I collect postcards of lovely ladies. When I consider a purchase, I only ask two things of them: that they be, of course, lovely and that they be hand-tinted. I've seen a couple from the 1890's – a woman in bed, wearing a sheer dressing gown and smoking an ornately carved opium pipe – but most that I own are from 1905-1915. The ones from the 1920's on are painted too garishly…but the earlier ones must have been colored with brushes made of feathers.
This brings me to a book I once had. It was a very scholarly treatment of the revolution in women's fashions during the beginning of the 20th century. But it was VERY scholarly. And the illustrations were infrequent and inconclusive.
So I got rid of it.
But some of the dresses were so very fetching, and I felt badly about never seeing them again. So, I scissored them out, and decided to try my hand at hand-coloring them. I was always curious about trying this, but would never attempt this on an authentic postcard.
Water-color was a washout. I didn't have a subtle enough hand. So out came the big guns, and I layered those poor women with poster-paint.
These outfits are probably from around 1912, all inspired by the wonder and color of the Ballets Russes. Clothes were bright, exotic and patterned. Strands of pearls were wrapped, draped and hung:
Smoky-eyed and wearing harem pants, turbans, slippers with a jester's curled toes, twisted and coiled feathers and tent-like tunics…women were suddenly comfortable and cast new silhouettes.
And the designer who cast the longest shadow during this time was Paul Poiret. His wife would model his clothes:
And his parties would reflect the new designs. One of them, "The Thousand And Second Night", required all guests to dress in 'Eastern'-style wardrobe. For anyone improperly dressed, there was a closetful of his own creations for the agitator to change into.
Who would have ever thought they'd ever see Sherazade take a walk down the Rue de Paix?