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"Paris"

Paul Poiret

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This evening coat was among the great couture masterworks in Denise Poiret's personal collection. She was photographed wearing the coat like a great wrap with a short evening dress called ‘Faune.’ While the dress does not appear to have survived – it was an astonishing combination of gold lame and black monkey fur interspersed with gilt military fringe – Denise Poiret's coordination suggests that ‘Paris’ was among the more exotic evening coats in her wardrobe. Constructed of one unbroken length of silk velvet, the coat has been twisted into shape without resorting to any cutting to form the apertures for the sleeves or open front. As the design could only have been conceived in the round and draped on the figure, it is the best example of Poiret's conception of dress as a three-dimensional form that maintains the integrity of its two-dimensional cloth. Poiret's love of unexpected color combinations appears in his juxtaposition of deep brown velvet with a vivid red violet silk. A richly embroidered placket at the hipline anchors the loop and button closure. With its couched silver-gilt cording, it appears to be half of a neckline bib, or quabbeh, typical of costumes from the Middle East. Poiret seems to have been inspired by an authentic embroidery panel, if only by half, and has reinvented it as a complete motif by finishing all of its edges visually and structurally. In a final flourish, he has introduced colored tassels to further embellish and "orientalize" the closure.

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