#7189 $5,600 Sold
Museum quality opera coat, c.1922
Garments of such superb quality and design are rarely found today outside of museums. I first sold this important collectible many years ago to a private collector who is currently downsizing. It has not been offered on the market since that time.
The coat is fashioned from cobalt blue devoré velvet, cut to a ground of bronzed gold metallic lamé. The upper back and sleeve borders are of solid silk velvet elaborately embroidered with a Persian pattern of bronze metallic cord and small, coral colored beads. The bodice front sections of the coat are self lined with devoré velvet; the rest of the coat is lined with rose colored silk velvet.
The arrival of the Ballets Russes in Paris in 1909 detonated an aesthetic bombshell in the West. Designs by Russian painter Leon Bakst used exotic patterns, brilliant colors, and lush fabrics. The combination of these three elements (Orientalism) thrilled audiences and inspired couturiers, not least Paul Poiret.
The soft pastels of Art Nouveau were swept away by an avalanche of brilliant and vivid hues. Clashing "Oriental" colors became all the rage: combinations of orange, purple, cobalt blue. The new color palette in fashion also showed the influence of the Fauve ("wild beast") movement in painting.
Paul Poiret declared that he had thrown into the sheepcote of soft, tender, insipid pastels "a few rough wolves: reds, greens, violets, royal blues...the morbid mauves were hunted out of existence."
The Orientalist influence is evident in the smallest details of the intricate figural-floral decoration. When King Tut's tomb was discovered in 1922, Egyptian-style motifs were added to the exotic mix. Note the Egyptian figure just left of center on the sleeve.
The kimono-style coat, loosely fitted on top with dramatic wide sleeves, hugs the body over the hips. The wrap style closes with a self-covered button on the outside and with a mother-of-pearl button on the inside. The lining has one pocket.
The kimono style was au courant among the fashion forward in the 1920s. A friend recently showed me an old fashion book with pictures of Jean-Philippe Worth dressed in exotic ethnic costumes. It was common among fashion cognoscenti of the time to collect ethnic textiles; and to dress in them; and to party in them, e.g., 1002 Nights Ball given by Paul Poiret on July 24, 1911 in his Paris town house.
The coat was made for Bonwit Teller, one of New York's most prestigious stores in the early 20th century. In addition to the Bonwit label, on the inside of the pocket is a label that reads "Amsterdam/Reg./New York."
This magnificent opera coat resonates powerfully today, not only because of its intrinsic beauty, but also because it is an important aesthetic artifact of the period. What a dramatic contrast between the intense cobalt blue and glowing bronzed gold metallic lamé! The incandescent beauty of the coat will shine whether on display in a museum or worn for the great occasion.
The condition is excellent.
It measures: 42" circumference and 49" from the shoulder to the hem.