Bizarre Fashion Trends from History: Paul Poiret “Lampshade Skirts”

Once again, I haven’t had very much time to sew lately, I’m having trouble accessing the supplies I need, so my progress is kind of halted at the moment! Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking of ways to make this blog more active. So hopefully you’ll be seeing regular posts once or twice a week now, because I have some ideas! Bizarre Fashion Trends from History was one of them. And you will also be seeing analysis of movie costumes or other costume designs, and maybe some Throwbacks to my old projects, analysis of period sewing techniques, and sewing tips/terminology that I have learned over the years! If we’re lucky, I might also be able to interview other costumers/cosplayers and maybe even do a sew-along…

Anyway, back to the first installment of Bizarre Fashion Trends: Paul Poiret “Lampshade Skirts!”

Who was Paul Poiret, you may be asking? He was a very popular fashion designer in the Edwardian era and 1920s. I’ve seen a lot of his stuff come up in my 1912 fashion research. I don’t know much about his biographical information, but he might have been French or something. I’ve seen a lot of his designs in Parisian fashion magazines.

Now, Paul Poiret is often hailed by feminists as the one who “liberated” women from tight corsets. He’s the one who brought the column silhouette of the 1910s into the mainstream, encouraging a more natural waist and all that. I don’t necessarily agree with this hatred of tight corsets, but that’s another story….

Anyway, in fashion magazines such as Gazette du Bon Ton from the period, I’ve seen illustrations of how the lampshade skirt is supposed to look.

(I’m not exactly sure what the date and source are for those images, and if the last one is actually a period illustration or not.)

One important thing to understand is that these sort of fashions were not worn by everyday people. You know how today, Hollywood is kind of the center of new fashion? In the 20th century, the fashion epicenter for new trends was Paris. Want to know what’s new and popular? Go get a Parisian fashion Magazine like Les Modes or Gazette du Bon Ton! So, kind of like how you don’t see normal people today wearing crazy runway fashions, you wouldn’t see normal women in the 1910s walking around in lampshade skirts.

I believe that these started out as theatrical costumes or ballet costumes, and the high-fashion culture in Paris thought it was cool and started wearing them as a statement. I have seen some photos of real people wearing lampshade skirts.


(That, I believe, is Paul Poret’s wife, because her name is Denise Poiret.)

The two people above are obviously performers of some kind!


Above is a case where I think the lampshade skirt almost looks kind of cute. It’s worn with an otherwise-normal-looking late Edwardian dress, and the fact that the lampshade effect is higher up makes it more reasonable looking.

As you can see, the lampshade skirt is worn with a very tight hobble skirt, or very loose genie-style pants.

I’m heavily amused that some people thought this trend was cool for a while! While I do appreciate how artistic it is, I think it’s very weird and unflattering. It makes the waistline less defined and exaggerates the hips to outrageous proportions! And not to mention, it looks uncomfortable, to have this thing swinging around while you move, and you have to wear a very constricting skirt or very weird pants with it. It also seems like it would make you look a lot shorter than you actually are.

What do you think of this bizarre trend from fashion history? Do you find it ridiculous and laughable that people ever liked such a thing, or do you think it’s kind of artsy and cool in its own way? Please comment and let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Also, if you have any other costuming-related things you’d like to see me blog about, please let me know that too! Thanks for reading!

2 thoughts on “Bizarre Fashion Trends from History: Paul Poiret “Lampshade Skirts”

    • Lol yeah! On one hand I appreciate the artsy-ness of it, but on the other hand, they’re unflattering and weird to pretty much everyone. ^.^


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