Orientalism - Titanic Era Fashion History
Paul Poiret trained at
the House of Worth and Doucet and set up on his own in 1903. He made straight
tube like sheath dresses in 1908. The styles were known as Directoire as they
were similar to fashions of the early 1800s. The columnar style he introduced
meant that women had to abandon their S-bend corsets and wear a longer
straighter corset that almost reached the knees to achieve his early look. Later
he encouraged women to free themselves from corsetry and adopt the bra.
Poiret was very
sensitive to the mood of society and to trends among painters and designers. He
was very influenced by Orientalism in Leon Bakst's Ballets Russes costume designs.
the years Poiret worked with several artists who drew fashion drawings and
textile print designs for him. The artists portraying Orientalism included Paul Iribe (1908), Georges
Lepape, Raoul Dufy and Erté. Poiret's influence on fashion illustration and
fashion presentation was enormous and attractive prints by these artists are
still used in interiors to set a mood.
Poiret loved bright
colour and introduced brilliant hues whilst the sweet pea colours of the Edwardian era
were still very fashionable. He had been influenced by the Ballets Russes and in
1913 he produced exotic designs based on oriental harem pants. His lampshade tunic and
turbans were all in vibrant glowing shimmering colours, with beaded
To complete the outfits there
were exotic Eastern inspired jewelled slippers which drew together Orientalism
in the outfit. Right - Orientalism in Fashion
Gowns inspired by the orient complete
with oriental parasol and coolie lampshade inspired hat.
Fur was a symbol of Orientalism
and appeared on all sorts of garments from outerwear to lingerie as an edging
trim. Right - More Orientalism in
Fashion history. Cloche hats, fur edgings on coats and
long columnar dresses worn by Poiret's models.
Having liberated women
by putting them into pants Poiret then sought to design extremes and became
famous for designing a hobble skirt which drew the legs closely together as it
was so narrow. To increase the hobble effect women needed to wear a 'fetter', a kind
of bondage belt that held the ankles together and prevented the wearer from making
any movements other than small steps in imitation of Geisha girls.
The hobble skirt was
probably Poiret's last real success as new designers like Chanel and Lanvin
opened up Fashion Houses and began to design unrestrictive clothes that women
really felt comfortable wearing.
At the same time the V
neck for daywear was introduced and it was thought so shocking that it was
denounced from the pulpit.
The forerunner of jazz
was ragtime music and it started as early as the 1900s, sweeping Europe in the
early 1910s. Ragtime was the basis of many new dance crazes. Animal movement
was frequently imitated and famous dances included the Grizzly Bear, the Turkey
Trot and the Bunny Hog. These energetic dances were best performed in fitting
dresses with long side slits that allowed for dramatic movements.
This type of dancing
required a new closeness and a certain intimacy between partners, so it was inevitably
frowned upon by less liberal people still locked in Victorian mores and customs.
Mariano Fortuny 1871-1949
was a Spanish painter and inventor. He designed scarves that paid homage to
ancient Greece and Crete. Later he experimented with pleating fabrics so that
they draped over the female body. A version of his Delphos Gown patented in 1909
was frequently worn by the
dancer Isadora Duncan. The minutely pleated silk was a secret process and the glorious
colours were produced using vegetable dyes, a refreshing change from the crude
aniline dyes that had been recently used.
Left - A Fortuny pleated gown worn by Lilian Gish.
His clothes had
batwing sleeves and were silk and silk velvet with his original hand printed
stencil designs. Venetian glass beads weighted the hems.
You can read a little more about Fortuny in the
Edwardian Hostess and The Society
Leon Bakst designed and made flamboyant exotic colourful
costumes for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. He used colour in an oriental way, using bold
hues and sharp contrasts with highlights of embroidery and heavy appliqué. The idea
behind the clothes was that women would look like harem slaves. To emphasise
this he put women in turbans and harem pants. Much of his work showed oriental
Raoul Dufy was one of the artists that founded the Fauvist
movement. Dufy made fabric prints and worked on interesting dyeing techniques to enhance
Paul Poiret's work in fashion. Later Dufy worked for a French textile firm where
he designed dramatic prints for silks and brocades. Today many of us
remember him for his wonderful light infused paintings of the south of France.
Erté was a stage
costume designer who produced exotic, theatrical, elongated clothes. He designed
for Poiret, did art covers for Harpers Bazaar, drew ballet costumes for
Diaghilev, and designed sets and costumes for theatres in Paris and New York. Much
of his work also showed oriental influence.
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