By 1925 Poiret had begun to sound like a curmudgeon, holding forth against chemise dresses, short skirts, flesh-colored hose, and thick ankles with the same kind of ranting tone once used by M. Worth to criticize Poiret's trouser skirt. Financially, he did poorly too, and he sold his business in 1929.

In 1931, Women's Wear Daily announced that Paul Poiret was reentering the couture, using as a business name his telephone number "Passy Ten Seventeen." Prevented from using his own name by a legal arrangement, he told the paper that he planned to print his photograph on his stationery, since presumably he still owned the rights to his face. This venture closed in 1932. After designing some for department stores such as Liberty in London in 1933, he turned his attention to an assortment of endeavors including writing (an autobiography called King of Fashion) and painting. He succumbed to Parkinson's disease on 28 April 1944.

While Gabrielle Chanel is credited with being the first woman to live the modern life of the twentieth cen tury (designing accordingly), it is Poiret who created the contemporary idea of a couturier as wide-reaching arbiter. His specific fashion contributions aside, Poiret was the first to make fashion front-page news; to collaborate with fine artists; develop lines of fragrances; expand into interior decoration; and to be known for his lavish lifestyle. Poignantly he was also the first to lose the rights to his own name.

Poiret's earliest styles were radically simple; these would give way to increasingly lavish "artistic" designs and showman-like behavior. By 1913 Harper's Bazaar was already looking back at his notable achievements: originating the narrow silhouette, starting the fashion for the uncorseted figure, doing away with the petticoat, being the first to show the jupe-culotte and the minaret tunic. That the fashion world was already nostalgic about his achievements proved oddly prescient: his ability to transform how women dressed would pass with World War I.

See also Doucet, Jacques; Fashion Designer; Orientalism; Paris Fashion; Worth, Charles Frederick.


Deslandres, Yvonne, with Dorothée Lalanne. Poiret Paul Poiret 1879-1944. New York: Rizzoli International, 1987.

Poiret, Paul. King of Fashion: The Autobiography of Paul Poiret. Philadelphia and London: J. B. Lippincott, 1931.

Remaury, Bruno, ed. Dictionnaire de la Mode Au XXe Siecle. Paris: Editions du Regard, 1994.

Sweeney, James Johnson. "Poiret Inspiration for Artists, Designers, and Women." Vogue, 1 September 1971, 186-196. White, Palmer. Poiret. New York: Clarkson N. Potter Inc., 1973.

Caroline Rennolds Milbank

POLITICS AND FASHION Every large society and social group develops a system of social control or polity that is shared by the members of the group and relates in some way to their system of dress. The power to address diverse problems and needs of a society is invested in people who become specialists in delivery of the services of social control. Only those individuals so designated and recognized have the right to power and authority over group members. This system of control or government is reflected in the rules of the organization and evolves from the normative order and moral beliefs of the group. The moral ideas of a group both mold and reflect the group's beliefs concerning what is right or wrong behavior for members. Developing expectations for appearance, dress, and the extent to which one participates in fashion (defined here as the accepted way of behaving of the majority of individuals at a specific time and place) are social behaviors that are frequently subject to control by social organizations.

Control over dress and fashion participation is exercised both informally and formally through the political structure of an organization and its power. The governing body serves several functions, including: (a) developing, delineating, and assessing rules and regulations so that the beliefs of the organization are molded by and reflected in them; (b) establishing a framework regarding the rights and responsibilities of members of the group; and (c) developing a process for applying and enforcing the rules for all members. A process for adding new regulations and a method to dispute existing regulations can be developed along with penalties and sanctions for violations of these rules. The court system in Western societies is an example of a process used to manage power in interpreting and applying regulations, which may prohibit members from participation in some activities as well as prescribe participation in others. Government also has power over relations with other societies in matters that involve group interests including mobilizing legitimate use of force to defend the group against infringement of others. Government also involves relationships with other societies in the form of trade agreements and regulations. For example, when foreign manufacturers can produce apparel products at a lower cost than domestic manufacturers, the domestic industries are threatened. Governments may make regulations to control the flow of foreign-produced products into domestic markets to force consumers to purchase domestic products and maintain domestic industries.

Another area related to dress where the government uses power is in developing regulations for consumer protection. Laws can be developed to protect consumers from unsafe or unhealthy apparel products as well as protect the environment from human exploitation. An example of the former are the laws that prohibit the use of flammable fabrics in apparel. An example of the latter are endangered species laws that prohibit the use of skin and furs of specific animals in apparel.

Examples of power conveyed through dress are common in all societies. Topics frequently addressed through formal and informal regulations include body exposure and gender differences. Societies have regulations concerning under what circumstances, if any, different aspects of both male and female bodies can appear uncovered or covered. The amount or type of skin exposed tends to be interpreted as symbolic of certain sexual behaviors. General societal efforts to control sexual behavior may include regulations regarding appearing naked in public, exposure of genitals, appearing in clothing associated with the opposite sex (cross-dressing), or the separation of the sexes (such as government-mandated separate swimming pools or even separate cash register lines for men and women). These regulations may be formal, as in the case of health laws concerning body exposure and food service (no shoes, no shirt, no service), or informal, as in the case of amount of body exposure on public beaches. Informal regulations often vary depending on the situation. For example, a brassiere and briefs worn by a female can offer as much if not more body coverage than a swimsuit. However, a garment defined as a swimsuit is acceptable at locations like the beach or swimming pool, while a brassiere and briefs in the same place would be considered inappropriate.

Rules and regulations of social organizations vary in their degree of importance, in how they came into being, in the degree of emotional response that violating regulations might evoke, and the type of sanctions that might be applied to individuals who violate them. There are both positive and negative sanctions associated with engaging in or failing to participate in fashion. Positive sanctions such as praise or emulation reinforce behaviors perceived as correct. In contrast, a continuum in scope and intensity of negative sanctions can apply to individuals who fail to comply with the expectations of the group or group norms concerning dress and participation in fashion.

The type of negative sanction that results when individuals violate group norms for dress are tied to the degree of emotional response evoked. If the violation evoked a low degree of emotional response, concern is with violating a customary dress practice of the group. Violation of a customary practice generally does not create a great disturbance in the social organization of the group. If a sanction is applied by members of the group to influence the individual to change their behavior in keeping with the existing norm, the sanction may be in the form of gossip or teasing. In small organizations or societies where all members are known to each other, a negative sanction like gossip is probably all that is needed to force compliance with the expectations of group members. It is also possible that a mild sanction may result where a slight deviation from the group norm is tolerated if not accepted as only a minor deviation.

If the violation of the expectation for dress evokes a strong emotional response from group members, the violation is concerned with a moral standard of the group. Moral standards may be informally controlled, as is the case with customs concerning dress. Customs are associated with a history of practice, and violations may meet with negative sanctions from the group in the form of ridicule, avoidance, or ostracism. Moral standards concerning dress may also become codified into laws and formally controlled. Negative sanctions for violating laws concerning dress can include arrest, incarceration, or death.

Development of power through the rules of an organization or society do not guarantee that the rules equally reflect all members' interests. Whether the interests of men are favored over the interests of women was at issue in Terengganu, Malaysia, where the state government was said to have supported gender-based discrimination through dress codes as well as other practices. According to Endaya (2002), the government supported Islamic law as dress codes were developed that barred women from wearing bikinis and other clothing that exposed their bodies. Other dress codes that imposed

17th Century Clothing For Rich Women

Middle East politics and fashion merge, Beirut, 2002. Saudi designer Yahya al-Bushairy debuts a dress featuring fake bloodstains, an Israeli tank, and the image of a young Palestinian boy killed by Israeli soldiers at the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada. AP/Wide World Photos. Reproduced with permission.

Middle East politics and fashion merge, Beirut, 2002. Saudi designer Yahya al-Bushairy debuts a dress featuring fake bloodstains, an Israeli tank, and the image of a young Palestinian boy killed by Israeli soldiers at the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada. AP/Wide World Photos. Reproduced with permission.

restrictions based on gender included a requirement for young Muslim women to cover their heads. Laws of this kind have become commonplace in the contemporary Islamic world. Another dress code exemplifying promotion of the interests of one group over another was a decree in 2002 made by King Mswati III of Swasiland, in southern Africa, who banned women from wearing trousers in the capital of Mbabane because the practice "violated the country's traditions" (Familara 2002, p 4).

Few laws exist in the United States that regulate appearance, dress, or fashion in the workplace or in schools. However, dress codes are used to regulate appearances in the workplace as well as in schools, and judicial decisions (case laws) have developed concerning dress. In general, most courts uphold an employer's right to set appearance standards through dress codes as long as the codes are related to a legitimate business interest, government interest, or for health and sanitation reasons (Rothstein et al,

Freedom of Expression in Dress

While the right to express a political opinion through dress may be protected by the constitution, customs concerning appropriate dress based upon gender may not be protected. In the United States, a reported case where clothing was disruptive of the learning process occurred when a young man was suspended from school for wearing a long peasant dress with a plunging neckline (Rabinovotz 1998). The issue was not only that the young man appeared in clothing customarily associated with young women, but that he stuffed tissue paper down the front. School officials noted that they did not want to create "a carnival-like atmosphere in the school" (p. B5).

Seventeenth Century Fashion

Political fashion by Gattinoni, fall-winter 2000-2001 collection, Milan, Italy. A model displays a Gattinoni creation that criticizes the politics of right-wing Austrian politician Joerg Haider. AP/Wide World Photos. Reproduced by permission.

dent's T-shirt was so different and disruptive that it detracted from the educational process.

Political fashion by Gattinoni, fall-winter 2000-2001 collection, Milan, Italy. A model displays a Gattinoni creation that criticizes the politics of right-wing Austrian politician Joerg Haider. AP/Wide World Photos. Reproduced by permission.

1994). As a result, few complaints brought forward by employees have been upheld in the courts unless the dress code differs between men and women, the code is demeaning, or is more costly to one sex versus the other (Lennon, Schultz, and Johnson 1999).

The courts have also held that students retain their constitutional rights when they enter the school building, although student conduct, including their appearance, can be regulated. Dress codes in schools are generally considered valid if they promote safety or if they prevent disruption or distraction of peers (Alexander and Alexander 1984). Since dress is a form of communication, students in the United States have voiced the complaint that some school dress codes violate their constitutional right to freedom of speech, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment (Lennon, Schultz, and Johnson 1999). Lewin (2003) reported on a student that was sent home from school for wearing a T-shirt with a picture of President Bush and the words "international terrorist." The high school junior wore the T-shirt to express his antiwar sentiment and believed his right to express his political beliefs were violated when he was sent home from school. In this case, the school would have to prove that the stu-

dent's T-shirt was so different and disruptive that it detracted from the educational process.

The classic case concerning dress codes and students' freedom of speech in the United States is Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent School District (1969). The Tinker case involved a plan by students to wear black armbands to school to symbolize their opposition to the Vietnam War. Officials of the school learned of the students' decision two days before it happened and implemented a special dress code banning armbands in school. The U.S. Supreme Court held that wearing armbands constituted a form of speech protected by the constitution. The court held that for student activity to be prohibited, school officials must reasonably forecast disruption in the school and must have some evidence to support their forecast. The courts also ruled that the predicted disruption must be substantial, and judged to be physical and damaging to the learning environment at school (Alexander and Alexander 1984).

Regulations of an organization, such as dress codes, can shape the dress of its members. Dress can also serve as a platform for protest against such regulations. In 2001, King Mswati III of Swaziland also revived an old law requiring girls to wear chastity belts with tassels. The belts, according to the king, would not only preserve a young girl's virginity but also prevent HIV-AIDS. Subsequently, Swazi women protested and showed defiance against the law by dropping tassels in front of the royal palace (Familara 2002).

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