PARIS — Modern may be an overused word in fashion, but it seems apt when describing the designs of the late French couturier Paul Poiret, he of hobble-skirt fame.
Consider a dress he made for his daughter in 1922, topped with a knitted vest overlaid with silver that is reminiscent of recent work by Belgian Martin Margiela.
The dress is among some 530 lots of the personal wardrobe and belongings of Poiret’s wife, Denise, to be sold at auction house Piasa here next month.
On Tuesday, Azzedine Alaïa, an avid collector of Poiret and other vintage fashions, was busy installing that dress and other key looks at his Marais headquarters for one of two exhibitions leading up to the hotly anticipated sale.
“She was very modern for her time,” said Alaïa, admiring an embroidered dinner suit expected to fetch 8,000 to 15,000 euros, or $10,320 to $19,350 at current exchange, come May 10 and 11. “She had true style and elegance.”
Indeed, Françoise Auguet, a vintage dealer and the appointed expert for the sale, said the couturier’s wife, as depicted in group photos during the period 1905 to 1928, often looks as though she belongs to the present.
Auguet describes Denise Poiret’s taste as “avant-garde,” given her penchant for free-flowing dresses at a time of constricting corsets. Poiret’s model, muse and booster, she wore little makeup, often went barefoot and was a consummate stylist, cinching her loose robes and caftans with belts, twisting fabrics into turbans and constantly changing her accessories, Auguet related.
The collection, put on the block by the late designer’s granddaughter, Perrine, spans everything from handkerchiefs and dinner plates to bed linens. Auguet said she expects individuals seeking a piece of fashion history may snap up small items, with museums duking it out for the most important pieces.
These include a fur-trimmed evening coat with a fabric by French painter Raoul Dufy, estimated to fetch up to 20,000 euros, or $25,800, and a pair of elaborately beaded shoes that could sell for up to 8,000 euros, or $10,320.