Monday, December 31, 2007

Theatre of Fashion

Paul Poiret

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Paul Poiret (French, 1879–1944). “Théâtre des Champs-Élysées” Gown, 1913. Ivory silk damask, ivory silk net, and ivory China silk with rhinestone trim. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Paul D. Schurgot Foundation Fund, 2005 (2005.193a–e).

This particular model, worn by Paul Poiret’s wife, Denise, to the premiere of Le Sacre du printemps, was named after the recently opened Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, where the Diaghilev and Stravinsky collaboration was inaugurated. Theater played an important role in the imaginative life of Poiret. The performing arts inspired many of his flights of fancy, and the theater provided him with an opportunity to introduce his more overtly fantastical styles into society through designs worn on stage by such great actresses of the day as Mlle Spinelly and Eve Lavallière as well as by his more adventurous clients of artistic and bohemian sensibility who populated the audience. Opening night at the theater, with its formal dress, provided a venue where extravagant display was not only appropriate but de rigueur.

With its raised-waist tunic effect and ivory tonalities, “Champs-Elysées” alluded to historical, eighteenth-century Neoclassical styles. However, the simple white gown depicted by such painters as Joseph-Marie Vien has been reinterpreted by Poiret in a richly patterned silk damask and silk tulle. Double bands of lead-crystal rhinestones articulate the high waist and reinforce the tulle overskirt with a subtle hooplike support. Unlike his “Minaret” lampshade tunic forms, which were high in front and low in back, the designer gave an asymmetrical cant to the hem and reasserted the angled drape of the gown’s surplice neckline.

Comments (74)

  1. Laurie Aron Says:

    I love the firm shake Paul Poiret gave to the fashion rigidity of his time. His ideas are wonderful, although freeing women from the corset only to imprison them in the hobble skirt does not make him a liberator of women.

    However with this dress, the fact that he didn’t know how to sew seems particularly evident. There’s an amateurishness to it that is bothersome.

  2. Zoe Says:

    beautiful selections-I would love to have the occasion (and figure!) to wear such clothes!!!

  3. Deb Says:

    Please bring back the former costume curator from the grave. Most of the current exhibitions are just exploitative ways to get people into the museum. Are these new and modern styles ever really worn - i.e., costumes? or are they merely sculptures made of materials generally used for clothing? Let’s call it was it is. Madame Gres knew how to clothe a woman.

  4. ci Says:

    WONDERFUL…..wish there was more presented - - - so many periods - designs - accomplishments are unrepresented in this beautiful exhibit!
    Fashion & Design junkies…….always want more!
    Thank you.

  5. Gloria Guinness Says:

    Incredibly beautiful. I really am speechless. So much of what one knows of Poiret is pure carnival-freak-couture. But when one sees this, one is forced to sit down, shakes one’s head, and reassess. It is weirdly formal and yet strangely informal at the same time, which is certainly something to have achieved. The ruffled overskirt makes it memorable.

  6. Joshua Cartwright Says:

    Very elegant and beautiful. The material gives a very smooth feeling to the dress.

  7. Stephanie Caldwell Says:

    Nice modest old fashioned apparel. Would be easy to complement.

  8. Gina Brake Says:

    Very Romanesque. the Met should show this one in the new Roman Wing.

  9. Alethea Says:

    Kool togs, really enjoyed the show.

  10. amanda Says:

    love the implications of the performative nature of the fashion industry

  11. HH Says:

    Black is the color!

  12. cait Says:

    it seems as if a half of an other dress and half of this dress were glued together

  13. Robbin Says:

    This dress is transcendent! Not only does it define elegance but also comfort…Rather than re-defining the female form, it sheaths the human body and creates poetry with its rings of rhinestone(?). Poiret is sensational, as always…

  14. Maya Says:

    this is very nice cute and lovable i would not wear this

  15. Steve Gearing Says:

    The Westwood gown was a real eye-opener. I never knew she expressed herself in this fashion.

  16. Jo-An Says:

    Fantastic dress!!! Really hope I can try it on…
    The combination of fabrics is awesome.
    Really love it!

  17. Thalia Says:

    I like the sparkles.
    –Age 3

  18. SamPinks Says:

    What is most fascinating about this gown is the context of its appearance at the debut of “le sacre du printemps”, perhaps the most hotly contested performance in Paris at the time. Since this is brushed over in the curatorial notes but stands out as a crucial detail that fully recontextualizes the gown (assuming Poiret designed the gown with the event in mind), it seperates this piece from the rest of the exhibition. (Bravo on displaying it alone, however)

  19. cindy Says:

    frothy, graceful, flattering on the body. a lovely meld of fabrics — the assymetry makes it!

  20. Andreas Says:

    I usually like Poiret’s stuff, but not this dress.

  21. katinka Says:

    this should have been my wedding dress.

  22. Jason Says:

    didn’t they use this in the opening ceremony of the olympic games?

  23. bobble-bee Says:

    I wasn’t very aware of the importance of Poiret in fashion history until I saw the exhibition about him at the MET last year… what a beautiful garments he created!.

  24. Borey Says:

    This exibit is good and I like it. And, it is cool.
    Thats all!

  25. c willow Says:

    This is my fav dress, its classic and charming. I love the gauze and sequin line.

  26. cmc Says:

    this dress is simply glamorus. it is classic and timeless and just so beautiful. i absolety love this dress

  27. Sally Says:

    oh my god, this is the most gorgeous dress ever. i would totes wear this to my prom!!!! wear can i by it?

  28. Maggie Says:

    This dress, like so many of Poiret’s, uses draping and simple shapes to show off deliciously beautiful fabric. I second Cindy’s admiration of the asymmetry that gives the the dress such movement and lightness.

  29. Lily Monir Matini, Esq. Says:

    Grecian gorgeousity

  30. blog.mode: addressing fashion | Tschilp Says:

    […] Modellen von Poiret, Yamamoto oder den berühmten Manholos im Damien-Hirst-Tupfen-Design gibt auch Exponate mit […]

  31. Suzy and Nora Says:

    The layers are so pretty!! The color is fab with the design!! totally wish it was mine :-)

  32. anele Says:

    i love it.

  33. Melissa Says:

    Remarkable. It’s old… it’s new. The refined details and elegance.

  34. Molly Says:

    I think this dress is absolutely beautiful. I love the layering and simple rhinestone trim. It is understated but completely chic.

  35. Anne Says:

    This dress is gorgess, with not too much deitail, but yet there is always something new to see on it. It represents beauty, detail, and is very attractive. It is a graceful godess dress.

  36. Marné Skelton (BYU-Idaho) Says:

    Wow. I love this! It brings in sense of historical elegance and collides it with simple fashion. It would be stunning with some gorgeous sleeves!

  37. Gabriella Says:

    This is such a cool dress. It has such detail and yet it is so simple.

  38. Katie McNellis Says:

    Paul Poiret’s “Theatre des Camps-elysees” gown 1913. His gown is breathtaking and amzaing. I love the details like the draping at the top is goregous. The dress could totaly be worn today, i would just make it one length and it would be a lovely evening dress.

  39. chriss Says:

    an ivory color brings to my mind softness and delicate women style but simple and old fashioned, something that people could think of wearing in this time

  40. Jean Castillo Says:

    His garment is inspiration to many up coming Designers. This gown is very well put together from the Ivory silk damsk to the china silk with rhinestone trim that he use to put it together. The champain color gives it a glamorous look.

  41. Jennifer Simmons Says:

    Paul Poriet is a very talented designer. at first glance this garment caught my eye. The different kinds of silk that he used really pops out to the viewer. This garment has a very elegant look to it and is very lustrous and luxurious without going over the top. The touch of the rhinestones on the bottom of the first layer adds just that little pizzaz to it to make this garment pop out.

  42. james Says:

    The garments that ars displayed are precised to the time era i think that this is a great place to look at thinks and find imformation. The two garment that interrested me was the coat and waistcoat and the freanch suit. The two garments incomperasine are simular because of the texture and embroidery other than that over all the display where good.

  43. seungeun song Says:

    why in the addrissing fashion section do not have a korean fashion of the
    “hanbock ??” I have disappointment here . so i want to addition the ASEAN fashion.

  44. April Bloxsom-Gomez Says:

    The pink Westwood design was amazing! So surprising and current!

  45. Maddy Says:

    I love this dress!
    It really encapsulates the early 20th century.
    Yay, Poiret!

  46. ccc Says:

    This is my fave dress of all time! I want to buy it! It is the best

  47. Lina Yousef Says:

    This is one of the luxurious garments that caught my eyes at the exhibit. Its theater inspired design shows me that Paul Poiret wanted to present the era of his work to people who will see it later in life which is what it did for me. I can certainly see from the elegant use of silk fabrics and the draping top layer with rhinestones that he did accomplish that. I can just picture a lady going to the theater wearing that dress and having all eyes on her.

  48. kristin joyce Says:

    Reflective of today’s imperatives, I would ask which designers first understood the concept of “sustainable” fashion? Is it more excessive to own 1 exceptionally elaborate garment as opposed to 3 simple variations? Can we achieve beauty and peace in how we dress today? And … where will we find tomorrow’s fashion icons?

  49. Valentine Says:

    This garment reminds me of a creme colored flapper (lol) but it was made 2 early (or was it late?) in time.

  50. Robin Says:

    Loved this dress! so simple and elegant. and to have worn it to the premier of “The Rite Of Spring” she must have looked amazing!~

  51. Brittni Says:

    As soon as I saw this dress I knew it was Paul Poiret’s. I remember my History of Fashion professor teaching us about him and how he was not only an innovator but a radical. It seems so conservative to us in our time but it was very forward of him because it was a time of stiff corsets and confinement. Even better he allowed his wife to model it, causing quite the commotion among the large croud. I have heard that half the guests left in outrage, while half were deeply interested in something so different. It’s amazing for me as a fashion student to see something like this that changed history right here for me to see in person. I’m so pleased that I could come to this exhibit.

  52. Maggie Moffitt Rahe Says:

    While touring the gallery with Butzi Moffitt, I found this exhibit to contain more than a designer’s dream! It is inspirational and fantastic. My favorite is the Schiaparelli coat of many colors!

  53. Allan S Says:

    The one with the hands raises the question of sensuality and the acceptance of the sexual drive of American culture. The style of the garmet creates juxtaposition between 19th century traditional and 21st century modernism!

  54. Carollina Joe Says:

    This dress is very pretty, but to Roman.

  55. Justin Timberlake Says:

    So my style!

  56. Shane Corcoran Says:

    It is very interesting to how Asymetrical the dress is with the the lace and the sholder. This is very much the style recently. Fashion, in ways, is never new. It is just repeating and reinventing itself a hundred year later.

  57. Allie Says:

    This is the kind of dress that leaves you speechless! The combination of colors fabric design and texture makes for an elegant and timeless dress.

  58. Frankie Says:

    I love this dress. I love the two different layer. The thickness of the underlayer of fabric is a nice contrast to the lighter fabrics that lay ontop. Call me ignorant, but when I first saw this dress from a far I thought it was for a women who was a worker of a servant of some sort. I love the subtle hits of sophistication in the pattern and with the rhinestones. I wonder what this would look like without the thicker fabrics under the top layer with that cut being so pronounced in the top fabrics. Also, what if this was in a different color? I wonder if it would have the same affect.

  59. addy singer Says:

    i think that this exibite is cool and so is this “post a comment”

  60. Mariannna Neeshgoshlinog Says:

    this website is not fun because it does not let you scrollllllll

  61. Lucy Says:

    this dress would be much cooler if they cut the bottom part off, and made it into a short, sparkly dress.

  62. JuJu Says:

    One of my favorite dresses in the exhibit. I love this dress…very elegant. I would definitely wear this dress right now.

  63. Caitlin from VT Says:

    The dress is absolutely gorgeous! The layers make the dress one you would turn around to look at again, while the color and design make it simple and elegant… purely amazing

  64. charlie Says:

    i think those dresses are so ugly.
    when ever my eyes look apon the rags i think to my self “what is this world comming to!!” to sumerize it in three words. discrasful to life.
    we hope the music section is better. infact i know it will be, because i enjoyed the bathrooms more!!
    love charlie

  65. Ariel Says:

    gorgeous. romantic. my favorite of the exhibit.

  66. emma tauber Says:

    this is my favorite peice in this exhibit it is the most lovable and romantic piece. it is a great example of the beauty of the fashion industry today and yesterday. it shows how great fashion history really is. if i lived when this dress was being made i would defanitly buy it. and if it were up for auction now i would put it in my collection. im a fashoin history buff.

  67. vanilla ice cream Says:

    It seems like a princess dress. I would wear it.

  68. meimi1995529 Says:

    this dress is really nice and i love the way the shape of the dress is. i could really do without the lacy stuff over the skirt part.

  69. roie82495 Says:


  70. iatga Says:

    it is beautiful. it is cool! i would not wear it, though.

  71. Katy D Says:

    I liked this dress because it evoke grecian elegance and glittery flamboyance - perfect for the theatre, a profession steeped in history and fantasy

  72. Jackie Freeman Says:

    I love this dress! It is so soft and elegant. Although it was made long ago it is very modern and I think could be worn easily on the red carpet. One think i didn’t like so much, the ivory silk net is too sort and reminds me of an apron. I think it would be perfect if the net went down to the end of the skirt.

  73. chloe Says:

    this is one of my favourite dresses, i love the shifon layer! with diamonte bit

  74. nicole Says:

    yea this dress isnt the most gorgeous to modern day girls((hopefully girls… i guess some guys to lol)) but if you really look at the dress itself .. not as a whole but in peices its amazing. as a whole i would prefer if someone mae it a littel shorter. the rinestone thing around the waist and the bottomn of the dress most definitly makes it worth to look at.
    who ever made this dress i say congrats on such a lovely design

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