Monday, February 20, 2012

Dress of the Day - February 20, 2012

Today's dress is a sequel to yesterday's, as it is also inspired by the Opera Company of Philadelphia's production of Mozart's opera "Abduction from the Seraglio" I saw yesterday. This opera, which tells the tale of Europeans held captive by a Turkish pasha, is a vivid example of 18th-century musical orientalism, with Mozart's evocation of the music of the Turkish janissary bands. The alla turca style was not closely related to actual Turkish music; it was more like an imagined version of this exotic style. Its hallmarks were march tempi, percussion instruments such as triangle, cymbal, and bass drum, and often the keys of C Major or A Minor.

In the OCP production, one of the main costumes for Konstanze, by designer Guia Buzzi, reminded me of the "lampshade dress," a famous look by the great French couturier Paul Poiret. He revolutionized fashion in the early part of the 20th century by freeing women from the confines (and corsets) of the Belle Époque. Captivated by images of the Orient after seeing Rimsky-Korsakov's Schéhérazade at the Ballets Russes in 1910, Poiret created looks inspired by the Near East, such as "lampshade" tunics and "harem" pants. Here are two examples of this striking look, one from the Victoria & Albert Museum and one in a drawing by George Lepape from the Gazette du Bon Ton. Note the use of exotic headgear, turbans and a band wrapped across the forehead, as well as necklaces and the risqué, transparent bodice in the drawing. The second example also shows Poiret's "hobble skirt," a narrow silhouette that made walking difficult.

Paul Poiret (1912)
Lampshade dress
Victoria & Albert Museum

Paul Poiret (1914)
Le Collier Nouveau evening gown
Georges Lepape, Gazette du Bon Ton

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