February 13, 2012

Paul Poiret

One of the greatest designers in fashions history was Paul Poiret (born in 1879.) Although most people don't know his name anymore, true fashion and vintage lovers do and they know what a talented man he was. This is a little tribute to Poiret and his flamboyant creations.
Paul Poiret
Paul Poiret started off in his early years as an apprentice to an umbrella maker. When he was a teenager he began sketching designs and sold his first sketches to Madeleine Cheruit (dressmaker), in 1898. In 1898, he was hired by Jacques Doucet who had a fashion house in the same neighbourhood as the Worth House, for which he left Doucet in 1900. To put his fashion ideas into practice he established his own couture house in 1903-04 which allowed him to experiment with colors and to change styles, combining fashion and art.
Poiret was known for liberating women from the petticoat (1903) and the corset (1906). Which was very liberating and radical, since women were wearing corsets for many many years. Another aspect that made Poiret's designs stand out was his use of colour. He used vibrant colours, such as deep violet, vibrant red, warm orange and bright greens... a true revolution in fashion at the time. In 1907, he played a key role in the revival of the empire-style... which was very popular in the time of Napoleon I.
Paul Poiret was often inspired by exotic cultures, such as Orientalism which appealed to his sense of colour and style. He incorporated the Japanes kimono in his designs and stimulated the use of a turban as fashionable headwear. The Ballet Russe performance of Sheherazade (by Dhiaghilev, 1910) stimulated the popularity of flamboyant designs in the beginning of the 20th century. A great development for a designer like Poiret, because his extravagant use of colours and exotic influences matched (and then stimulated) what was in fashion. 
Another famous design by Poiret was the Hobble skirt. Hobble skirts or gowns were loose and free through the body, but the hems so narrow that women could hardly move. They could barely take a full step in the most extreme of these skirts. Poiret is quoted as saying, “I freed the bosom, shackled the legs, but gave liberty to the body.” The hobble skirt was often worn with the minaret tunic, a wide tunic boned to hold out the skirt in a full circle and worn over the narrowest of hobble skirts or harem pants. These tunics were also referred to as lampshade dresses.
During the first World War, Poiret served in the military and his task was to streamline production. He was discharged in 1919, however the house of Poiret was close to bankruptcy by that time...The business continued into the twenties, but the theatrical and colourful styles became outmoded. Poiret didn't want to adjust to the newer lines and looks. As a result, he became less and less successful and eventually dropped from public sight. Some say he died in poverty, others say he lived a comfortable life in silence untill his death.

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