The decorative rose that was Belle Epoque designer Paul Poiret’s hallmark is currently featured in the halls of the Metropolitan Museum to mark the occasion of the annual Costume Institute Gala. Perhaps in keeping with its tradition of extravagance, the gala chose to highlight the work of the self-described king of fashion: An exhibition of Poiret’s enswathing and intricately detailed couture will run at the Met from May 9 to Aug. 5.
The son of fabric merchants, Poiret was not the most skillful tailor. He would drape azure and absinthe fabrics—extraordinary choices in his day—onto his clients, creating daring neoclassical and Oriental looks for ladies of high fashion. Best known for liberating women from corsets and introducing them to culottes and lamp-shade tunics, Poiret laid the foundation for the designers of the next century, especially those who would design for comfort and mass consumption. This exhibit amply confirms Poiret’s self-description, 63 years after his death.
Unwilling to move with the fickle tides of fashion, Poiret was unable to adapt his lavish designs for the more modest 1930’s, and he died in 1944 a very poor man. Poiret’s lifetime of defiance to the mainstays of fashion, however, is on display through the summer.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, www.metmuseum.org