Poiret: King of Fashion

May 9–August 5, 2007

Poiret and The Art of The Fashion Plate

Poiret's vision of modernity embraced not only fashion but also its representation. Early in his career Poiret recognized the potential of fashion illustration to evoke the look, sense, and mood of his costumes in ways that photography could not. Working with artists associated with the avant-garde, Poiret created a number of limited-edition deluxe albums in which the visual and the sartorial merged to create a unique and stylish brand of modernism.

Poiret collaborated with Paul Iribe on Les robes de Paul Poiret (1908) and with Georges Lepape on Les choses de Paul Poiret (1911). Reflecting the bold colors and abstract qualities of Poiret's fashions, both albums rely on the intricate stenciling technique known as pochoir, which involves hand-coloring, long considered impractical for fashion illustration. Shunning the stiff poses that were typical of fashion illustrations, Iribe and Lepape grouped their models in expressive combinations suggesting action, conversation, or introspection.

The albums inspired several luxurious periodicals, including Lucien Vogel's Gazette du bon ton. Modeled on Poiret's catalogues, it was illustrated with boldly colored pochoirs by artists such as Lepape, Charles Martin, Simone A. Puget, André-Édouard Marty, and Jean-Louis Boussingault. Poiret's fashions were featured in the Gazette from the outset and were key to the journal's au courant sophistication. Typically, they were depicted in modern contexts, such as the theater, restaurant, or nightclub, underscoring the mutually reinforcing modernisms of Poiret's fashions and the Gazette's illustrations.