Early 20th Century Fashion & Design by Paul Poiret (1879–1944)

Paul Poiret (1879 – 1944) became a legendary French Couturier. His contributions to twentieth-century fashion have been likened to Picasso’s contributions to twentieth-century art. Poiret dominated Belle Epoque fashion and reshaped women’s silhouettes by liberating them from constricting corsets and popularising the high waist. From abolishing the corset he went further with hobble skirts, “harem” pantaloons, and “lampshade” tunics, using the fabulous soirées he threw in his garden to promote such whimsies. His most famous soirée was The Thousand and Second Night party he threw in 1911. Unfortunately post war Europe and the public were not akin or sympathetic to Poiret’s style and he closed his house, heavy in debt, in 1929.

He was employed at the house of Worth but did not continue there for long. On the 1st September, 1904 he opened his own establishment at 5 Rue Auber. Between 1904-1924 he irrevocably changed the feminine form with his new fashion designs.  Poiret’s major contribution to fashion was his development of an approach to dressmaking centered on draping, a radical departure from the tailoring and pattern-making of the past. He dismissed the use of corsets, he eliminated layered petticoats, was influenced by orientalism and he introduced the first modern straight lined dress. He also was the first designer to commercialise his own perfumes, launching a now standard marketing concept. He is also quoted to have said:

“My wife is the inspiration for all my creations; she is the expression of all my ideals.”

His wife, Denise, was his muse, creative director of the fashion house, and his favorite model. However, they divorced less than amicably in 1928 (Time reported: “M. Poiret charged that his wife’s attitude was injurious; Mme Poiret counter charged that her husband was cruel”).

Denise, Mme. Poiret

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Paul Poiret Studio, 1910’s

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Paul Poiret’s studio

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Paul Poiret’s costume party

Paul Poiret, 1925.

Paul Poiret, 1925

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Paul Poiret, “Amphitrite” Cape, textile designe by Raoul Dufy, 1926

Paul Poiret, 1927

A Collection Vintage Photos Feat. Amazing Ballerina Ida Rubinstein

Ida Rubinstein was a famous Russian ballerina, actress, patron and Belle Époque figure. An idol of the fin de siècle renowned for her beauty, mimetic powers and enormous wealth. She was a significant patron and she tended to commission works that suited her abilities, works that mixed dance with drama and stagecraft

She was born in Kharkiv 1885, Ukraine, but was orphaned at an early age. The family was wealthy, cultured and Russified, a merchant-banking clan that had moved up the social ranks; her father’s title, Hereditary Honorary Citizen, conferred gentry status.

Rubinstein is not considered to be in the top tier of ballerinas; she began her training too late for that to have been a possibility.  Tutored by Mikhail Fokine, she made her debut in 1908. This was a private performance of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé, in which she stripped nude in the course of the Dance of the Seven Veils. After the play was banned, Rubinstein performed the dance alone as a concert number.

Salomé brought Rubinstein to the attention of Serge Diaghilev (1872–1929), who included her in the earliest Paris seasons of his celebrated Ballets Russes. Because of her limited dance training, she was cast in “mime” roles such as Cleopatra (1909) and Ta-Hor in Schéhérazade (1910), which capitalized on her dark, exotic looks and stunning stage presence. Both ballets were choreographed by Fokine, and designed by Léon Bakst. Her partner in Scherazade was the great Nijinsky. Scherezade was admired at the time for its racy sensuality and sumptuous staging, but these days it is rarely performed; to modern tastes, it is considered too much of a pantomime and its then fashionable Orientalism appears dated.

Rubinstein left the Ballets Russes in 1911. World War I was a watershed in Rubinstein’s life. Although twenty years would elapse before she became a French citizen, by the 1920s she had become a grande dame of the French theatre. In 1928 Rubinstein formed her own dance company, using her inherited wealth, and commissioned several lavish productions. Her last performance was in the play Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher in Paris, 1939. In 1940 she left France during the German invasion, and made her way to England via Algeria and Morocco. She later returned to France, living finally at Les Olivades at Vence, where she lived in strict seclusion, reading the Bible and occasionally visiting the Abbey of Cîteaux. She died in 1960 and was buried nearby.

Ida Rubinstein via

Ida Rubinstein, 1920s via

Ida Rubinstein in Phaedre, 1923 via

Mme Ida Rubinstein

Mme Ida Rubinstein by Léon Bakst, 1910 via