"Feuille d'automne"

Designer Paul Poiret French

Not on view

The day ensemble ‘Feuille d’Automne’ (Autumn Leaves), introduces the new, slightly raised hemline of the season. While Denise Poiret had worn boots à la Russe for years, they were especially apt when coordinated with ankle-exposing skirts. As with many of Poiret's designs, this ensemble acknowledges the prevailing mode while modifying it to the idiosyncratic sensibility of the designer. In the early 1920s, Poiret was to advocate panniered (wide-hipped) and crinolined silhouettes, but in this period – when many design houses endorsed a full, umbrella-shaped skirt – Poiret insisted on a line that cleaved reasonably to the body. There is fullness in the paisley-patterned skirt, but because it is not supported by petticoats, it collapses into the slender and natural line advocated by the designer and preferred by his wife.

The surplice blouse wraps at the waist, anticipating the body-conforming styles of the 1930s by more than a decade. Vogue noted in the early 1920s that among Poiret's greatest innovations was the "kimono neckline." By adding a white collar to the surplice, Poiret co-opts the Asian origins of the garment's construction and situates it in the tradition of Western fashion. In this ensemble, as in others, Denise Poiret's sylphlike form encouraged innovation. The wrap front of the blouse would not have been adequate for the fuller form of the Belle Époque ideal, but for the slender build of Poiret's wife, the adjustability of the wrap provided the minimum of support for the suggestion of a natural bustline.

"Feuille d'automne", Paul Poiret (French, Paris 1879–1944 Paris), a, b) silk; c) fur, silk, French

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