With great relief, I am pleased to announce that we’ve successfully completed my presentation on American military uniforms entitled “US Army Uniforms, 1915 – 1918” at Costume College. Costume College is an annual three-day costuming arts convention sponsored by the Costumer’s Guild West and it covers all periods and genres. With the success of last year’s presentation, I decided to do a repeat performance and my proposal was accepted. Since 2017 is the 100th Anniversary of America’s entry into the First World War, I felt that this would be a very timely and appropriate subject.
The presentation was aimed at a general audience and designed to provide a basic overview of US Army uniforming of the First World War Era. The toughest part is that it’s easy to get lost in the minutiae of the various details of the various uniform items and lose sight of the men who wore those uniforms- the men who underwent what was probably the most stressful part of their lives. That’s something that’s not easily captured in a presentation some 100 years after the fact but I believe that we did a fairly convincing job of at least providing an overview.
I was aided by a good friend of mine from Co. G, 364 Infantry, a living history group that’s part of the Great War Historical Society (of which I am a member of) acted as a live model and was also kind enough to bring a number of original items from his collection and that went a long way towards bringing the history directly to the audience. It was an excellent supplement to my Power Point presentation (Power Point seems to be a necessary evil these days).
Overall, it seems to have been a success and I hope to able to make this presentation in the future. I am considering expanding the scope of the presentation to include female uniforming- that’s an area that could use further research. More importantly, I think that adding female uniforms would help connect with the audience, especially since it’s predominately female. 🙂 I look forward to further work in this area.
Finally, the big day is here and I am off to give my presentation on US Army Uniforms, 1915 – 1918 at Costume College. I have a ton of information and the able assistance of a friend of mine who has kindly volunteered to loan me some original artifacts for display. So we’re off and I’ll have more later. 🙂
In a previous post, it was noted that Paul Poiret was one of the leading figures in re-defining female fashion in the first decades of the 20th Century. In contrast to the previous styles of the 1880s and 90s (and even early 1900s, for that matter), Poiret pushed for a loose, flowing silhouette and this became especially evident after 1910. Moreover, Poiret’s designs increasingly began to look towards non-Western sources such as those found in North Africa, the Middle East, Southwest Asia, China, and Japan for inspiration, a trend that was to become part of the broader cultural trend of Orientalism. Below is just one example of Poiret’s work that’s influenced by non-Western themes:
Paul Poiret, Fancy Dress Costume, 1911; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1983.8a, b)
This outfit was originally created by Poiret for his 1002 Nights party in 1911, a public relations event that was used to promote his oriental-inspired fashions, and as such was based on Middle Eastern designs as filtered through Western perceptions and was an attempt to invoke the fantastical elements found in the Arabian Nights (One Thousand and One Nights). The jeweling and fabrics of this outfit was exquisite but probably the most notable feature is the basic design: the use of harem pants. While pants on females is commonplace today, it was not so in the early 20th Century and in fact was considered radical, if not downright subversive.
Orientalism was to exert an increasingly powerful influence in Poiret’s designs throughout the Teens and and while much of it was a passing fad, the basic ideas remained behind to be taken further by other designers. This has just been a brief look at some of the basic design ideas that formed the basis for Poiret’s work and in future posts we’ll be exploring these further. Enjoy! 🙂
Paul Poiret was one of the most influential designers of the early 20th Century and one whose influence lives on to this day. Self-styled “the King of Fashion,” Poiret’s designs marked a sharp break with the conventions that had developed during the late 19th Century and while some of his claims were somewhat exaggerated, it’s safe to say that many of his ideas marked the profound re-defining of the female fashion with an emphasis on more loose, flowing styles that did not directly involve rigid body sculpting based on the corset. Of course it could be argued that while outward appearances changed, underneath foundation garments were still extensively used- basically, the body sculpting went underground, so to say. But nevertheless, with Poiret we see an emphasis on free movement and all that implied.
Poiret is also somewhat enigmatic with the seemingly contradictory nature of some of his innovations. While on the one hand he proclaimed that he had freed women from the rigid confines of the corset, he also introduced the hobble skirt which brought rigidity and confinement in another form. In looking at his life, we see that Poiret developed many of the marketing techniques that have become standard in the fashion industry. At the same time, we also see Poiret’s belief in his own infallibility clouding his judgement to the point where he stopped developing as a designer and ultimately leading to his downfall.
Poiret’s life is a fascinating mix of the fantastical and the commonplace and rife with seeming contradictions and as such, are worthy of further investigation and in the months to come, I’ll be sharing my findings here. Stay tuned for more! 🙂
After last year’s success, I will once again be presenting at Costume College for 2017. For 2017, I will be giving an expanded version of the presentation I gave last year on US Army uniforms of the First World War Era from 1915 through 1918. Also, I will be giving presentations on Paul Poiret, entitled The King of Fashion: Paul Poiret and His World and a presentation on French couture of the late 19th Century entitled Early French Couture. It promises to be a full plate for 2017 and there’s a lot of work to be done getting prepared. 🙂
So what is Costume College? Well, it’s an event devoted to costuming in it’s many forms, whether historical, fantasy, or somewhere in between. Classes and presentations consist of both lecture and hands-on workshop formats and are all taught by volunteers. From my perspective, it give us an opportunity to present topics of interest to myself and otherwise get a view of current trends and ideas in the costume world.
Overall, it’s an interesting experience and one that I would highly recommend for anyone interested in the costuming in its various aspects.
Stay tuned for further developments!