“Soulié’s Sketches Sent from The Delineator’s Paris Establishment Draw Attention to Godets, Princess Lines, and Frills Flat or Otherwise.” — Headline in Delineator Magazine, January 1924
Butterick Publishing Company kept an office in Paris for the purpose of following the latest fashion trends and reporting on them. (Not to mention producing Butterick patterns based on those trends.)
In January of 1924, Soulié sketched designs by several well-known Paris houses: Patou, Agnès, Doucet, Louise Boulanger, and Poiret. Since Downton Abbey’s current season is set in 1924, this seems like a good time to show some 1924 French designs. (Even though my real interest is in clothing for ordinary people, the influence of major French designers always percolates down through the department stores and pattern houses.)
“A coat that has quite the cut of a suit is made by Patou of black kid lined throughout with persisky — a form of civet — and trimmed with straps.” [In other words, this is a soft leather coat lined with fur.]
“Flat frills begin where the straight coat ends in a suit of green fulgarante with a knee-length bodice of green and gold brocade with collar and cuffs of gray fox. From Jean Patou.” [“Fulgarante” is apparently one of those words with a specialized meaning to fashion writers; it is Spanish for “blazing.”]
“Suit coats are of all lengths and many cuts, but the string-tied jacket and narrow skirt remain as popular as ever. Agnès uses them for a suit of beige zibella velours de laine with bearskin collar and cuffs.” In January of 1913, the New York Times reported that “Velour de laine, that soft, silky woolen tissue that arrived in the Autumn and was so popular till satins and silks usurped its place later, has now reappeared ….” [ Velours means velvet, laine means wool, and zibella is a mystery to me!]
“Gold braid underscored with rose-colored embroidery binds the slashed edges of an overdress and tunic of black crêpe marocain. The foundation is narrow, the sleeve short, and the length about eight inches from the floor. From Agnès.” You can find out more about Agnès, and see one of her dresses, at 1stdibs. Click here.
“For the new note of gorgeousness that the French dressmakers are introducing, Poiret uses embroidery of silver and gold on a dress of blue poplacote moire.” [Poplacote is another term my search engine has never encountered.]
“Poiret uses suède-colored sapho velvet trimmed with civet cat for a wrap that hides the fact that it is a coat under cape-like sides lined with black satin.” There is a brief biography of Paul Poiret at Encyclopedia Britannica (click here). The Metropolitan Museum devoted an exhibition to Poiret in 2007; click here to visit it online. You can see his iconic “lampshade” dress of 1912 in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Click here. (Be sure to look at the second image — the color and beadwork is lovely.)
Louise Boulanger [She later designed as Louiseboulanger.]
“The Ladies’ Book of 1924 is to show godets in skirts and capes according to an interesting coat of green wool duvetyn [a brushed woolen fabric] with a civet collar from Louise Boulanger.” You can see another 1920s dress by Louiseboulanger in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum. Click here.
“Also from Louise Boulanger comes a dress of bright blue matelassé flared at the foot, banded low on the hip and embroidered in gold on copper at the V neck.” [The Fashion Model Directory says Louise Boulanger worked for Cheruit until 1927, but the Delineator attributed these designs to her in 1924.]
“Doucet’s characteristic elegance speaks for itself in an evening gown of steel lace over a blue silk slip. A girdle of blue chenille fringe is clasped with a motif of diamonds and blue stras. [Stras is a type of artifical jewel.]” The illustration shows the shoulder drape of the the black dress on the right hanging confusingly in front of the light-colored dress on the left — it does not have a black panel in front! You can read more about Jacques Doucet at Fashion Model Directory; click here.
“The new princess line, flat, beltless and narrow, shows itself to great advantage in a Doucet gown of black crêpe velours embroidered with blue and gold Chinese motifs.”
A Few Observations About These Fashions from January 1924
- Skirts are still quite long — only 8 inches from the ground.
- All the models have short, “bobbed” hair.
- Most of these designs have strong accents at the hip; only the heavily embroidered Doucet gown is a tube.
- The “princess line” is “new.”
- Fur adds a note of luxury to all the daytime fashions, either as collars, cuffs, belts, (even coat lining,) or carried as a stole or muff.
- Soulié has drawn most of the models wearing rather high heels, which means the skirts are very long to still be 8″ above the floor.
9 responses to “Fashions from Paris, January 1924”
I love your posts and articles on early 20th century fashion (20’s -30’s). I appreciate all the research you have done. Keep up the great job – so wonderful to read! Thank you. From a devoted fan, DB
I noticed the shoes right away. That first pair on the left looks like it would fit in today (although not on my feet.)
They all seeem to have the heel very far forward — I’m wondering if that was just Soulie’s stye — feet are notoriously hard to draw. My theory about shoes is that painful shoes make your face look funny! (Ballerinas probably disprove this — blood in the toe-shoes, etc.)
Loved reading this after seeing Lady Mary attending a fashion show in last night’s Downton Abbey!
Oh, drat! I forgot it was on. She was looking through a pile of sketches in the last episode I saw. I’m not enough of a fan to know which designers the Downton ladies favor.
I hope you will permit a diversion to the present day in your lovely blog?
I’ve worked in theater wardrobe on and off for many years. All too often historical accuracy has given way to budget limits.
I’ve dressed people in fashions from stone age cave men to the1950/60s – Grease! I’ve noticed that present day men and women can find women “sexy” when wearing fashions from other periods – EXCEPT the 1920s. Clearly fashionable women in the 1920 thought themselves sexy (and the men too?), but why do we have this block today? The typical comment I’ve heard when describing an actress in 1920 fashion is ” pretty girl, spoilt by those clothes that do nothing for her”.
There was a similar rejection of the “chemise” look of the 1950s –men were used to seeing clothes which emphasized women’s bodies: very defined waist, bust, and curving hips. Clothes that ignored or completely hid the waist were not at all popular with — and were much satirized by — men. There’s an episode of I Love Lucy (1956) where she and Ethel get “Paris couture” outfits made of burlap — a joke repeating the idea that loose styles looked like “bags” to many critics. Click here for a photo. My first design assignment in grad school was a 1920s play. I met with the director; he emphasized that he wanted a real, authentic twenties look — clothes, not “costumes.” I was delighted — authentic, detailed 1927 clothing was fine with me! Just as I put my hand on the door to leave, he added — “Just don’t give me any of those dresses with the waists down around the hips!”
It’s funny — men in the 1920s found it erotic to see (and dance with) women not constricted by corsets, but we are used to that now, so the twenties dresses are not “revealing” enough! That’s my take, anyhow.
Love the Louise Boulanger that uses the gores in the skirt, which enter at the line below the curve of the tum, and flare out so gorgeously. As a former actor, I can say that 20s fashions are very hard to wear if you are not stick thin (I was) or in my case if you are pear shaped. There are ways to suggest 1920s without resorting to the hip band with the blousing above, and I look forward to seeing more of these Delineator drawings. Very cool!
Pingback: Four Blouses and a Hat from January 1924 | witness2fashion