24 January 2024


Zoom lecture

Modernist Paris 1

Paul Poiret and the Birth of Modern Fashion, 1908-1925

A lecture based on the exhibition at the Petit Palais, Paris

(until 14 April 2024)

with Chris Boïcos

Paul Poiret, Fancy dress costume, 1911, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Paul Poiret, Fancy dress costume, 1911, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Paul Poiret, ca. 1913
Paul Poiret, ca. 1913

The great Paris couturier Paul Poiret (1879-1944) is best-known for his abolition of the petticoat and the corset and the creation of the first narrow skirts in the early 1900s. Inspired by the Far and Middle East as well as the Oriental costumes of Diaghilev’s Russian ballets, he is the first to bring exotic styles and accessories to French fashion, most notably the turban and harem pants. He also organized the greatest costume parties of his period, invented with the collaboration of illustrators Paul Iribe and Georges Lepape the artistic fashion plate, as well as the first photographic fashion shoots with American photographer Edward Steichen. He is the first couturier to launch his own perfume – named after his daughter, Rosine – many years before his rival, Coco Chanel. He also organized art exhibitions and literary readings and is responsible for the first public exhibition in 1916 of Picasso’s notorious Demoiselles d’Avignon. Famous for his extravagance and free spending he dominated his period but was bankrupted and largely forgotten after the financial crisis of 1929. The current exhibition at the Petit Palais is a unique opportunity to rediscover this pioneering genius of modern fashion and art.

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