The Turban by Paul Poiret

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The famed reception of the Arabian Nights was held on June 14th, 1911, in the Paris residence of Paul Poiret on the rue d’Antin. Raoul Dufy was responsible for the invitation, where he inscribed: “On that night, there will be no clouds in the sky and nothing that exists will exist.” It was true. Beneath a royal blue canopy inscribed with his initials, dressed as a Persian prince, carrying a whip in his hand like a malicious wraith, Poiret welcomed his guests: around 300 people, most of them artists. After consuming exotic dishes and beverages contained in precious pitchers, these one-night Persians were convoked to a session of fireworks that almost ended in a house fire. 200 bottles of champagne were consumed.

The Near East excited Paul Poiret’s imagination, this land of the Arabian Nights in all its dazzling colors. This dreamy land of harems where courtesans wore pants. And then there was the turban, sometimes adorned with an aigrette, Poiret’s signature. All these elements can be found in the outfit that Denise Poiret donned for the Arabian Nights. She wore a tunic closed at the breasts by a large draped belt, a sand-colored silk muslin corsage, a gold skirt, fringed and tapered by a hoop, as well as a culotte called “harem pants”. A turban topped by an aigrette completed the look. InDressing the era, Poiret gleefully recounts that he found the inspiration during a visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum, by coming nose-to-nose with the turbans of Indian rajahs. Denise Poiret on the other hand maintains that this is but a legend. According to her, the idea came about during their move to the sumptuous private residence on Avenue d’Antin, when every woman of the house, assailed by an onslaught, tied a simple triangle of fabric on their heads who’s three corners were held on the back of the neck in a bun. Whatever the case, Poiret contributed to the reintroduction of the turban to the tops of women’s heads.

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