fashion in World War I: April 1917

Coats and costumes by Premet

The April 1917 issue of  Les Élégances Parisiennes showed designs that followed the dual trends featured in March: on the one hand, simple smocks or shift dresses, and on the other garments featuring flying panels, interlaced strips, and draped effects. There was also a continued reference to historic garments – like the Premet ensemble above, with a waistcoat copied from menswear of the 1720s. Historicism was also a trend in fashion textiles, with motifs borrowed from the 1830s, or from ‘peasant’ cultures.

For the French fashion industry, one of the main news stories was the establishment of a ‘Maison de France’ in Madrid, promoting fashion, decorative arts and perfumes. The garments were shown on on live mannequins; this was not new, as Lucile and other couturiers had held fashion parades before 1914 – but it was still felt to be a noteworthy innovation. Meanwhile Paul Poiret had gone further afield, opening Poiret, Inc. in New York to sell clothing, furnishings and even glass ware to his designs. This enterprise had an American director and legal advisor. The latter would be needed to deal with the numerous and flagrant breaches of copyright that Poiret had suffered from US manufacturers and retailers.

Coats and dresses by Poiret

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