Textile manufactured by Bianchini-Férier (French, founded Lyons, 1888)
Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mercedes de Acosta, 1955
Not on view
This is a custom dress which Poiret created for Mercedes de Acosta (1893-1968), sister of turn of the century beauty Rita Lydig (1875-1929). De Acosta supplied the Bianchini-Férier textile and the inspiration piece, which was a Russian Cossack tunic. Although this was produced long after the zenith of Poiret's career, it shows the signs of his design sensibility with its expressive metallic buttons, waist pleats and skirt drapery.
Paul Poiret was the son of a textile distributor with the ambition and creativity to become a fashion designer. Brief employment for Jacques Doucet (1853-1929) and the House of Worth (1858-1956) led him to open his own dressmaking shop near the Place de l'Opèra in 1903 at the age of 24. His first two design albums, "Les Robes de Paul Poiret" drawn by Paul Iribe (1883-1935) in 1908 and "Les Choses de Paul Poiret" created by Georges Lepape (1887-1971) in 1911, not only changed the concept of fashion marketing and illustration, they prophesied the pivotal transition women made from the corseted silhouette of the Victorian age into the natural and sleek un-corseted form of the modern era. The tubular shape and folkloric trimmings he presented were continuously part of the Poiret vocabulary as well as draping, which proved ingenious in the time of tailoring and drafting.