The 1002 Nights/La Mille et Deuxième Nuit

Poiret Sultan

Publicity has always been a part of the fashion world and it’s the fashion world’s life blood. Paul Poiret was one of the first couturiers to actively utilize publicity as a marketing tool on a large scale and one of his most notable efforts was the 1002 Nights or Persian Celebration that he staged on June 24, 1911. Poiret intended the event as a launch for his brand of perfumes under the “Rosine” label, named after his eldest daughter.

Rosine Poiret

 

But there was more to the event than simply promoting perfume, he was also promoting his entire line of Oriental-themed fashions and in particular, the jupe cullotte or harem pants style. Harem pants (or any kind of pants for women) represented a radical departure in fashion and was considered by many to be scandalous- it was considered tantamount to being naked.

Lepape’s illustration ‘La fete Persane’, most likely Paul and Denise Poiret’s “The Thousand and Second Night” party, 1912

 Georges Lepape, La Fête Persane, 1912; attributed to the 1002 Night 

So, let’s take a closer look at the jupe cullotte…here’s one of the more iconic examples that was worn to the 1002 Nights:

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Paul Poiret, Jupe Culotte, 1911; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1983.8a, b)

Jupe Culotte2 Poiret

Jupe Culotte3 Poiret

Close-Up View

Jupe Culotte4 Poiret

What is especially interesting was the theatrical element to the 1002 Nights. The event was held at Poiret’s 18th Century mansion at  26 Avenue d’Antin and Poiret invited some 300 people, making it explicitly clear that everyone was expected to wear Persian dress (if they didn’t have any, a suitable outfit would be provided at the entrance before they were allowed to enter). Poiret provided a feast accompanied by some 900 liters of Champagne along with all manner of entertainments.

1911 Paul & Denise Poiret 1002 party with Denise being released from her golden cage

 

The centerpiece of the 1002 Nights was Poiret’s wife Denise modeling the new jupe cullotte style, sitting in a large golden cage with Poiret taking the part of a sultan. The finale of the show was when at an appointed time, Poiret then made a big show of “releasing” Denise from her cage:

George Le Pape, "Denise Poiret at The Thousand and Second Night Party" : Paul Poiret designed this ensemble for  his wife to wear to his infamous  "Thousand and Second Night" party in Paris, 1911. in Paris, 1911

George Le Pape, Denise Poiret at The Thousand and Second Night Party, 1911

The 1002 Nights was a huge success and was widely reported in the press. Although Poiret denied that he’d staged the party as a publicity stunt, it was evident that it had been just exactly that and the publicity led to a subsequent explosion in sales of Poiret’s Oriental-inspired fashions.

1911 Denise and Paul Poiret at the 1002 night party

Denise and Paul Poiret at the 1002 Nights

In contrast to earlier couturiers, Poiret was a consummate showman and constantly strove to attract the public’s attention to his designs and for a long time he was successful. Unfortunately, the First World War was an interruption that Poiret never full recovered from and while Oriental themes still informed his designs, the public had moved on, favoring more simple designs that were being put forth by Chanel and others.

Stay tuned for more on the most remarkable Paul Poiret. 🙂

 

 

And Presenting Paul Poiret!

Poiret Sultan

Yesterday was a big day for me, giving two new presentations at Costume College. The first presentation was entitled “The King of Fashion: Paul Poiret, The Early Years”, a survey of Paul Poiret as a couturier/designer during the years 1898 through 1914. Researching for this presentation was not the easiest and it seemed to raise more questions than answers. Poiret was certainly a force in fashion during the years from 1906 through 1914 and although he continued to work intermittently through the First World War and into the 1920s, it was never quite the same.

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One of the most interesting aspects in researching Poiret was that he was not only a fashion designer (dictator, as some critics would charge), but he was one of the first “lifestyle designers” where they worked in all aspects design to include perfume, shoes, furniture,  rugs, textiles, and even interior design.

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Poiret’s designs and his claims were sometimes questionable, if not controversial and nowhere is this more evident when in 1905-1906 he set out to introduce styles that ran counter to what was in fashion at the time. Most notable was his advocating a Nouveau Directoire style based on draping rather than carefully constructed flat patterns. This meant flowing fabrics, cut into rectangles and seamed with straight seems. The precisely tailored, form-fitting styles characteristic of the early 1900s were rejected in favor of loose, flowing lines and this meant the elimination of the corset as a major foundation garment.

Corset Before and After Poiret

From s-bend corset to…

The s-bend corset was a complete abomination to Poiret, declaring that women had been turned into “decorated bundles” who believed that they must hide their bodies under layers of fabrics. Poiret characterized the corset’s demise as “liberation”:

It was in the name of Liberty that I brought about my first revolution, be deliberately laying siege to the corset.

But if there was to be no corset, what then? Poiret is largely silent on this subject and I was unable to uncover anything definitive except that it women were now to wear a form of girdle and bra that functioned as a “corset light” but was flexible enough to allow a full range of movements. It’s an area that could definitely needs further research.

Turning to Poiret’s Nouveau Directoire style, it was definitely a reaction characteristic of fashion change. Below are some illustrations from a catalog that Poiret put out in 1908:

And here are the dresses themselves:

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Noveau Directoire7

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The above is just a small part of what I presented and I hope to present a revised and improved version for next year’s Costume College. I will say that the presentation was a pleasure to give although I wound up ending early (better than running over, I guess) but that’s OK. Stay tuned for more. 🙂

 

Almost Ready For Costume College…

Isincerely apologize for things being quiet here but I have been in hibernation for the past few weeks furiously working on a series of presentations that I will be giving at Costume College. Why the last minute rush? Well, unfortunately life has a habit of getting in the way and with our relocation and all, time has been at a premium. Costume College is an annual three-day costuming arts convention sponsored by the Costumer’s Guild West and it covers all periods and genres.

Adam 1918

Last year, I gave a presentation on American military uniforms entitled “US Army Uniforms, 1915 – 1918” and I had such a fun time with it that I decided to give an expanded version this year and this is scheduled for Friday July 28. But wait, there’s more…

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On Saturday July 29, I will also be giving presentations on Paul Poiret, entitled “The King of Fashion: The World of Paul Poiret” which will give an overview of his early career. Also, I will be presenting “Haute Couture: The Early Years” where I give an overview on the rise of haute couture during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries (1870 through roughly 1905) both in terms of designers and the various styles.

Stay tuned for more!

Paul Poiret – The “New Look”

Image result for 1002 nights poiret

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

Label

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.

george-lepape

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! 🙂