More From The FIDM Museum…

W

e at Lily Absinthe make a point of often visiting the FIDM Museum. The exhibits are updated often and there’s always something that exquisite to see and rarely do we go away not being inspired. 🙂 As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, here’s a little more about what we saw there. First, we have a mantle, c. 1885, designed by Charles Worth:

Worth 1885

Worth 1885

This coat is constructed a silk velvet/brocade trimmed with sable. Although it’s not easy to make out, the brocade design is that of a pineapple (one could argue that the choice of pineapple was apt since it was considered an expensive luxury). Definitely intended for a cold climate (with temperatures running abound 103, the Californian in us shudders), the mantle was intended to provide total coverage and is shaped to accommodate the underlying bustled dress.

Next up, is this c. 1908 afternoon dress designed by Liberty & Company, Ltd.:

FIDM Liberty of London 1908

FIDM Liberty of London 1908

The dress silhouette is characteristic of the later 1900s and while it was no doubt work with an s-bend corset underneath, it’s fairly muted (although that can simply be the staging). The bodice and skirt are made from a gray silk/silk chiffon, trimmed with embroidered silk flowers along the lapels of the bodice, sleeves, and waist. The bodice is designed with a front opening to simulate a jacket with a lace/gauze waist underneath.

FIDM Liberty of London 1908

FIDM Liberty of London 1908

Close-up of the embroidery detail. Liberty of London was a high-end department store in London specializing in importing fabrics from the Orient and especially Japan.

In terms of style, this represents the more conventional path when compared to a designer like Paul Poiret who, at the same time, was pushing Nouveau Directoire:

Paul Iribe 1908 Poiret Noveau Directoire

Noveau Directoire 1908 Poiret Josephine Dress

Paul Poiret, Day Dress, 1908; Les Arts Décoratifs

 It’s quite a contrast…

Well, that concludes our most recent trip to the FIDM Museum. Stay tuned for more posts in the future about this most remarkable place. 🙂

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:

Jupe Culotte1

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.

Poiret_Early Portrait3

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.

Interior1

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:

Noveau Directoire6

Noveau Directoire7

Noveau Directoire3

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. 🙂