European Fashion Heritage Association

Journal Fashion & History

Les Robes de Paul Poiret racontéés par Paul Iribe


Reviving the fashion plate à la Paul Poiret

Three years after the store opened at 5 rue Auber, many artists contributed to the definition of Paul Poiret’s aesthetic and spirit through their designs. One of them was certainly Paul Iribe, a French illustrator who worked with many Parisian journals and daily papers, including Le temps and Le rire.

Poiret was attracted by the illustrations Iribe made for the magazine Le témoin, and decided to contact him for a collaboration.

“I confided to Iribe my intention to make a very nice publication, intended for the elite of good society, that is, a volume of his designs of my clothes, printed on beautiful Arches paper or Holland paper, which would be sent as a tribute to all the great ladies of the world. As it happens, Iribe needed money. I paid him the price of his first drawings and he disappeared. (…) I seem to remember that I had to threaten him quite seriously to force him to finish the volume. Eventually he sent me the latest originals and we went to press. Today this work is well known and can be found in the library of any artist or art lover. It is a stu-pen-dous thing, which then constituted unprecedented documentation. The volume had been conceived in such a spirit that it was just a little out of date today. I titled Les robes de Paul Poiret racontéés par Paul Iribe. A copy was sent to each sovereign of Europe, with a personalized dedication, placed after the endpapers and printed in refined characters. All copies were well received and appreciated, except for that of S.M. the Queen of England, [her copy] was sent back to me with a letter from a court lady in which I was asked to refrain from sending such items in the future. I never understood the reason for the misunderstanding. “

This publication anticipated a revival of fashion plates in a modern style to reflect a newer and slimmer silhouette. It was also one of the first examples of attempts that Poiret made to cement the relationship between art and fashion, later expressed in collaborations with Erté and Raoul Dufy, among others.

The album was made with the stencil technique known as pochoir, with bright and saturated areas of color. This approach not only reflects the novelty of Poiret’s designs, but also its unique palette. In fact, even if the garments depicted in the pochoirs refer to Neoclassicism, their acid colors and exotic accessories, in particular the turbans wrapped à la Madame de Staël, gave more the impression of an eastern style in design. The illustrations presented Poiret’s work in a flattened and highly decorative modern language that communicated the escapist spirit of the clothes in a way that was far more convincing than traditional flat fashion with its fetishization of detail.