Paul Poiret, design house
114.3 cm (45 inches) (center back length)
Gift of Alice Mainson-Larter
The long lines and frothy silk net of this dress—which lacks a maker’s label—date it to the late 1920s or early 1930s. Stylistically, it suggests two renowned French designers: Paul Poiret or “Coco” Chanel. Poiret’s hallmarks might be seen in the pieced panels extending from the drop waist to the knee, and the donor provenance proposes the dress may have been made for Gaby d’Avranche (Gaby France), who modeled for Poiret in the 1920s and early 1930s. Even so, the use of silk net and tulle and the decorative couture needlework employed in the construction make Chanel the far more likely maker. Chanel is also associated with the “little black dress,” a signature look the firm introduced in 1926.