It was in the very beginning of the second decade of the 20th century that an idea emerged about the use of the Far Eastern motifs in the Western fashion world. And just then, French fashion designer Paul Poiret started using a bright color palette, or even soft pastel tones and floral ornament, accentuating coats with bright patterns.
Prototype Of The Kimono Coat
Eastern art and the aesthetics of traditional costumes became the main inspiration of the 20th century Western fashion world. Paul Poiret and Mariano Fortuny were the first ambassadors of the Far East in the Western fashion scene. The conservative society, which was still accustomed to think of the 19th-century aesthetic categories, was stirred up and shocked at the same time by the two designers who brought the motifs of the Japonisme in fabrics and patterns.
Paul Poiret became famous for a controversial kimono coat and its alike - chemise dress or shirt dress, that was intended to be worn without a corset. It featured a slender silhouette line without using an artificial means. Thus, the costume design created by Paul Poiret became a finest example of exotic tendencies of that time.
The Ballets Russes, the background of Orientalism and African art, as interpreted by the Cubist artists, also became the strongest influences in the transformations of the 20th century fashion. One of his new inventions, Poiret called "kimono coat". It had straight, simple cut lines that were typical of East Asian traditional costumes. For Poiret and his contemporaries, "kimono coat" was the result of a dual concept. It had no direct link with the Japanese traditional costume and only the typical manifestations of this culture. No one at that time yet distinguished China, Japan or simply East Asian motives. In the early 20th century fashion, it usually reflected the synthesis of various oriental sources.
The kimono coats once made by Paul Poiret were among the earliest examples in this style. Such a coat design may indicate a layer of outer coat of different thickness, which, depending on the applied material, trim and decorative elements, can be worn on solemn occasions. For example, the kimono coat may turn into an opera coat. Otherwise, the kimono coat can be thoroughly insulated and lined or trimmed with fur. Moreover, it does not lose its seemingly frivolous decorations, because it is vivid, adorned with flower patterns and glitters... And it is an oriental kimono coat with only one button as the lowered fastener. Sometimes decorations and cut of the kimono coat may appear also in kimono-style dresses intended for wearing during the summer season.
Paul Poiret and his contemporary Mariano Fortuny continued experimenting with various kimono coat patterns, until the 20's both artists created a mini-length coat (for that time) that was so much in line with the Art Deco trends.
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My name is Edīte Parute and I am a fashion historian and researcher from Latvia, association member at "The Association of Dress Historians" (UK) and author of the book "Stila un modes enciklopēdija"/"Encyclopedia of Style and Fashion" (2010) as well as author of many publications.
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