Byline: Jessica Kerwin

“Colors should flow in swirling tones,” pronounced Heinrich Pudor, a Reform Dress advocate from Berlin in 1905. Bright colors meant revolution, while folksy embroideries showed off national artistry. In those days, rebellious Emilie Floge, the Viennese designer and renowned beauty who opened her fashion house with sisters Pauline and Helene in 1904, created many of the wildly brocaded and patched Reform dresses worn by the daring hostesses, actresses and dancers who posed for Gustav Klimt. And almost a century later, designers on both sides of the Atlantic have brought the folkloric look back to life.
Of course, Marc Jacobs and Miuccia Prada aren’t the first to swoon for the crafty styles created by Floge, Klimt and the members of the Wiener Werkstatte’s fashion department. While the Viennese Reformers sought freedom from drab, laced-up styles imported from Paris, after a visit to Vienna in 1911, Paul Poiret, the Parisian master himself, placed a large fabric order with the Werkstatte.
Emilie’s Klimt connection wasn’t based solely on their mutual love of artsy fashion, however. The painter could often be found in the Floge studio, throwing paper hats from the window to radical coffee drinkers at the Casa Piccola cafe below, or strolling with Emilie by the lake at Attersee, the Floges’ summer retreat. And though they never married, their 20-year love affair couldn’t have been more monumental. Many art history experts believe Emilie served as Gustav’s model for “The Kiss.”