Poiret, Paul

Poiret, Paul pōl pwärĕˈ [key], 1879–1944, French couturier, b. Paris. He served an apprenticeship with Jacques Doucet in the 1890s, moved to the Maison Worth in 1900, and in 1903 opened his own small studio. Dominating Paris couture from 1909 to 1914, Poiret revolutionized fashion with his designs for the “new woman,” ending wasp waists and constricting corsets, reviving a simple, Empire-waisted silhouette, and introducing pantaloons. Around 1910 he introduced the appropriately named hobble skirt, with volume around the hips narrowing to an ankle-hugging bottom. He created ensembles of walking coats and dresses, and short hoop “lampshade” tunics over long sheaths. Inspired by interests in art nouveau, East Asia, and the Ballets Russes, he designed jewel-colored evening gowns and such exotic costumes as coulottes, harem pants and skirts, fringed capes, and turbans. He was the first designer to produce (1911) a line of fragrances and cosmetics, and also created items for the home. World War I brought an end to Poiret's flights of fancy, and though he was active in the 1920s his designs were no longer fashionable.

See studies by P. White (1973), Y. Deslandres (1987), A. MacKrell (1990), F. Baudot (1997), and H. Koda and A. Bolton (2007).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Fashion: Biographies