Boston Public Library
À la Mode, 1795 to 1920
Fashion Plates
Rare Books Department


 

Fashion and Modernism 1900-1920

 

Fashion—and fashion illustration—changed dramatically in the first two decades of the 20th century. Fashion plates lost their static and conservative quality and, in the hands of modern artists, became avant-garde presentations of groundbreaking new styles.

Fashion artists employed the techniques of modern art—suggested by Cubists and Futurists—to deconstruct the body into cubes, cylinders, and ovals. Streamlined edges gave the form a feeling of speed. Large areas of flat, bright color, borrowed from Post-Impressionist artists, placed the human figure in an abstract context.

Paul Poiret’s revolutionary fashion designs best exemplified the changes of this period. He borrowed from the forms of modern art and from the shapes of men’s clothing to produce women’s designs with simple lines and vivid color.

In 1912, Poiret began publishing his designs in Gazette du Bon Ton, an unusual new Parisian fashion journal started by Lucien Vogel to emphasize the connections between fashion and art. The Gazette, illustrated by modern artists, brought fashion plates of the highest quality to the public and appeared in limited editions, on handmade paper, with no explanatory text.

The Gazette also featured designs for theatre costumes and book illustrations—all in the modernist style. Vogel printed special editions to feature certain artists; this section features the set decoration and costume designs of Georges Barbier, a fashion artist who also illustrated Poiret’s work, for a 1918 production of Casanova. The vividness and strength of these compositions correspond to the very best art of the period.

The Gazette du Bon Ton also published the work of Raoul Dufy, then a young French painter, who collaborated with Poiret in textile designs. From 1912 to 1928 Dufy produced modern designs for the Lyons silk manufacturing firm of Bianchini, Férier. These examples are his sketches from 1920 contained in the Gazette du Bon Ton of that year. These sketches placed the abstract female figure within the context of modernity: the backgrounds referred to the industrial, mechanized, and streamlined world of railroads, cars, and steamships. For Dufy—like all the modernist designers and illustrators of the early 20th century—fashion embraced the new velocity of life.

Fashion and Classicism
Fashion Plates 1818-1846
Fashion Plates 1862-1896
Changes in 19th Century Male Fashion
Fashion Influences from Abroad
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Exhibit Images

Barbier, 1918

Men's fashion
Full Screen Display


Barbier, 1918

Men's costume
Full Screen Display


Barbier, 1918

Women's dress
Full Screen Display


Gazette du Bon Ton, 1920

Women's fashion
Full Screen Display


Gazette du Bon Ton, 1920

Women's fashion
Full Screen Display


Gazette du Bon Ton, 1920

Women's fashion
Full Screen Display


Gazette du Bon Ton, 1920

Women's fashion
Full Screen Display