I saw Poiret’s famous “Sorbet” gown at the V & A years ago. It’s sometimes referred to as “the lampshade dress,” because of the rigid bottom of the tunic.
I expected to laugh; instead, I haven’t found a picture that does it justice. It’s ridiculous. It’s impractical. And it’s couture: what doesn’t show in the photos I’ve found is that the stylized roses are made from thousands of subtly glittering beads. The silk has the soft gleam of quality. It is lovely.
Perhaps because this is clearly a “wear it once” dress (except for the version without a boned tunic,) it has survived in at least three public collections (V & A, Chicago History Museum, & FIT. ) And, being couture — custom made for every client — each rendition is slightly different. Sometimes only the skirt is different (one version has harem pants;) in one, the tunic falls softly instead of being rigid; in the collection at the Fashion Institute of Technology, the dark parts are not black, but mauve (or raspberry sorbet?)
Randy Bigham has written a fascinating essay comparing the three versions.
I called “Sorbet” a “wear it once” dress because it would make a grand entrance, be highly memorable, and also be highly impractical. How would the wearer sit at a dinner table, or travel to a party in a carriage or car? How would she dance in it, since the hoop would pop up in the back as soon as her partner embraced her? [Imagine it flipping around during a tango!]
But …. Poiret caught the spirit of the times, even if he didn’t create the tunic fad; by 1914 his dress was influencing Butterick patterns and being imitated elsewhere. I found it in advertisements, too — usually a sign that a style has penetrated the common culture.
Tunic Dress Patterns from 1914
An outfit with the tunic look might be a dress, or a skirt and “waist” combination. [A “waist” was a blouse or separate bodice.] The flared part of the tunic might be part of the blouse/waist) …
… Or it might be part of the skirt:
Wearing the tunic over an elaborately draped skirt increased bulk over the hips — and narrowing at the ankles exaggerated it.
There are many one-piece tunic dresses, rather than waist and skirt combinations:
However, tunic outfit 6797 is a dress:
To my eyes, accustomed to slender, athletic bodies, the fashions of the World War I period are hard to understand, since they add the appearance of many pounds around the hips. [Poiret also took credit for the 1908 “hobble skirt,” still affecting fashion in 1914.]
With dresses like those, you’d hardly need this corset….
The tunic styles were for recommended for women (including larger sizes) and for teens:
That headdress deserves a closer look:
For large women, this modified tunic with more vertical lines was recommended.
The tunics and draped skirts that increased hip width were apparently popular, but women did have other choices:
(I’m still not clear on what “peg-top” actually meant — but now I know where to look….)
If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with this long post!