbered as a major fashion item. Leading the way, designers such as Paul Poiret and Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix introduced styles that harkened back to Classical Greece and the Directoire, styles that were diametrically opposed to the tightly structured s-bend corset/pouter pigeon silhouette of the early 1900s. However, while garments themselves were no longer structured to follow the lines of the corset, the corset still lived on in modified forms such as the ones pictured in this advertisements published in the August 15, 1914 edition of Vogue Magazine:
Now the emphasis was on styles that were free and unrestrained yet at the same time, the body was still structured. What is also interesting is that the advertisement refers to a style created by Margaine-Lacroix, a designer who had recently acquired notoriety for a series of skin-tight body contour dresses that defied convention. However as seen below, many of Margaine-Lacroix’s designs were squarely within the major trends of the time:
Margaine-Lacroix, Dress, c. 1908 – 1910; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1979.346.32)
Flat Detail View
As with fashion in general, foundation garments were also changing but their effect was somewhat more muted and in another ten years, fashions would evolve into even more unstructured styles. Stay tuned for more as we bring forward various bits and pieces of fashion history for your please. 🙂
In the course of researching something completely different, I came across some fashion advice that was attributed to Paul Poiret in the September 24, 1913 edition of the Los Angeles Herald:
…”select your gown according to the temperature, your mood, your temperament, whether you are at the seashore, in town or in the country, because gowns express every motion or condition.” M. Paul Poirot, the great Paris costumer, who is the creator of the tight skirt and other Innovations which were regarded as equally audacious when they made their advent, so declared today and added; “The simplest thing always looks the most original and I always strive for simplicity above everything…”
Poiret’s advice is timeless (although we could take issue with the always strive for simplicity part) and it could just as easily been said by any number of designers part or present. However, what is unique is that what a person wears does express every motion or condition, a fact that’s been noted by both designers and psychologists. 🙂