Paul Poiret is best known for jettisoning the corset, thereby liberating women from the figure-distorting silhouettes that had existed in one form or another since the Renaissance. Poiret learned his trade in the 1890s, selling sketches to fashion houses and taking apprenticeships at Doucet and Worth, the leading couturiers of the time. But he was disdainful of their frothy style. "The taste for the refinements of the eighteenth century," Poiret wrote, "had led all women into a sort of deliquescence." In both Europe and the United States, Belle Epoque style was notable for the pinched, swanlike curves produced by its corsets. In this 1901 illustration, the woman looks exasperated by both her suitor and her clothes.
"The Way We Move"
How Paul Poiret freed us from the corset.
By Josh Patner
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