The Panier Polonaise- Part 1

The Mid-Bustle Era/Natural Form Era was a time of fashion transition and that saw the development of several new styles. As mentioned in several previous posts, this new look often consisted of polonaise and basque bodices combined with narrow skirts and low demi-trains. However, styles were not always “new,” often they were revivals of earlier styles, somewhat modified. Today we look at one of these styles, an 18th Century style revival called the “Panier Polonaise,”1“Pannier” is the proper spelling currently in use but we will stick with the earlier “panier” spelling to avoid confusion. as described in the February 1880 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:

According to Peterson’s, it was “the latest and prettiest thing of the kind that is out in Paris” and a pattern of it was offered as a supplement in the February 1880 issue.2It would be interesting to locate the actual pattern. Peterson’s goes on to describe the pattern further:

The large notches [on the pattern pieces] show where the plaits [pleats] are arranged to make the panier, on the seams, where the front joins the side back. The notch, in the back seam of the skirt of the back, shows where he looping, or rather bunching, is placed at the back. It all goes in a bunch, from the notch, down to the end of the seam. The looping may be placed higher up if preferred.

The skirt, worn with this polonaise, has five double box-plaits, extending from the waist in front; and there are two straight breadths, forming the back, each edged with two narrow, knife plaited ruffles. The back of the polonaise falls over this. These straight breadths are better made to hang loose from the waist, being sewed into the side-seams, where the box-plaited front ends. A cambric foundation is used to arrange the box-plaits upon and for the back part of the under petticoat.

By the letters, it will be seen where the several pieces of the polonaise join each other. In the sleeve, it will be seen, the under-part is very narrow, and the slope different at the hand; but upon putting it together, it will be found all right, and is a very nice-fitting sleeve. Trim the edge of the polonaise with a narrow knife-plaiting.

Look familiar? Well…here’s a version the Panier Polonaise style in the February 1880 issue of Demorest’s Family Magazine:


To be continued…


And For A Little More Early 1880s Style…

Edouard Alexandre Sain, The Red Parasol, Private Collection

Today we continue our exploration of early 1880s style with a special emphasis on bodices. To illustrate the variety of bodice styles that were out there, here’s a small sample from the April 1880 issue of Peterson’s Magazine, starting with, what is described as a “walking costume of blue-stripe serge:”

Here’s some more detail from Peterson’s:

The demi-long train is kilt plaited, and the round tunic which ends in a point is caught up at the back, and finished with several rows of machine stitching. The deep basque bodice has a pointed waistcoat and revers, and is ornamented with buttons.

As befitting a walking dress, this dress is very simple and unadorned, consisting of an over/underskirt combination combined with a basque bodice. As with many bodices of this period, the bodice is one piece that mimics a coat and vest combination. The skirt is plain with a little fullness to the rear that creates a thin train of sorts that’s continued with a pleated demi-train on the underskirt. Overall, the effect is that of a woman’s tailored suit.

Next up are are visiting and house dresses, also featured in the April edition of Peterson’s:


And here’s the accompanying description of the two dresses:

[Left] Visiting dress of almond-colored Camel’s hair: The skirt has four plaited flounces edged with brown cashmere, shot with gold color. The over-dress opens part way down the front, is very plain, and slightly draped at the back; it is of almond-colored camel’s hair; the jacket with the added basque is of the brown cashmere, threaded with gold color. A brown straw bonnet trimmed with almond or with gold color would be very appropriate with this costume.

[RIght] House dress of gray bunting, trimmed with very gay plaid bandanna, or cotton material; the skirt is l:ilt-plaited to the knee, and the kilting is trimmed with two bands of cotton bandanna; the full tunic forms two points at the sides, and a draped breadth at the back. Bodice with a simulated waistcoat. Cuffs and collar of the bandanna.

As with the walking dress, both of the above dresses have basque bodices that have been cut as jackets. The bodice on the visiting dress on the left is long, extending past the hips and is reminiscent of the Louis XV style. On the other hand, the bodice on the house dress is much shorter, just covering the hips and follows relatively more sculpted lines. For skirts, both feature outer/underskirts; the outerskirt on the visiting dress is draped, falling open to feature rows of pleating on the underskirt. For the house dress, the skirts are both closed and lay directly on top of one another with the outerskirt falling away in an open “v” towards the bottom, revealing rows of pleating on the underskirt.

The polonaise was another popular style and like the basque, it could appear in a variety of styles as see with these illustrations from the February and March 1880 issues of Demorest’s Family Journal:

As can be seen from the above sampling, there were a wide variety of polonaise styles available on the market, all aimed at a mass market in pattern form.  In our next post, we’ll be looking at some extant dresses from the early 1880s that illustrate the wide variety of basque and polonaise bodice styles.

 



Color Selection- 1870s Style

One of the central tenets of choosing colors for a particular dress is that one must choose colors that are appropriate for when and where a particular dress or gown is going to be worn. A dress that looks fabulous in the noonday sun may look absolutely horrible when viewed in a gas-lit ballroom at night. In short, context is everything when selecting a suitable color or color combination for a particular dress and it’s one of the fundamental principles that drives our designs. However, this is not simply us reciting a fashion truism- From the January 1875 edition of Le Follet, Journal Du Grand Monde:

It is necessary to be very careful in the selection of shades for evening-dress, as they are so very different by day and gaslight. Many of the best shades for day wear have quite a faded or dull appearance by night. Thus, the peacock-green, so beautiful in the sunlight, takes a yellowish tinge by gaslight. Those greens with the most yellow in them are the best for evening toilette. Yellows of different shades- buttercup, sulphur, and, above all, maize- are all good for this purpose. Reds gain in brightness; rubies also become more brilliant; nacarat [a shade of pale red-orange] appears lighter; cerise changes to ponceau  {a red poppy color]. A rather yellow white is preferable to the purer white, and silver-grey looks well; but the bluish-grey is not a good shade for night.

Here’s an example of nacarat:

And cerise:

Image result for cerise color

And finally ponceau:

This is just one example but it makes an important point in that one must always be mindful of context when recreating historical fashions.

La Mille et Deuxième Nuits

Fantastical events and “happenings” as a means of pumping up publicity have been a staple of the fashion world for generations and while they may seem somewhat overdone in our era of social media and the 24/7 news cycle, they were a fresh idea back in Poret’s day and went a long way towards introducing new fashions. In this post, we consider one of the first fashion events that was staged by couturier Paul Poiret and ushered in a new era in fashion history. Enjoy! 🙂


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 culotte…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’Antin1Recent research on our part seems to point towards Poiret actually staging this event at a rented mansion in another part of Paris- see the postscript. 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.


Postscript:

From what we can determine, the event may have occurred at a mansion located at 109 rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré (in the 8th Arrondissement) that he rented from a friend, an art dealer by the name of Henri Barbazanges. From checking on Google Maps, the location is currently occupied by some type of commercial building- whatever mansion that has been there is long gone. This location actually makes a little more sense in that the address is larger than the one at 26 Avenue d’Antin but again, only more research will tell and my French language skills are not the best. If anyone out there has better information, by all means comment. 🙂



Florals For Spring And Summer

Floral design motifs were a major element in dress styles throughout the late Nineteenth Century and especially during the 1880s and 1890s and came in many forms and were utilized both in the fashion fabric and trim to varying degrees. Here’s one interesting example from circa 1889 that was made by Maison Felix:

Day Dress c. 1889 Felix

Felix, Day Dress, c. 1889; Albany Museum of History and Art (u1973.69ab)

Day Dress c. 1889 Felix

Side Profile

The sheer expanse of the side panels utilizing the pattern is amazing and it definitely stands out.

Day Dress c. 1889 Felix

Close-up of  the fashion fabric.

Looking closely at the pictures, it appears that the fabric was most likely a silk brocade.

Style-wise, this dress is simple, sharply defined lines characteristic of the late 1880s and employs a pale green background fabric for the bodice back and sleeves as well as the front and back skirt that offsets the areas with the floral brocade with its various shades of green. The pleating and folds are used to create the effect of an overdress/robe but if you look closer, it’s actually one unit; the bodice and skirt appear to be joined at the waist but whether this is simply hooks and eyes or stitching, it’s hard to tell without a closer examination in person (Hmm..maybe a trip to Albany, New York is in order…). Finally, the total effect is enhanced by the lack of any extraneous trim- the fabric speaks for itself.

Below are a few fashion that show different uses of florals:

 Just for comparison, here’s another dress from the same year thereabouts:

Visiting Dress c. 1889

James McCreary & Co., Visiting Dress, c. 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art

Visiting Dress c. 1889

Side Profile

Visiting Dress c. 1889

Detail of Cuff

This dress has a more elaborate construction in that we see the use of a rich silk brocade executed in several different colors set against a dark brown brown shades of velvet and silk, creating a multi-tonal color pattern. Also, the luster qualities vary between the fabrics with the silks having far more luster from reflected light versus the silk velvet which tends to absorb light. The above examples give only a small glimpse of the variety of design possibilities and we hope that they might provide some inspiration for people recreating historic fashions.