Paquin velvet evening cape, 1920s
The Maison Paquin, founded in 1890, maintained its reputation for creative design up to the early 1930s when Madame Paquin retired. The cape was produced when Mademoiselle Madeleine was head designer under the watchful eye of Madame Paquin.
Black silk velvet evening capes with white ermine trim were fashion classics produced by all the top couture houses in the 1920s. I have had examples by Vionnet and Lanvin in the past. When I compare examples, I marvel that the great couturiers could turn a standard form into a unique expression of costume art.
The layered cape has an attached upper shoulder cape with rows of ruffles across the back. The shoulder cape creates the illusion of sleeves, but there are no armholes. Our clutch-style cape has no closures and is lined with black silk crepe. The collar is an antique replacement—this is reflected in the price. Everything else is original.
Following the lead of Charles Frederic Worth, early 20th century couturiers shed their identity as tradesmen and came to be regarded as artists. After Worth came Jacques Doucet and then Madame Paquin in the pantheon of fashion. She possessed an originality and flair for glamorous, romantic clothing.
The House of Paquin helped make the period 1900-1930 an era of artistic refinement in haute couture and confirmed Paris as pre-eminent center of fashion. Madame Paquin was appointed President of the Fashion Section of Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900. She received the Legion d’Honneur in 1913.
The cape illustrates the principle that couture clothing functions as both a temporal art (music) and an immediate, instantaneous art (painting). Like the former, fashion reveals itself over time as the wearer of beautiful clothing makes her entrance, filling the room with her presence. Like the latter, fashion also has an immediate, instantaneous (yet permanent) effect on the first time viewer.
The condition is excellent.
It measures: 50" bust and waist, 60" hip, and 38" from shoulder to hem.