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Woman's Afternoon Dress and Hat

Designed by Paul Poiret, French, 1879 - 1944

Made in France, Europe


Dress: Silk crepe de chine and velvet with silk and metallic thread embroidery; Hat: silk satin and tulle with leather appliqué, metallic thread embroidery, and brass studs

Center Back Length: 48 3/4 inches (123.8 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Costume and Textiles

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Vera White, 1951

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Paul Poiret was the most significant and copied Paris fashion designer of the early twentieth century. His inventive and often extreme designs were by the early 1920s more conservative. This tailored afternoon dress and hat pay homage to the discovery of King Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922. The colors draw from an Egyptian palette, and the motifs are likely based on plates in nineteenth-century design books such as those by the English designer and writer Owen Jones. The hat, which references the decoration on Egyptian capitals, was made by Madeleine Panizon, a milliner who worked with Poiret. The ensemble was worn by Vera White, an artist who with her husband, Samuel S. White III, formed a major collection of modern French paintings now at the Museum. Helena Rubinstein was photographed in 1923 wearing an identical dress in advertisements for her cosmetics in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.

Additional information:
  • PublicationBest Dressed: Fashion from the Birth of Couture to Today

    With the discovery in 1922 of the tomb of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen, "Tutmania" gripped the public, and many dress designers introduced novel Egyptian color schemes and decoration into their collections. Paul Poiret, the most famous designer during the years immediately before World War I, employed bold, embroidered "hieroglyphic" motifs in this striking dress from late in his career. The accompanying hat, which follows the shape of Egyptian hairstyles, sports the contrasting stripes characteristic of pharaonic art. Even the Parisian designer Gustave Beer, known for his "conservative elegance for conservative patrons," was caught up in the fad, although the ensemble he designed makes more subtle use of inspiration from Egypt. His sober wool faille dress and jacket, trimmed with fluted bands of self material, are enlivened by bands of turquoise silk embroidery and contrasting squares of dark fabric and pink beading. Set within embroidered cartouche-like rectangles on the jacket and belt are painted metal medallions in the form of scarabs, the beetles that symbolized the sun god to the ancient Egyptians. Dilys E. Blum and H. Kristina Haugland, from Best Dressed: Fashion from the Birth of Couture to Today (1997) pp. 26-27.

  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    French couturier Paul Poiret reigned as "The King of Fashion" in the decade before the outbreak of World War I in 1914. During this time he helped revolutionize feminine clothing by abolishing the artificial S-curve to emphasize the body's natural lines and introducing exotic novelties such as harem trousers and hobble skirts. While the loose, straight-line garments that he had pioneered continued to set the style after the war, he refused to modify the opulence and extravagance of his designs to suit the simpler tastes of the 1920s. In this afternoon dress and hat with Egyptian motifs, Poiret, renowned for amalgamating disparate influences to interpret the spirit of the East for a Western audience, pays homage to the rediscovery of the tomb of King Tutankhamen in 1922. The embroidery in vermilion, chestnut, and gold on the dramatically sleeved dress is set off by panels of sinuous black silk velvet and accented by a shaped cloche of fine leather appliquéd over silk. H. Kristina Haugland, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 97.

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