And For Another Take On Circa 1912 Formal Wear

We haven’t done a lot with the Teens Era lately but it doesn’t mean that we don’t like it. 🙂 Recently, we came across two circa 1912 formal dresses what we thought were spectacular, especially with their use of the color gold combined with gold metallic embroidery to create their effect. Both are dazzling and definitely caught our eye. Enjoy! 🙂


In yesterday’s post, we showed a circa 1912 presentation gown. Just for some variation, today we’re showing a very similar dress style from 1912-1913 by Gustave Beer:

Gustave Beer, Evening Gown, c. 1912 -1913; FIDM Museum

We were fortunately able to view this dress in person and get up fairly close to it. The silhouette follows a slender form created by flat (relatively speaking in comparison to the earlier s-bend corset) corsetry. However, at the same time, the geometric lines created by corsetry were offset by draping on the outer garments which was especially evident with more formal styles such as this one. The upper dress combines empire and kimono style elements, especially with the high waist combined with the loose drape-like shoulders.

This dress is constructed from a gold charmeuse trimmed with gold floral-patterned embroidery. Combined with the main dress is a short overskirt of black silk netting with jeweling, artfully cut so as to end at the high waist, giving emphasis to this area. The arrowhead curves of the outerskirt also points the viewer’s eye upwards; this dress is a masterful example of the use of vertical lines in fashion design. Below are closer views of the netted outerskirt:

Note the v-shaped gold plastron that is placed over the the silk net overskirt that gives further emphasis to the waistline.

Finally, this is a view of the train. It’s been cut in a diamond shape that gives full emphasis to the embroidery design:

In comparison with the dress in the previous post, we believe that this is a more dramatic dress yet both deliver a serious impact that only differs in the cut of the fabrics and the use of trim. Also, while both employ embroidery, this dress does so in a more tidy and controlled manner culminating with the diamond-shaped trim.



li

A 1912 Presentation Dress

Just for a change of pace, today we feature this circa 1912 presentation dress:

Presentation Dress, c. 1912; Augusta Auctions

In terms of general silhouette, the dress definitely follows the convention of the time with its emphasis on a more slender, upright figure. This dress is constructed from a gold silk satin and trimmed with gold lace and embroidery. On the skirt is an asymmetrical fantastical embroidered floral design that curves around the dress front and places major emphasis on the right side.  The dress appears to consist of a skirt that’s been constructed so as to give the effect of a double skirt on the side and has a long train. While the auction house description calls this a “presentation dress,” this could easily be a reception or evening dress of some type. Without more information on the provenance, it’s hard to tell. As with the skirt, the bodice is also asymmetrical with the emphasis placed on the left shoulder to balance the style effect.

Here’s a view of the dress back along with the train:

Here’s some close-up views of the dress that give a good view of the embroidery:

This dress is a good example of a gown meant for wear at the most formal of occasions and definitely displays the early teens design aesthetic. In future posts, we’ll be featuring more examples so stay tuned. 🙂



The Philosophy Of Paul Poiret – Principles Of Correct Dress

Poiret_Studio

Paul Poiret was one of the most influential designers during the early 20th Century and he played a major role in shaping haute couture and the fashion industry as we know it today. Most notably, Poiret helped ensure the demise of the corset, and especially it’s most recent incarnation in the form of the s-bend corset, and introduced new designs that moved fashion away from highly structured silhouettes to more loose ones based on draping rather than tailoring. Also, Poiret was noted for the development of the hobble skirt and the “lampshade dress” as well as incorporating oriental elements in his designs. Here we see just one example of the “lampshade” dress style from 1912:

Poiret, Evening Dress, 1912; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.385&A-1976)

Poiret, Evening Dress, 1912; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.385&A-1976)

However, lost in all of Poiret’s achievements is consideration of his ideas, or “philosophy” were about dress itself. One charge that is often laid on haute couture and their designers is that wealth automatically equates to good or “correct” dress. To Poiret:

This art has little in common with money. The woman whose resources are limited has no more cause for being dowdily dressed than the woman who is rich has reason to believe that she is beautifully gowned. Except in so far as money can procure the services of a good dressmaker, of an artist who can judge his customer’s style and garb her accordingly, the wealthy woman stands no better chance of being correctly dressed than the woman who must turn every penny before spending it. [1]

While the above is almost a truism when it comes to fashion, at least today, it’s still revealing coming from the man who had crowned himself the “King of Fashion.” Poiret further expands on this theme, stating that dressing is:

…not an easy art to acquire. It demands a certain amount of intelligence, certain gifts, some of them among the rarest, perhaps—it requires a real appreciation of harmony, of colors, ingenious ideas, absolute tact, and, above all, a love of the beautiful and clear perception of values. It may be resumed in two words, good taste. [2]

So, what is “good taste” to Poiret?

Taste is by no means developed by riches; on the contrary, the increasing demands of luxury are killing the art of dressing. Luxury and good taste are in inverse proportion to each other. The one will kill the other as machinery is crowding out handwork. In fact, it has come so far that many persons confuse the two terms. Because a material is expensive they find it beautiful; because it is cheap they think it must be ugly. [3]

The above is as true today as it was back then and we see it in the fashion nearly every day. Naturally, “good taste” can be somewhat subjective, depending on time and place but it still gets to the idea that one cannot simply buy their way into good taste, or by extension, good fashion.

Here we see a sample of the fashion illustrations that Poiret commissioned by various avant garde artists such as Paul Iribe. Here we see a definite revival of the simple vertical lines of the empire dress style:

Paul Iribe, Les Robes de Paul Poiret, Plate I (1908)

Paul Iribe, Les Robes de Paul Poiret, Plate III (1908)

Poiret also notes that:

In order not to appear entirely at odds with her surroundings and the place where she lives, a woman is obliged to follow fashions to a certain extent. But let that be within certain bounds. What does it matter if tight skirts be the fashion if your figure demands a wide one? Is it not important to dress so as to bring out your good points rather than to reveal the bad? Can any idea of being fashionable make up for the fact of being ridiculous? [4]

And there it it- Poiret gets to the heart of the matter by pointing out that fashion is about emphasizing one’s good points rather than the bad, something that holds true today as it did then. The above has been only a small sample of the depth of Poiret’s fashion “philosophy” but it’s interesting to see that his ideas still hold true today in many ways and as such, they represent a distinct break with the 19th Century.

1. Principles of Correct Dress, Florence Hull Winterburn, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1914, p. 237.
2. Ibid., pp. 237-238
3. Ibid., p. 239
4. Ibid., pp. 240-241