Who’s Magnificent? Poiret is Magnificent – Art Nouveau (Part 2)

The Art Nouveau movement’s greatest fashion designer is Paul Poiret. He pioneered personal style, and could be (should be!) credited for evicting the corset, those monstrous things! Within a few years of his budding career he successfully put pants on women. He introduced vivid colors to the blasé palette of the late 1800’s, and he took worldly influences – Roman Empire, Asian, Indian – to make empire waists, turbans, and harem pants very popular. And you wonder why! The empire waist is like walking around naked compared to the corset.

Poiret insisted that he was an artist, not a dressmaker. He embraced style as expressive on a very intimate level, and being the incredibly savvy businessman that he was, he was able to lay down a concrete foundation (no pun intended, really) for himself in the artistic world and the fashion world. I say no pun intended because he bought a cruise ship to house his fashion house after the war. Later he went bankrupt because it was after the war, and rations for food were still in effect let alone cruise ships. Although his success did fail (hard) – and I would like to mention that he did serve during the war! – he is responsible for a lot of firsts!

Edward Steichen worked with Poiret to take the first “fashion” photographs. His main squeeze and inspiration was his wife Denise Boulet, who was also his best model. Poiret and one of his daughters Rosine opened Parfums de Rosine, the first fragrance launched by a designer. Atélier Martine, named after another daughter, was a girls textile school opened by Poiret. He sent the girls to aquariums, parks etc. to inspire and to expose the already artistically inclined students to express themselves through textiles. He also formed the Protective Union of Dressmakers in Paris, he as president with Jacques Worth as vice president. “For the first time, Paris dressmakers take definite rank as genuine workers of art.” said Poiret. Silly Poiret referred to himself as a dressmaker but more importantly as workers of art. Fashion houses of Callot, Doucet, Lanvin, Jenny, Worth, Blanchini-Ferier, Bremet and Poiret joined forces to fight copying and pirating of their otherworldly designs – the things that these people were making back then were as originial as original can be! Is anything original these days??

He defines Avant Chanel, as he layed the stomping ground for personal expression through fashion. Style. Wikipedia doesn’t shine the brightest light on his career, perhaps rightfully so in terms of his monetary success, but in terms of accomplishments he worked well with what he had – which was everything before the war! Only after did he curtail when he failed to respect the limits of economy. Tout compte fait, he will be seen toujours as Le Magnifique in my eye for what he began at the turn of the 20th century.

Poiret Le Magnifique


A simply astounding dress of Poiret's, worn by his wife Denise at the infamous Mille et Deuxième Nuit party (base on Arabian Night) - come dressed or I will dress you! Metropolitan Museum of Art.


If you’re still reading, I encourage you to check out Joséphine Baker, one of Poiret’s models and one might say whom the harem pants were created for! She was an entertainer to the extreme. Look at this photo of her taken in 1927. 1927!!

2 Responses to “Who’s Magnificent? Poiret is Magnificent – Art Nouveau (Part 2)”
  1. Emily says:

    Very informative! I’d never heard of the designer before, but now I know! I saw your post on IFB, and I’d love to follow via GFC.


    • cnscheffer says:

      Thanks! New trends are always based on the first cycle of fashion. I thought I might as well start at the beginning!

      I’m not sure what GFC is actually, but you can subscribe through email, or bloglovin.

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