While nowadays Jean Patou is best known as one of the early sportswear pioneers, he also was a trailblazer in a number of eclectic ways. According to WWD, Patou, for instance, made history when he introduced the ankle-length cocktail dress in 1929. “Its launching created pandemonium among buyers who were unprepared for the change,” wrote the paper, explaining that “the current skirt lengths were nearer the knee than the ankle.” He was also an innovator in stressing “the importance of accessories as a contribution to the complete ensemble” and was the first “in transforming bathing suit fashions” with his cropped pleated trousers, dubbed “Patou shorts.” Fashion boozehounds can also thank him for “the installation of a bar, serving drinks to customers during fittings” — another apparent first.
Patou, who started his career in his father’s leather business, was also ahead of the game with the 1929 launch of a diffusion line, called Jane Paris. Aside from the obvious price-tag divide, he told WWD, his main Jean Patou label created “styles for the future. Jane Paris creates costumes for the present.” Four years later Patou designed an ivory satin bridal gown, with pouf shoulders, for Barbara Hutton’s wedding to Prince Alexis Mdivani; that turned out to be nuptials number one of seven for the troubled Woolworth heiress.
And sorry, Katy Perry. That light-up dress she wore to the Costume Institute gala this year, themed “American Women?” Patou pioneered that gimmick back in 1925. “Jean Patou includes in his collection,” reported WWD on Aug. 1, “a dark daytime dress called ‘Advertising,’ in which an embroidered Eiffel Tower is posed on the front of the bodice, surmounted by a tiny electric bulb worked by the mannequin.”