Fashion Publicity & Reaching The Mass Market…The Beginning

Today we take a look at fashion industry/haute couture in France began to transform itself from an obscure, closed world into a form that more closely resembles today’s fashion industry. “Fashion” as we know it today began to take form during the late 19th Century. Moreover, fashion was something that was entering the public consciousness on a scale broader than anything ever seen before. The industrial revolution played a major role in the development of fashion in a rising standard of living combined with the development of new methods of manufacturing textile goods made clothing more affordable for more people. Along with this was the rise of the middle class who now had the money and the leisure time to be able follow fashion more closely.

Jean Béraud, Boulevard des Capucines,

Where fashion was once limited to a monarch and his court, fashion was now becoming far more defuse with a much wider audience following it. Just as important, fashion and clothing manufacturing were developing into large business enterprises and as a result, business concerns often drove fashion trends in a way similar today only on a more limited scale with a smaller clientele.

Pose de garnitures dans l’atelier de Worth, grand couturier parisien. Paris, 1907.

Along with the commercialization of fashion by Couturiers such as Charles Worth, Jacques Doucet, Paul Poiret, and a host of others, was the need to more effectively market their fashions.1Interestingly enough, Worth was very adverse to the press and he limited his interviews with them and never allowed journalists into areas of his atelier where they might see new dresses. This was more out the fear of fashion piracy more than anything else. Where word-or-mouth was sufficient, more direct methods of getting fashion styles (i.e., product) before the public were needed and thus developed advertising, fashion journals, fashion plates, and later, fashion photography.

With the development of the fashion industry and marketing, those who followed fashion wanted to see these fashions “live”. The concept of the runway show as a public spectacle was still years off but other ways to show off the latest styles were employed.

If it's seen at Longchamps, then you're OK... :-)

If it’s seen at Longchamps, then you’re OK… As is the case today, being seen in a public place with the just the right outfit could make all the difference. 🙂

Once such method was dressing up models with the latest styles and sending them to various public social gathering, most notably the horse races at Longchamps and in particular, the Grand Prix de Paris which was held every year in July. More than just a horse race, it was a day-long affair that provided a venue for people to see and been seen and that of course meant what they were wearing. Naturally, the press covered these events and end was result was free publicity.

Races at Longchamps, Manet, 1867

Below are just a few of the examples of the styles worn at Longchamps during the period from 1900 to 1914.

Les Modes, 1904

Les Modes, July 1904

Longchamps1

Longchamps2

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The women in the above pictures are wearing versions of the lingerie dress and one can see the influence of the s-bend corset although the silhouette is somewhat muted by the fluffy layers of fabric on the dresses. These definitely fall in the 1900 –  1905 date range.

And sometimes, fashion at Longchamps could cause a sensation…below is a picture from 1908 of three models wearing designs by Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix (known simply as Margaine-Lacroix) and dubbed by the press “Les Nouvelles Merveilleuses”:

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c. 1908, “Les Nouvelles Merveilleuses” as dubbed by the press- these three models caused a furor at Longchamps when they arrived- these dresses, designed by Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix were considered scandalous at the time.

The above three dresses definitely got public attention, in part because they completely did away with the conventional corset while at the same time creating a skin-tight silhouette by utilizing stretch fabrics in the dresses themselves to create the form-fitting silhouette.2We would definitely like to know more about the underpinnings of these models because there’s no way this look could have worked without some corset-substitute. We’re thinking an early version of Spanx.

Here’s how Susie Ralph, a fashion historian, described it in an introduction that opened an exhibit on Margaine-Lacroix in 2013:

In 1908 Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix sent three mannequins to the Longchamp race-course clad in her form-revealing robes-tanagréennes. These corsetless dresses caused a sensation among Paris’ fashionable crowd – a riot according to some newspaper reports. Worn without corsets and slit to the knee on one side over the most transparent of underskirts, their impact on the fashion world was instantaneous and resulted in major press coverage not only in Paris but around the world. In today’s parlance the style immediately “went viral”….It was Margaine-Lacroix’s daring vision that brought to an end the ideal of the rigidly corseted hour-glass figure, and ushered in the new, slim twentieth century silhouette.

Margaine-Lacroix is an interesting designer in her own right although she is relatively unknown today. Hopefully we’ll be writing more about her in the future.

Here, is where the above picture originally was featured:

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Controversy is no stranger to the world of fashion then or now and the debate over what exactly is too “revealing” still rages on. Later, from 1910 to 1914, we see the public event-as-fashion show hit new highs, helped along by better cameras and film as with these:

1912-at-the-races

1912, Watching the races standing on chairs. The lines on these two dresses reflect the moved towards a more sleek, upright silhouette. Goodbye s-bend!

1914

1914, Here is an interesting design incorporating a waistcoat and cutaway coat.

Longchamps provided a venue for people to see “fashion in action” and for us it’s a fascinating archive of living fashion history. We can see just how garments were worn, how they fit, and even gain some insight into the people who wore them. We’ve only touched the surface here and in future posts we hope to gain further insight. Stay tuned!

Paul Poiret, Atelier Martine & Textiles

One of the most interesting aspects of Paul Poiret was that his design work was not limited solely to fashion but rather he expended into related areas such as fragrances, interior design, home furnishings, and textiles and as such such, he could be considered to be one the first “total lifestyle” designers. Of his various ventures was Martine which was Poiret’s home furnishings business. Named for his daughter Martine, Martine consisted of Atelier Martine, L’École Martine, and Maison Martine and opened on April 1, 1911. Inspired by the Wiener Werkstätte, Poiret created Martine as both a means of educating young working class girls in the decorative arts through L’École Martine and functioning as a design house through Atelier MartineMaison Martine served as the retail outlet for the venture, later adding on an interior design service. As part of this initiative, Atelier Martine designed textiles to be used for both home furnishings and clothing.

Collage of three photos showing three textile mills

One particular textile collection was made under licence in 1914 by the Duplan Silk Company of Hazleton, Pennsylvania and was intended as the fashion fabrics for several licensed dress designs. Interestingly enough, Duplan was originally established in 1897 by Jean Duplan, a French textile manufacturer as a means of avoiding the high import duty imposed on luxury fabrics by the Tariff Act of 1897. Pictured below are four of the original eight designs (Bishop, Bouquet, Lizeron, and Pekin):

Poiret/Martine, “Bishop” Silk Textile; National Museum of American History (TE.T01219)

Poiret/Martine, “Bouquet” Silk Textile; National Museum of American History (TE.T01218)

Poiret/Martine, “Pekin” Silk Textile; National Museum of American History (TE.T01221)

Poiret/Martine, “Pekin” Silk Textile; National Museum of American History (TE.T01220)

Poiret/Martine, “Bishop” Silk Textile; National Museum of American History (TE.T01222)

Poiret/Martine, “Lizeron” Silk Textile; National Museum of American History (TE.T01223)

Except for the Lizeron design, the above designs were cylinder printed on silk. In the case of the Lizeron, it was block printed and according to Duplan’s promotional literature, is was:

…the first hand block design ever printed by hand in the United States, on a heavy quality of silks. The yardage possible to produce per day, printed by hand by one man, in a design of the character, is only about 1/20th of what a silk printing machine can produce in the same length of time.

The Atelier Martine’s designs were heavily influenced not only by the Wiener Werkstätte, but also the Aesthetic/Arts and Crafts Movements with their emphasis on simple, bold designs that utilized bright colors. Martine was not only a business enterprise but also a repudiation of the prevailing design aesthetics of the Nineteenth Century, an element present in all of Poiret’s work. Although the Martine did not last long (Poiret sold the business in 1925), its legacy is a fascinating one.

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.

Costume College 2019

It’s Sunday and all my teaching duties at Costume College 2019 are complete! It’s been a busy past two days with teaching three classes and meeting up with old friends, some who we haven’t seen in a year or more. Our classes were well attended and hopefully we were able to impart some useful information. More importantly, we also learned some new things from the many thoughtful questions posed by our students and in some areas, we’re rethinking some of our opinions. The old adage “never say never” has never been more true when applied to fashion and fashion history and it seems that just when we thought we’d gotten a handle on a certain subject, something comes along to challenge us.

We’re looking forward to 2020 at Costume College and it’s our goal to work up more classes with compelling content. Looking forward to seeing you there next year!