Lily Absinthe- It’s All In The Details…

When it comes to the fashions of the late 19th Century, it’s fairly obvious that there’s a lot of detail involved in these creations. In recreating the fashions of this era, the job of getting the details right can be a daunting one but the rewards in the end are priceless. Below are just a few examples from the atelier:

Lily Absinthe

Pleats can be worked with in a variety of ways plus they can stand alone or work as part of a decorative arrangement.

Lily Absinthe

A demi-train (or short train). Ruffles and pleats are some of the key ingredients that make dresses of the era stand out. However, fabric flowers are also used as can be seen below:

Lily Absinthe

Flowers were formed from fabric in various combinations and were often painted and/or gilded for an additional three-dimension effect. It’s couture details like these that puts our designs ahead of the rest. 🙂

1880s Street Style At The Beach…

As summer begins to wind down, I thought I’d post some pictures of people at the seashore- you could call it “street style at the beach, 1880s style.”

Beach

The Montgomery family, all dressed up and preparing to pose by the shoreline of beach at Stokemus, near Sea Bright, August 8, 1886

The above picture is interesting in that here you see a variety of common styles to include vest/faux, open bodice with faux waist, and closed bodice.. For skirts, all follow the bustle silhouette of the later 1880s but not in an extreme manner and each features some variation on the over/under-skirt configuration. The skirt on the woman in the middle with the parasol is the same color (seemingly from the picture) for both skirts and the under-skirt appears to the be ruffled in rows. The woman standing to the immediate rear of the little girl has a contrasting solid color over-skirt with a plaid check underskirt while the woman at the far right has a skirt and bodice made of the same material with no obvious under-skirt. It’s a very useful portrait for determining some common daytime styles that can be readily utilized for recreation purposes.

Coney Island 1885

Collecting Shells, Manhattan Beach, Coney Island, 1885 (New York Historical Society & Museum)

These two women are not deterred by the wet sand or water and have simply taken the expedient of hiking up their skirts. They’re a bit more plainly dressed than the group in the first picture with bodice and skirt of the same color. The woman on the left also appears to be wearing a short coat or jacket that has been designed to fit around the bustled skirt.

And just for contrast, something a bit more upmarket, staged in the photographer’s studio…

Portrait_Seaside c. 1885

The above picture portrays a more elaborate style although it still keeps to the convention of the bustled over/under-skirt combination typical of the later 1880s. In this instance, the bodice appears to drape over the hips and is gathered towards the rear and has a floral print design. Of course, with the woman’s elbow obscuring the waist, it’s hard to tell exactly but judging from the swags of net trimmed in fabric running along the skirt, it appears that the net is the over-skirt with a solid-colored fabric under-skirt. The effect is airy and very appropriate for summer by the beach.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this little glimpse of 1880s street style. 🙂

 

 

The 1002 Nights/La Mille et Deuxième Nuit

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 cullotte…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’Antin 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.

Stay tuned for more on the most remarkable Paul Poiret. 🙂

 

 

Charles Frederick Worth & Early Haute Couture

Atelier11

Costume College was busy for me this year. Besides delving into the world of Paul Poiret, I also delved into the world of haute couture during the later 19th and early 20th Centuries, an ambitious topic to say the least- one could easily go on for days and barely scratch the surface. 🙂 Fashion  history has always been fascinating and even more so when one makes little discoveries that link the world of the past with today and the research process never fails to disclose tiny nuggets of useful information.

Image result for louis xiv

In many respects, the world of haute couture, as we know it today, got it’s start in Paris largely through the efforts of one man- Charles Frederick Worth. Moreover, he was able to capitalize on a series of trends that had been developing for quite some time. Specifically, going back to reign of Louis XIV, royal patronage driven by the consolidation of the monarchy as the supreme ruling power in France combined with France’s growth as an economic, military, and cultural power served as a catalyst for the development of the textile industry and the needle trades. All the right elements were in place and over the next 300 years a thriving garment began to develop, spurred by patronage both by the Crown and nobility (as they sought to remain in good graces with the King).

charles-frederick-worth-english-fashion-designer-active-in-paris

By the mid-19th Century, industrialization served to further spur the growth of the textile and needle trades (can you say sewing machine?) and the ground was fertile for a man like Charles Worth. Worth transformed a relatively decentralized industry composed of many individual dressmakers working in small establishments into a large-scale industry employing hundreds, if not thousands. Worth consolidated fabric procurement with production (before this, it was customary for clients to bring their own fabrics to the dressmaker). Also, for marketing, he employed the technique of having his clients choose from a series of sample models, modeled by an army of pretty young women; the client would make a selection and a custom garment would be created. The model was intended to give the client an idea of the final product- often, the fabrics and trim would vary to the individual client.

Image result for empress eugenie

What also makes Worth unique is that in 1860 he was able to secure the patronage of the Empress Eugénie and this cemented his reputation; as the center of the French court, the Empress set the styles and naturally everyone of importance wanted to emulate her.

With the demise of the Napoleon III and the Second Empire, Worth was forced to seek expanded markets- no longer did he have a guaranteed client base founded on royal patronage- so he was forced to seek a wider client base. Worth was ultimately successful in this endeavor and by the time he died in 1895, he had clients on all seven continents.

In many ways, the demise of the Empress’s patronage was the best thing for both Worth and haute couture in general in that it pushed couture out to a wider audience and stimulated greater design/style creativity- styles were not determined by the whim of a few people but rather transferred the power to the designers (and ultimately their clients). It also helped couture to reach a wider audience and facilitate the diffusion of fashion.

Worth Ballgown 1898

House of Worth, Ballgown,, 1898; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1324a, b)

 

Of course, Worth wasn’t the only couturier- there were many others. Some of Worth’s leading contemporaries were Jacques Doucet, Emile Pingat, John Redfern, and Jeanne Paquin- all fascinating as designers. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of information out there on many of these designers and they’ve become almost forgotten.

Doucet1

Jacques Doucet

John Redfern

John Redfern

Emile  Pingat

An early portrait of Emile Pingat; Courtesy of Jacques Noel

Paquin1

Jeanne Paquin

The above is only a very broad sketch of the topics that I covered in my presentation and I felt that it went pretty well. For the future, I may narrow my focus a bit but nevertheless, it wasn’t bad for a first outing. Stay tuned for more… 🙂