The grandchildren of ground-breaking French fashion designer Paul Poiret on Thursday auction off dozens of items from the 1910s and 1920s - Photo : Jean Ayissi/AFP
In what experts say will be the last sale of Poiret effects by his descendants, more than 60 dresses, coats and jackets designed by the avant-garde couturier for his young wife Denise go up for sale Thursday along with shoes, hats and assorted belongings.
Poiret's revolutionary designs are credited with emancipating women from the corset and turning fashion on its head at the start of the century, though in the 1930s he was overshadowed by the likes of "Coco" Chanel and died in relative oblivion in 1944.
But at an auction in Paris in 2005, some of the world's biggest museums fought to snap up a slice of Poiret's collection put up for sale by his granddaughter.
And auctioneers Beaussant-Lefevre said they were expecting a number of foreign bids Thursday, notably from the US and Russia.
Already revered by the French fashionista set, Poiret's international reputation saw a boost last year when New York's MOMA museum devoted a major show to the man known for inventing the chemise dress and making bold colour mainstream.
Thursday's sale is comprised of clothes worn by his wife and muse Denise, a 19-year-old country-girl when they married in 1905, along with other of the couple's belongings.
"When I dress Madame Poiret," he said in a 1913 interview with Vogue, "I do all I can to remove rather than to add and it is my conviction that every woman should seek this simplicity."
Poiret is hailed for his simple practical dresses and for introducing straight lines -- on pleated skirts, flared T-shaped blouses and Japanese kimono-influenced coats -- before 1915.
A mad traveller who roamed across Europe and North Africa, his creations were also inspired by exotic orientalism and other foreign flavours.
The 120-odd lots up for sale this week belonged to one of Poiret's five children, Colin, and were then passed on to Colin's children when his wife died several months ago.
As children, Colin Poiret's family would sometimes removed the prized garments from the trunks and cupboards where they were stored to wear during the holidays or for special events.
And several of the dresses evoke memories of childhood or of their mother dressed up for the evening, for Charlotte Mounier, Nathalie Lacroix and Caroline Poiret.
"We can't keep them in proper storage," said Charlotte. "We want the rest of the world to see them."
"We wore these clothes, we were close to the whole Poiret legacy," added her sister Caroline. "But now it's time to pass on this heritage."
by Claire Rosemberg