Testing…Testing…Testing

The majority of fabrics that we use are of natural fibers: cotton, silk, linen, and wool and sometimes we do burn testing to check particular fabrics, especially ones that we’ve obtained from new sources. Here’s the aftermath of one such successful test on an exceptionally interesting silk that we found in Paris:

And here’s a close-up of the fabric…

We’ll be making something interesting from this fabric so stay tuned… 🙂

Paul Poiret, Atelier Martine & Textiles

One of the most interesting aspects of Paul Poiret was that his design work was not limited solely to fashion but rather he expended into related areas such as fragrances, interior design, home furnishings, and textiles and as such such, he could be considered to be one the first “total lifestyle” designers. Of his various ventures was Martine which was Poiret’s home furnishings business. Named for his daughter Martine, Martine consisted of Atelier Martine, L’École Martine, and Maison Martine and opened on April 1, 1911. Inspired by the Wiener Werkstätte, Poiret created Martine as both a means of educating young working class girls in the decorative arts through L’École Martine and functioning as a design house through Atelier Martine.  Maison Martine served as the retail outlet for the venture, later adding on an interior design service. As part of this initiative, Atelier Martine designed textiles to be used for both home furnishings and clothing.

Collage of three photos showing three textile mills

One particular textile collection was made under licence in 1914 by the Duplan Silk Company of Hazleton, Pennsylvania and was intended as the fashion fabrics for several licensed dress designs. Interestingly enough, Duplan was originally established in 1897 by Jean Duplan, a French textile manufacturer as a means of avoiding the high import duty imposed on luxury fabrics by the Tariff Act of 1897. Pictured below are four of the original eight designs (Bishop, Bouquet, Lizeron, and Pekin):

Poiret/Martine, “Bishop” Silk Textile; National Museum of American History (TE.T01219)

Poiret/Martine, “Bouquet” Silk Textile; National Museum of American History (TE.T01218)

Poiret/Martine, “Pekin” Silk Textile; National Museum of American History (TE.T01221)

Poiret/Martine, “Pekin” Silk Textile; National Museum of American History (TE.T01220)

Poiret/Martine, “Bishop” Silk Textile; National Museum of American History (TE.T01222)

Poiret/Martine, “Lizeron” Silk Textile; National Museum of American History (TE.T01223)

Except for the Lizeron design, the above designs were cylinder printed on silk. In the case of the Lizeron, it was block printed and according to Duplan’s promotional literature, is was:

…the first hand block design ever printed by hand in the United States, on a heavy quality of silks. The yardage possible to produce per day, printed by hand by one man, in a design of the character, is only about 1/20th of what a silk printing machine can produce in the same length of time.

The Atelier Martine’s designs were heavily influenced not only by the Wiener Werkstätte, but also the Aesthetic/Arts and Crafts Movements with their emphasis on simple, bold designs that utilized bright colors. Martine was not only a business enterprise but also a repudiation of the prevailing design aesthetics of the Nineteenth Century, an element present in all of Poiret’s work. Although the Martine did not last long (Poiret sold the business in 1925), its legacy is a fascinating one.

Parisian Fashions- Trending For Spring 1890

Fabrics are a major part of fashion and often are the center of focus of a dress design. In terms of style, a fabric could be said to consist of three elements: 1) the fabric’s specific type and construction; 2) the fabric’s decoration (i.e. does the fabric have some sort of decorative motif or is it plain?); and 3) the fabric’s color. This is illustrated in this commentary from the April 1890 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:

In the way of dress materials, the newest is a gauze with wide woven stripes in a fabric much more transparent than the ground of the material, these stripes being figured in large patterned designs in the thicker stuff. The effect thus produced is very pretty, and, when the gauze is made up over a colored satin underskirt, the toilette thus composed will be charming.

As for silks, brocades were definitely a thing:

The newest silks are brocades, having very small sprays of flowers in their natural colors scattered over a black ground. Some of the designs are very tasteful as well as novel, and especially one representing a single stalk of the fuchsia with its pendent blossoms, and another showing one of the crimson clover. These floral designs are repeated on the foulards of the season- snowdrops or ears of wheat being represented on the black grounds, and fuchsias on cream-white or pale silver-gray.

Here are some fashion plates from Peterson’s that help illustrate this a little:

Peterson’s Magazine, March 1890

Peterson’s Magazine, May 1890

And here are some extant examples of garments that incorporate one or more style elements noted above:

Worth, Ballgown, 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.68.53.11a, b)

Sara Mayer & A. Morhanger, Da Dress, c. 1889-1892; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.270&A-1972)

Worth, Dinner Dress, c. 1890-1895; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.636a, b)

The above examples are only a small sample but they serve to underscore some of the fashion trends that were underway during the later 1880s/early 1890s. In future posts, we hope to further document this most interesting period of fashion transition.