During the early years of the 1910s the fashionable silhouette became much more lithe, fluid and soft than in the 1900s. When the Ballets Russes performed Scheherazade in Paris in 1910, a craze for Orientalism ensued. The couturier Paul Poiret was one of the first designers to translate this vogue into the fashion world. Poiret's clients were at once transformed into harem girls in flowing pantaloons, turbans, and vivid colors and geishas in exotic kimono. The Art Nouveau movement began to emerge at this time and its influence was evident in the designs of many couturiers of the time. Simple felt hats, turbans, and clouds of tulle replaced the styles of headgear popular in the 1900s (decade). It is also notable that the first real fashion shows were organized during this period in time, by the first female couturier, Jeanne Paquin, who was also the second Parisian couturier to open foreign branches in London, Buenos Aires, and Madrid.
Two of the most influential fashion designers of the time were Jacques Doucet and Mariano Fortuny. The French designer Jacques Doucet excelled in superimposing pastel colors and his elaborate gossamery dresses suggested the Impressionist shimmers of reflected light. His distinguished customers never lost a taste for his fluid lines and flimsy, diaphanous materials. While obeying imperatives that left little to the imagination of the couturier, Doucet was nonetheless a designer of immense taste and discrimination, a role many have tried since, but rarely with Doucet's level of success.
The Venice-based designer Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo was a curious figure, with very few parallels in any age. For his dress designs he conceived a special pleating process and new dyeing techniques. He patented his process in Paris on 4 November 1910. He gave the name Delphos to his long clinging sheath dresses that undulated with color. The name Delphos came from the bronze statue of the Charioteer at Delphi. Each garment was made of a single piece of the finest silk, its unique color acquired by repeated immersions in dyes whose shades were suggestive of moonlight or of the watery reflections of the Venetian lagoon. Breton straw, Mexican cochineal, and indigo from the Far East were among the ingredients that Fortuny used. Among his many devotees were Eleonora Duse, Isadora Duncan, Cléo de Mérode, the Marchesa Casati, Emilienne d'Alencon, and Liane de Pougy.
Tunics and hobble skirts
The extravagances of the Parisian couturiers came in a variety of shapes, but the most popular silhouette throughout the decade was the tunic over a long underskirt. Early in the period, waistlines were high (just below the bust), echoing the Empire or Directoire styles of the early 19th century. Full, hip length "lampshade" tunics were worn over narrow, draped skirts. By 1914, skirts were widest at the hips and very narrow at the ankle. These hobble skirts made long strides impossible.Waistlines were loose and softly defined. They gradually dropped to near the natural waist by mid-decade, where they were to remain through the war years. Tunics became longer and underskirts fuller and shorter. By 1916 women were wearing a calf-length dress over an ankle-length underskirt.
When the Paris fashion houses reopened after the war, styles for 1919 showed a lowered and even more undefined waist.
Suits and coats
The tailleur or tailored suit of matching jacket and skirt was worn in the city and for travel. Jackets followed the lines of tunics, with raised, lightly defined waists. Fashionable women of means wore striking hats and fur stole or scarves with their tailleurs, and carried huge matching muffs.
Most coats were cocoon or kimono shaped, wide through the shoulders and narrower at the hem. Fur coats were popular.
World War I
Changes in dress during World War I were dictated more by necessity than fashion. As more and more women were forced to work, they demanded clothes that were better suited to their new activities; these derived from the shirtwaists and tailored suits. Social events were postponed in favor of more pressing engagements and the need to mourn the increasing numbers of dead, visits to the wounded, and the general gravity of the time meant that darker colors and simpler cuts became the norm. A new monochrome look emerged that was unfamiliar to young women in comfortable circumstances. Women dropped the cumbersome underskirts from their tunic-and-skirt ensembles, simplifying dress and shortening skirts in one step. By 1915, the Gazette du Bon Ton was showing full skirts with hemlines above the ankle. These were called the "war crinoline" by the fashion press, who promoted the style as "patriotic" and "practical".
Furthermore people were dressing less extravagantly due to funds being put toward the war effort. According to Eileen Collard, Coco Chanel took notice of this and introduced costume jewelry. She replaced expensive necklaces with glass or crystal beads. "Without grading them to size, she mixed pearls with other beads to fashion original jewelry to be worn with her designs" that were inspired by women joining the workforce.