Paul Poiret - Parisian Fashion Designer - 1920

Long Waisted Gown and Velvet Bolero Worn Over Dress by Poiret

At left, long waisted gown of red wool figured in black, trimmed with skunk.

Above, négre velvet bolero worn over dress shown at left. Buttons of red lacquer

Long, Full Skirts and Flat Bodices Characterize the Tailleur. Velvet is Dominant and Daring Color Schemes Add Attractiveness.

Paul Poiret's re-appearance since the Armistice has been hailed with delight by the many who admired his creative genius before the war. It suffices to add that the management of his house is the same and his ideas better than ever.

Determining his own lines, his own interpretation of the fashion, and a masterful way of carrying out both, Poiret adds much to the jaded reporter's joy!

Before reading the following description you must well understand that at Poiret's the unexpected always happens—there is no hard and fast rule for any type of dress.

For tailor-mades the favorite stuffs are kashavella (cashmere with a duvetyn pile) mouflonne, duvetyn and striped or checked velvet to say nothing of the plain fabric.

The color schemes include many browns and blues. Skirts are rather long, about six inches off the ground, gathered very full; the jackets are inclining to three-quarter length, as skirty as possible, especially on the hips. The general effect is bunchy and charmingly suggestive of 1850 prints.

A typical model is “Lapon,” the skirt gathered, the top of the jacket a flat bodice, the basques shirred on very fully; a broad band of mole running around the hips underlined each side by pleated red braid (also forming the high collar and cuffs) is a daring departure from our economical present-day silhouette.

Another way of emphasizing a skirty coat I observed on a blue serge, the basques cut into panels, each one edged and hemmed by large bands of fur. A mouse duvetyn, treated in the same manner, is edged with seal, the inner part of the basque embroidered in satin ciré braid.

The sides of these ample coats, (which one and all have long, long sleeves and high necks) may be of fancy stripes in contrast to the plain back and front, or they may be trimmed with one of the numerous and fascinating wool or silk braids created by Rodier.

A red and black fuzz y woolen braid applied in rows on a blue serge jacket is delightful, so are bright silk cashmere designs woven  several rows deep on a sober gray or brown tailleur.

A thousand little details charm us; collars and cuffs tied by cords and tassels in quaint Oriental shades are unexpected, and when sleeves are much too long you can gather them all the way up the arm, holding the shirring in place by rows of gold buttons.

The finest fancy reigns in the combining of a claret velvet skirt with a Persian blue cloth jacket edged with gold embroidery.

Poiret's wraps are loose, large affairs that remind one somehow of capes and draperies. Striped woolen Moroccan stuff, Burnoussa, is combined with velvet in several instances; a big, brown blanket coat is trimmed with different shades of brown wool fringe.

A novelty consists in broad bands of a bright color edging the selvage of a dark stuff; here it is a coat of dark blue with a red selvage; another combination of red and blue is an immensely roomy wrap of black and blue striped velvet with a gray fox collar, ample red braid cuffs and red tassels weighting down the sides of the coat, Agnella, a beautiful heavyweight stuff imitating lamb's fleece, makes a good beige coat with black velvet collar and cuffs.

A very unusual afternoon gray plush wrap has a collar and wide sleeves of black velvet, a belt of the velvet starting from the sleeves and tying loosely in front. Grebe collars and cuffs are a good substitute for fur.

Many coats have a straight detached panel falling from the shoulders which helps to give an ample outline; on a pink duvetyn wrap the panel is edged by eighteen inches of seal and embroidered in tiny suns of pink silk and black beads.

Groups of gathers at the sides are frequent, so are deep, round yokes. For the evening a gray velvet coat-cape has both; it is worked in front in steel and black braiding. 

Panecla stamped in Persian designs is gorgeous over an evening dress. What more like Poiret than a fluffy cape of peach-colored Swansdown with an enveloping gray collar of the same?

Coat dresses may, or may not be straight, but they are never tight. Sometimes they take the form of a long military coat and then the skirt of it is gored to give a bell-like flare at the hem; one of brown duvetyn is trimmed with narrow lateral strips of brick velvet, also forming a sort of vest.

Others, long bunchy redingotes are put on over a narrow front; a blue kashavella has a band at the back to hold in the fullness, the entire front is embroidered in bright,  blue braid, so is the high standing collar.

Orange duvetyn is a favorite tailor dress material; it is very beautiful, hemmed in fox, the front panels embroidered in fine gray silk. So is another with a broad apron edged with putois.

For aprons are much liked here, sometimes all the embroidery of the dress is on them. Collars may be a straight band burying the chin or a high pleated shell-like frill of serge ribbon which, when turned over, becomes a cream muslin ruffle.

Long hanging sleeves, the cuffs much exaggerated (almost a foot wide in some instances), or the material shirred into the cuff forming a long detached strip.

Bunchy, gathered skirts and flat bodices are the line for dresses here, be they of woolen texture or of velvet, the latter a positive furor. Most interesting combinations are a blue serge dress with huge sleeves of green panne: “Plöerme!" a turquoise blue velvet skirt worn with a navy blue serge bodice, like a Breton peasant's, finely embroidered in narrow strips.

As I have already remarked, velvet is the favorite afternoon stuff; we have innumerable instances of it: always the straight flat bodice with a low neck, long sleeves and much gathered skirt.

A vermillion velvet answering this description has sleeves heavily embroidered in jet, also the whole front of the waist. The same line in Royal blue with jeweled motifs at the shoulders and waist is chic.

A third wine colored model gives the same effect only the quaint little collar is fastened by a green cord and tassels. Old red, flamingo, orange, black and a great deal of blue are the dominant colors.

Dinner dresses are high; the necks barely scooped out in a circle or point: the straight shoulder line is frequent, with very tiny cap sleeves. While waists continue flat and belted low, the skirts are quite long and most voluminous. Velvets, but more particularly panne and panecla, bright pinks, blues, and cream are liked.

One idea which appears several times is that besides the shirred skirt there is a much longer loop of the stuff hanging almost to the ground and lined with another fabric. This occurs in purple panne edged with scarlet braid, the long loop embroidered in silver.

A particularly gorgeous mustard plush has one revers on the bodice lined with silver, the same reappearing in the loop. I almost forgot to say that the “loop” may occasionally be wound around the neck as a scarf. 

Heavy silver lace and much gold embroidery are seen but, on the whole, the dress relies more on line and fabric than on trimming; the flatness of the bodice accentuates the full hips, a typical model being a bright pink panne corsage worn with a dull turquoise skirt.

For the evening, the bodice may be square with shoulder straps, or it may be a triangular flap the apex of which points to the collarbone.

"Poiret" in the Garment Manufacturers’ Index, New York: The Allen-Nugent Co. Publishers, Vol. II, No. 3, October 1920: 26-27.

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