Friday, July 2, 2010

Behind Every Great Man

One cannot speak of Poiret without mention of his wife Denise. Long before any fashion history novice would proclaim that Chanel (curse her, she gets all the credit) had liberated the modern woman in the early twenties, Denise Poiret was proof that Poiret had done it years before! She was unfashionably (at the time) tall and slender with Poiret saying in 1913, "My wife is the inspiration for all my creations; she is the expression of all my ideals."

Poiret married Denise Boulet in 1905, much to the shock and horror of his circle who considered her rather provincial and lacking any style. As Poiret said of his choice of wife and mother of his children. "All those who have admired her since I made her my wife would certainly not have chosen her in the state in which I found her," Poiret stated in his rather self praising autobiography King of Fashion. "But I had a designer's eye, and I saw her hidden graces…. She was to become one of the queens of Paris."

Up until recently the role his wife played in his success has been underrated. However, here was someone with enough savoir faire to recognize that Poiret was revolutionizing women’s fashion and had the panache to wear his creations with the confidence of somebody who knew exactly what she was doing. She had the audacity to spur Poiret on by being a major force in the display of some his more outrageous costumes and schemes.

For his legendary Thousand and Second Night Ball in 1912, she was dressed as a slave girl in the famous lampshade tunic, harem pants and turban, locked in a gilded cage, waiting for her master’s arrival so that he could set her free! For another fete, dressed as the Queen of Sheba in an ensemble slashed to the hip revealing her leg, she shocked even Parisian haute bonheme.

She wore his creations confidently and nonchalantly. The luxurious fabrics being an accessory to Denise herself.

After their acrimonious divorce in 1928 (Time reported, "M. Poiret charged that his wife's attitude was injurious; Mme Poiret countercharged that her husband was cruel"), she still held her ex-husband’s work in high esteem. She kept her spectacular wardrobe for posterity’s sake and it was passed down to her children and grandchildren. In 2005 most her wardrobe went up for auction, how I wish I was there with unlimited funds!


  1. Oh me too! Wishing to be there with unlimited funds.
    Love the mural behind the bed. Great post. Enjoyed it!

  2. Jill, the mural/painting is by Kees Van Dongen, who did a few portraits of Casati. Stay tuned.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin