Poiret: King of Fashion

May 9–August 5, 2007


The ubiquitous reach of Poiret's designs extended to every detail of a woman's wardrobe, including hats, shoes, fans, parasols, and even stockings. In their conception and production, Poiret's accessories were presented as unique works of art. A pair of shoes called "Le Bal," for instance, which were made by the great cobbler André Perugia for Denise Poiret in 1924, is completely overembroidered in colored seed beads in a pattern that depicts Paul Poiret on one foot and his wife on the other creating a sensation as they enter a crowded ball.

Poiret's hats, not unlike his fashions, were designed to arrest the eye and stun the senses. Although his atelier was capable of producing millinery that encompassed a wide range of materials and silhouettes, including cloches, turbans, jeweled headbands, and asymmetrically brimmed felts, he also worked with other milliners, most notably Madeleine Panizon. The famed milliner created several enchanting confections for Poiret's wife, such as the "Trocadéro" hat made from dyed, stripped, and clipped ostrich feathers. In its exotic plumage, it recalls the "Flonflon" headdress created in Poiret's maison de couture for his wife, which brings to mind eighteenth-century depictions of headdresses in allegories of the continents.

Denise Poiret herself was brilliant at combining accessories. A 1913 article in Vogue reported, "Mme. Poiret it was who first wore the plain satin slipper in vivid colors without buckle or bow, and the stocking to match the skirt color." The article went on to reveal that Poiret "introduced high, wrinkled morocco boots through his wife." Styled with a low heel and a square toe, they were made for her by the bottier Favereau. Vogue reported that Denise had versions in red, white, green, and yellow and that she wore them "wrinkled on the legs nearly to the knees." Even in footwear, it appears that Denise Poiret was the inspiration for some of her husband's greater flights of fancy.

  • "Le Bal"

    Paul Poiret (French, Paris 1879–1944 Paris)

    Date: 1924
    Accession Number: 2005.192a, b