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Koda, Harold, and Andrew Bolton, with contributions by Mary E. Davis, Caroline Evans, Jared Goss, Heather Hess, Caroline Rennolds Milbank, and Kenneth E. Silver, and an introduction by Nancy J. Troy
224 pages
195 illustrations
Book of the Year Award (ForeWord) in Art (2007)
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Paul Poiret dominated haute couture in the first decade of the twentieth century. Known in America as the "King of Fashion," he liberated women from constricting undergarments, most significantly from the corset, which had shaped the female form almost without interruption for hundreds of years. In so doing, he revolutionized dressmaking, by shifting its emphasis away form the skills of tailoring to those based on the skills of draping. He advocated dresses that hung from the shoulders, pioneering such styles as the chemise, which he introduced as early as 1911.

Beyond his technical innovations, Poiret established the blueprint of the modern fashion business. He founded a perfume and cosmetics company, as well as a decorative arts company. In forming these enterprises, he became the first designer to relate fashion to interior design and to promote a "total lifestyle."

Known for his marketing acumen, Poiret employed the theater as his runway, dressing such high-profile performers as Lillie Langtry, Sarah Bernhardt, Ida Rubenstein, and Isadora Duncan. As an extension of this form of advertising, he threw lavish parties for which he designed many of the costumes. Of there, perhaps the most well-known was his "One Thousand and Second Night," where he promoted two of his most iconic designs: the "lampshade" tunic and the "harem" trousers, or pantaloons, both of which were worn by his wife, Denise.

Poiret's designs reflected the dominant artistic discourses of the early twentieth century, most notably orientalism. An art collector himself, Poiret also worked with a number of important artists, including Raoul Dufy, on designs for fabrics. Two of Poiret's most important collaborations were with the graphic artists Paul Iribe and Georges Lepape, who created deluxe albums for Poiret's elite clients. Many of these pochoir prints are illustrated in this volume and served as inspiration for the remarkable vignettes in the exhibition of Poiret's couture held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2007.

Among the garments featured prominently in this catalogue are those created for Denise Poiret. Dark and reed thin, she was the epitome of Poiret's ideal of beauty. He created some of his most daring and radical designs for his wife, who—as many photographs of her reveal—wore them with a captivating, flamboyant self-confidence. In 2005, many of these unique creations were purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and formed the core of its exhibition "Poiret: King of Fashion." These exciting acquisitions provide new insights into Poirets artistic vision and help to reassert his position as one of the most important designers of the twentieth century.

Met Art in Publication

Fancy dress costume, Paul Poiret  French, metal, silk, cotton, French
"La Perse", Paul Poiret  French, cotton, silk, metallic thread, fur, French
"Rosière", Paul Poiret  French, linen, French
Butard, Paul Poiret  French, a, b) linen, French
"Manteau D'Auto", Paul Poiret  French, linen, silk, cellulose, French
Jacket, Paul Poiret  French, wool, cotton, rayon, French
Opera coat, Paul Poiret  French, silk, metal, French
Dress, Paul Poiret  French, silk, French
Ensemble, Paul Poiret  French, a) silk, fur; b) silk, French
"La Rose d'Iribe", Paul Poiret  French, (a)silk<br/>(b) linen, wool, cotton, French
Multiple artists/makers
"Théâtre des Champs-Élysées", Paul Poiret  French, a,c-e) silk, rhinestones; b) silk; f, g) silk, leather, French
"Feuille d'automne", Paul Poiret  French, a, b) silk; c) fur, silk, French
Coat, Paul Poiret  French, wool, rayon, French
"Pré Catelan", Paul Poiret  French, silk, metallic thread, French
"Paris", Paul Poiret  French, silk, wool, metallic thread, French
"Bois de Boulogne", Paul Poiret  French, a–c) silk, French
Multiple artists/makers
Coat, Paul Poiret  French, silk, wool, fur, leather, French
ca. 1919
Coat, Paul Poiret  French, wool, French
Dress, Paul Poiret  French, silk, metallic thread, French
Ensemble, Paul Poiret  French, silk, French
ca. 1922
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View Citations

———. 2007. Poiret. New York : New Haven: Metropolitan Museum of Art ; Yale University Press.