The FIDM Museum is in the final months of a major fundraising campaign to purchase the Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection, a private collection of 1,400 historic garments and accessories from four centuries. Each Friday, this blog will present an exquisite piece from the Larson Collection.
Couturier Paul Poiret (1879-1944) declared himself "an artist, not a dressmaker," and this sequined purple chiffon dress–further embellished with pearls and diamante–certainly proves his point. Though best known for his avant-garde designs from the first two decades of the twentieth century, this late example of his work shows how he adapted his love of rich color and ornament to the short, straight, low-waisted silhouette of the 1920s, while rejecting the decade's emphasis on minimalism and androgyny. This is not Coco Chanel's little black dress or a boyish garçonne shift, but feminine, ornamental, and picturesque. By this time, mainstream fashion had caught up with Poiret's once-radical ideas about freedom of movement, and he struggled to remain relevant; he would close his business in 1929, soon after this dress was made. If acquired, it will bookend the earlier dresses and textile swatches associated with Poiret in the FIDM Museum's permanent collection, providing a continuous timeline of his work. For the moment, at least: seventy years after his death, it has just been announced that the Poiret label will be revived for a new generation.
Helen Larson spent 50 years assembling her collection; now, it is in danger of being dispersed forever or absorbed into another private collection, inaccessible to students, researchers, and the general public. The FIDM Museum urgently needs your help to save the Larson collection. Please open your own pocketbook and make a contribution online or by mail, or join our #4for400 social media campaign to donate $4 (or more) by texting "Museum" to 243725. Donations are tax deductible; if your company has a matching gift program, your support will go even further. Follow the progress of the campaign in real time on our online scoreboard. You can also help by spreading the word on social media, using the #4for400 hashtag. The FIDM Museum as until the end of 2015 to finish raising the necessary funds, so please join the campaign and help save 400 years of fashion history!