CHILD'S TUNIC AND SKIRT OUTFIT BY PAUL POIRET
Paul Poiret, one of the twentieth century's most innovative and influential fashion designers, frequently sought inspiration in the crafts and products of other cultures such as those of Asia, North Africa and native America. This outfit, worn by his second daughter Martine (b. 1911), uses a traditional Japanese textile to create a lively chemise of simple sophistication.
Denise Poiret (née Boulet), the designer's wife, served as his model and muse. The couple's high-profile lifestyle overlapped with the designer's career: Denise Poiret appeared in French society dressed by her husband and, in her adventurous manner and slim physique, personified Poiret's vision of women with his sumptuous yet stylized sense of adornment. When they divorced in 1928 after twenty-three years of marriage, Denise Poiret, at her husband's request, took with her items of clothing designed by Poiret for both herself and their five children.
Owing to the family's preservation of these garments, we can now assess their historical importance and see how Poiret's creative talents were put to use in dressing his own children. This 1924 ensemble, comprising tunic and skirt, features a monogram with the letter M for Martine surrounded by a scalloped cartouche in red silk thread. Poiret's venture into interior design, textiles and furnishings—the Atelier Martine—was founded in 1911 and named for his daughter shortly after her birth. The outfit reflects Poiret's use of fabrics not typically found in French clothing at the time, whether for adults or children. The tunic, finished with cream wool binding, is made from a Japanese silk double ikat—a fabric called kasuri—of dark indigo with ivory S-shape geometric motifs; its construction, a T-shape with gussets under the arms, relates to the designer's use of simple cuts inspired by kimono. A red wool skirt, with a single pleat at each side, offsets the deep blue of the indigo and references the embroidered monogram. Poiret's interest in children's clothes extended beyond the many items made for his own sons and daughters (as well as for their dolls); he also commercially designed outfits for babies and children so other mothers could have their children dressed by Poiret in the height of avant-garde fashion.
Provenance: From the personal collection of Denise Boulet-Poiret, descended through their son, Colin Poiret.