Vintage History – Poiret’s ‘Jupe-Culotte’
A mini history of Paul Poiret and his ‘harem pants’.
Poiret was the first designer to break away from the soft shades of the late Edwardian style, and used vibrant primary colours. In 1911 Paul Poiret introduced his “style sultane”. The new aesthetic in women’s clothing shackled the legs, by becoming so narrow between the knee and ankle, that it made simple movement difficult. The following year Paul Poiret introduced his jupe-culotte or harem pant. While Poiret may have been fashion’s last great orientalist, he was also its first great modernist.
The harem pant, the ‘style sultane’, was seen as an attack on traditional western values. Poiret was seen to severely upset the western way of life, which resulted in a lawsuit on Poiret’s part for defamation of character against the magazine ‘La Renaissance Politique’, which was a leading French publication at the time. Poiret defended his harem pant, as it was designed for “the chic woman, with delicate joints..and that the masculizing of the woman, showed her in all the harmony of her form, and all the freedom of her of native suppleness”.
Poiret’s exoticized tendencies were expressed through his use of vivid color coordinations and enigmatic silhouettes such as his iconic “lampshade” tunic and his “harem” trousers.
He seemed to be quite demanding too:
“The Thousand and Second Night” (based on The Arabian Nights), on June 24th, 1911 hosted over 300 guests required to dress up in ‘Oriental’ costuming. Cases in which guests attended improperly attired, they were requested to either outfit themselves in some of Poiret’s ‘Persian’ outfits, or leave.
Poiret created beautiful and luxurious evening gowns, this one is my favourite: