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.

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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.

Trending For November 1918…

And for something a little different today, below is a fashion plate, or rather a cover illustration, from the November 1918 issue of The Delineator. One of the truisms about fashion is that it reflects the zeitgeist or spirit of the times and the First World War was no exception. The First World War saw the recruitment of large numbers of women into the military for the first time (although the numbers were small compared to the Second World War) and naturally, some sort of uniform was required…pictured below are female uniforms appropriate for both the Navy and the Army. Also, even where uniforms were not involved, the war years witnessed an evolution in women’s fashions where they became much more simplified with a focus on comfort and functionality. This is an area that we hope to explore in future posts so stay tuned. 🙂

And For Something A Little Different- A Tea Dance!

Looking for an historical event to start off the New Year? Well, if you’re going to be in Southern California, we have just the thing- A tea dance to commemorate the end of the First World War! The dance will be held on February 1, 2020 from 1:30 to 5:30 at the War Memorial Building in South Pasadena. The War Memorial Building was built in 1923 and dedicated by Marshal Foch of France and it’s the perfect venue for this sort of event. There will be live music with a caller to help everyone through the dances. This definitely promises to be a lot of fun and it’s an era that we haven’t done much with so far…but that will change. 🙂  For more details, please click HERE.

A Trip To The Fashion Museum Bath, Part II

The second dress we viewed at the Fashion Museum Bath was a complete contrast to the first: this time we were looking at an ivory-colored evening dress/day dress that was also made by the House of Worth either in the early 1890s (unfortunately there’s not a precise date). Once again, we’ll start with some general views of the entire dress:

The two above views really show off the skirt front and because it’s lying flat, one can readily discern the longer trained skirt back. The lining is a rough cotton and from what we could tell, the pieces have been flat-felled (although we can’t be 100% certain).

Unfortunately, given the close space I was working in, I was unable to get a good full-length picture so these will have to do. The dress is constructed of an ivory/pink blush silk moire fabric with both bodice and skirt having vertical stripes with alternating pink blush and ivory strips of which the ivory strips have the watered silk appearance characteristic of moire. The bodice sleeves and neck are three-quarter and trimmed with silk lace and ribbons. Here are a few more views that show off the fashion fabric better, in the bright morning light the pink blush was almost lost to the naked eye.

Here’s a closer view of the bodice:

The above two pictures give a good view of the bodice front. The buttons are fully functional and it appears that the buttonholes were sewn in by hand, utilizing strips of gimp. Below are two views of the bodice back:

The bodice has the characteristic back “tail” that laid over the train and one can get a good look at the fashion fabric itself. The pink blush stripes are very subtle and faint in some places- possibly a product of sun fading. Below are some more views of the skirt:

The above two pictures give a good view of the hem on both sides. On the outside, one can see a combination of pleating combined with small bows. On the inside, the hem is a simple double-fold with a hidden catch stitch. Below is a detail view of one of the sleeves:

And here’s the bodice opened up to reveal the interior:

As with most bodices of the period, the interior is lightly boned on top of the major seams to give the bodice structure. The bone casings are made of a gauze silk/cotton(?)-like fabric and have been stitched into the lining and seams allowances.

Boning channels have been sewn in parallel to the buttonhole line.

And, if you have ever wondered just what sort of stitching was used for finishing the interior of the bodice, here’s a good close-up view:

Interior view of the bodice with stitching and the iconic Worth label.

Judging from the skirt and the bodice, we’d date this one from the early 1890s. The longer skirt back suggests that a bustle appliance of some sort would have been worn, most likely probably a pad (small pads were still in use during the 1890). Because of the bodice’s fragility, I was unable to get a good look at just how large the sleeve caps are but there’s definitely some room there. It’s definitely not the full-blown gigot sleeves of the mid 1890s but the style of the bodice is definitely headed that way. The skirt is composed of multiple gores, at least five to seven (we were unable to get an exact count).

From this picture, one can get a good idea of the fashion fabric.

The fashion fabric, as stated previously, is an ivory/pink blush silk moire fabric with both bodice and skirt having vertical stripes with alternating pink blush and ivory strips of which the ivory strips have the watered silk appearance characteristic of moire. This is an interesting choice of fabric and it’s pretty subtle. Although it’s hard to say with 100% certainty, this dress reads “bridal” and it would certainly work for that purpose although it could just as easily answer as a better visiting/afternoon dress or even a reception dress, depending on the event. Well, this pretty much wraps up our visit to the Fashion Museum Bath and we want to thank the staff for their assistant and patience. We hope to return in the near future and view some more dresses from their collection. Merci beaucoup! 🙂

Costume College 2019

It’s official! I’m pleased to announce that I will be once again teaching at Costume College for 2019. 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. When I presented the class on Schiaparelli last year, it was definitely outside our comfort zone but in it was well received and one of the attendees had even recreated Schiaparelli’s iconic Lobster Dress 🙂 :

One of the fundamentals of our design philosophy is that here at Lily Absinthe, we are interested in all eras of fashion and as such, 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.

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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.” 🙂

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July is a ways away but I’ll be busily preparing my presentations and it promises to be an exciting time. More to follow! 🙂