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Mademoiselle

Paul Poiret1923/1923

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Two distinctive styles emerged in the early 1920s. One, with a panniered skirt and exaggerated hips, was called the "robe de style." The other, which was the style that prevailed, was the straight-lined shift called the "chemise." In another instance of the couturier's insistence on the independent creative vision of the artist, Poiret, for much of the last decade of his career, proffered styles that had a rounded silhouette with full dirndl skirts à la Bretonne. Despite his deliberate intransigence in the face of the overwhelming trend to the planar silhouette, even Poiret, at least in some of his collections, conceded to the fashionable taste of the day. 'Mademoiselle' is a compromise between his advocacy of fullness in the skirt and the willowy silhouette in vogue. From the wardrobe of Denise Poiret, the dress would have been enhanced by her lithe form and feline grace, attributes commented on by her contemporaries. Poiret dismissed the more androgynous fashion à la garçonne promoted by Jean Patou and Coco Chanel, which minimized the contours of the chest and hips. "Cardboard women," he called them, with "with hollow silhouettes, angular shoulders and flat breasts ... birds:" In his rendering of the suppressed fit, the shoulder line is sloped, the natural waist is articulated by a slight curvature in the side seam, and the skirt consists of a tightly pleated striped wool, introducing a fullness that retracts on itself. The linearity of the dress is augmented by an insertion of a red wool stripe that extends down the center front of the dress, beginning at just above the natural waistline and extending down into the hem of the skirt. Arbitrary and purely decorative, the stripe suggests the formal interplay of geometries in a Constructivist painting.

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