Paul Poiret & Resisting Change

Paul Poiret has always been fascinating to us and his designs and innovations never fail to amaze. At the same time, Poiret is also a cautionary tale on the dangers of not adapting to a changing zeitgeist (the spirit of a particular historical period). Poiret was a bit of showman and he utilized all manner of publicity in order to advance his innovations such as eliminating the corset-created silhouette as an essential design element (even though other couturiers were working on similar designs at the same time such as Jeanne Paquin) and the introduction of the jupe-culotte.

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

Poiret was also instrumental in introducing a simpler, less structured silhouette starting with the Directoire style in 1906:

The First World War disrupted the French fashion industry and Poiret was no exception. Called up for military service, Poiret was assigned to work on simplifying the production of uniforms and while he was successful in this area, his fashion house barely kept itself afloat financially. After the war, Poiret tried to pick up where he’d left off in 1914 but the fashion world had moved on with an emphasis on more simple designs such as those created by Coco Chanel. Poiret’s designs failed to catch on and combined with financial mismanagement and a nasty divorce from his wife Denise, he was ultimately forced to close his fashion house in 1929. In future posts, we’ll delve into some of Poiret’s post-WWI designs and the overall decline of Poiret’s influence as a designer.

Costume College Approaches…

And we’re coming down to the wire here as Costume College approaches…

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.

 

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.” 🙂

Image result for shocking pink schiaparelli

We look forward to seeing you all there!

 

 

Something Unique in Cycling Suits…

One finds the most unique things when doing fashion research and today is no exception. In my study of 1890s fashions, I came across this interesting extant example of a cycling suit:

Cycling Suit, 1890s; FIDM Museum

When I first viewed this, I thought I was looking at something from the late 1960s or early 1970s…the flower-pattern fabric just simply screams that era. 🙂 This is something that we’ve never seen before. We’ve examined quite a few 1890s era cycling suits, both in person and through photo research, but never have we seen this sort of a fabric used. As a rule, fabrics were usually solids or some sort of a pattern, similar to what one would have found in men’s sack suit It certainly makes you wonder- was this a one-off or simply a variant that never took off in popularity? We’d definitely would like to know more…It certainly makes a bold statement and must have turned heads when it was worn. Unfortunately, a online search of the FIDM Museum collection turned up nothing so we’ll have to employ other research methods. Stay tuned for more…this is certainly an interesting puzzle and we’d like to know more.

Some 1890s Bodice Styles

In the course of researching some 1890s dress designs, we came across some interesting bodices that stretch the limits of mid-1890s style. First up is this bodice that utilizes the silhouette to create a floral display:

Bodice, c. 1895-1897; Minnesota Historical Society (9520.11)

While it’s not easy to determine from the picture, this bodice is made from a silk floral brocade combined with inset silk satin insets on the bodice front. What is most striking is that the gigot sleeves have been utilized as a canvas to show off the floral design to its greatest effect. Next is this example that utilizes the bodice’s asymmetrical design to show off the embroidery pattern to it’s best advantage:

The embroidery pattern follows the line of the edge of the bodice’s front opening  along with accents on the bodice bottom and sleeves. The bodice’s black silk satin also serves as a neutral background that further shows up the bright colors of the embroidery. Here’s a close-up of the embroidery pattern:

Another interesting 1890s bodice style was the bodice jacket; this was essentially a bodice that was worn in combination with a waist. Here’s one example from Redfern:

Redfern, Bodice Jacket, 1892; National Gallery of Victoria- Melbourne (D187-1974)

This example is pretty spare, its only decoration is black floral embroidery running along the wide white-colored lapels. Definitely illustrates the idea of “less is more”. The next, example takes the wide lapel idea even further, combining it with an enlarged ivory silk faux waistcoat/vest that overshadows the bottle green velvet jacket. This is interesting in that we see an inversion where the inner garment is larger than the outer garment. Definitely an interesting effect although rarely seen.

Close-up of front.

Detail of front bottom corner of bodice.

The above examples are only a small illustration of the variety of bodice styles that were available during the 1890s and should certainly serve as a source of inspiration for those who desire to recreate the fashions of the 1890s.