There’s nothing about these four Paris evening gowns from 1926 that could be called “everyday fashion.” These are couture, with all the detailing we expect at top prices. The designers are Chanel, Patou, and Doeuillet.
The illustrations are signed “J. Desvignes.” They were originally printed at large scale, longer than most horizontal computer screens, so I’ll be breaking the illustrations down to show the details. They were featured in Delineator magazine in November, 1926, and were available in New York from Frances Clyne — just in time for the holiday season.
A Chanel Evening Gown, November 1926
“Chanel uses red chiffon for this delightful dress which promises to be the frock of the season. It is simple in effect but attains interest by means of its drooping blouse, an intricate girdle, outlined by beads and floating draperies. Chanel’s skirts are longer — in spots — but in general short. Chanel is fond of red for evening.”
It mixes fluid chiffon panels with geometric beading in an Art Deco rhythm. Even the narrow straps are beaded.
A Beaded Evening Gown by Patou, 1926
“This slender frock of white crepe Roma, all frost and fire with its rhinestones and pearls, was designed by Patou. A faint suggestion of the bolero is cleverly introduced at the waistline. The beaded frock remains faithful to the sheath, giving it a fresh look with tiers and scallops. The U outline of the decolletage is new.”
A “bolero” was any over layer that floated free above the dropped waist. This whole description is interesting to me because it mentions the “sheath,” and because this deep, filled-in U-shape on the bodice is described as “new” in 1926. With hindsight, it’s one of the archetypal 1920s’ evening looks.
Later, Paquin did a series of “necklace dresses,” with beading eliminating the need for jewelry.
A Black Satin Doeuillet Evening Dress, Beaded and Embroidered, from 1926
“The Chinese influence is apparent in this Doeuillet frock of black satin. It is called “Pagoda,” a name suggested by the pointed hemline, flaring tiers and amusing Chinese motifs in red, blue, and silver beads. Much embroidery worked in silk and metal threads mixed with beads is used for evening.”
Doeuillet was an established couture house in Paris, founded in 1900 and successful in the 1910’s as well as the 1920’s.
A Patou Evening Gown in Black and White, 1926
“Patou’s frock “Half-and-Half” of black and white Elizabeth crepe relieves its stark simplicity by rhinestones and pearl embroidery. A jabot drapery at the front and a floating panel from the left shoulder add distinction to the silhouette and convey a sense of motion. Models on these two pages imported by Frances Clyne.”
The filled-in neckline of this Patou dress is V shaped, rather than U shaped.
The name of Patou has long been associated with his sportswear, but the two gowns illustrated here show that he knew how to produce luxe in a context of simplicity. These gowns look un-fussy but still very expensive — they possess a tailored version of glamour and sophistication, as sleek as the models’ hair.
Both Chanel and Patou remained well-known names in the twentieth century because of their best-selling fragrances: “Chanel No. 5” and “Joy,” respectively.
Frances Clyne, like Hattie Carnegie and some high end department stores, worked with French designers to sell exact copies of their clothes in the United States. They cost twice as much as they did in Paris, but there were no import duties to pay, no wait to clear customs, and clients didn’t have to take a ship to Paris and remain there for fittings, a process which, including travel time, took several weeks.