this translation by Margaret Crosland published 1956
A vital signature has made its mark on the light heart of the town. The signature of Paul Poiret.
Already the stiffness… has relaxed. The corsets are unlaced… The Duchesses are ready for Paul Poiret to dress them, undress them and put them in costume. There is no question yet of pushing out the stomach, walking like a crab and a praying mantis, putting one hand on the hip and making the jaw-line cruel and disdainful. It is a question of being an almeh, a bag of silk and fur, a lamp shade, a cushion from the harem of a fashionable sultan. A pale sultan, an emir with a chestnut beard and protruding eyes, an actor like Nero, changing women into odalisques and capable himself of incarnating innumerable types with the rags that he picks up round about him.
observations: In an earlier entry (which should be read with this one), Jean Cocteau considered the way fashions change. At the end of the book, he becomes very specific about the new freedoms which women will find at the time of the first world war: they will also be dancing the foxtrot (a dance which apparently premiered in 1914). Both almehs (Egyptian) and odalisques (Turkish) were exotically-imagined women of the east.
He is very interested in appearances and describes clothes a lot, and wonderfully well, in this book. He even manages to describe the eye makeup of the music hall star Mistinguett:
with her ‘bicycles’, the makeup she always used, which consisted of drawing the spokes of a wheel in blue pencil to imitate the shadow of the eyelashes between her eyebrows and the rim of her eyes.
As we said in the earlier entry, it is an absolutely delightful book, full of great stories and great writing.
Poiret’s liberating new designs also featured in Eva Ibbotson’s Madensky Square, here, and the blog is very fond of this picture of some of his evening coats:
The top picture is a Poiret design from a fashion magazine of 1912.