Jean Patou (1880 – 1936) ๐ŸŽฉ Fashion Designer

Jean Patou (1880-1936) french dress designer, here aboard a liner, c. 1925. (Photo by APIC/Getty Images)
Jean Patou (1880-1936) french dress designer, here aboard a liner, c. 1925. (Photo by APIC/Getty Images)

Jean Patou (1880 – 1936) was a French Fashion Designer. Patou entered the fashion trade in 1907, working for an uncle who was a furrier. Between 1910 and 1912, he opened several dressmaking establishments but did not sell under his name until 1919. The publicity generated by Chanel largely overshadowed him, and the talent of Patou has often been overlooked โ€” although he was equally responsible for creating the Garconne Look in 1925.

An ankle length coat designed by Jean Patou, buttoning at the side, with a leather collar and leather trim.
30th October 1923: An ankle length coat designed by Jean Patou, buttoning at the side, with a leather collar and leather trim. The look is completed by a cloche hat and fur stole. (Photo by Seeberger Freres/General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

One of Patouโ€™s most famous customers was the French tennis champion Suzanne Lenglen, whom he dressed both on and off the court. This lean and active young woman epitomised the 1920s โ€œnew woman.โ€ She created a furore in 1921 when she wore Patouโ€™s knee-length pleated skirt, which revealed much of her legs when she ran. The headband she wore while playing tennis was widely copied by women throughout the 1920s for day and evening wear.

Profesional dancer, Maurice and his partner, Eleanor Ambrose who is wearing a Jean Patou dress.
18th June 1926: Profesional dancer, Maurice and his partner, Eleanor Ambrose who is wearing a Jean Patou dress. (Photo by Sasha/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Patou was early in recognising the kudos associated with a top designerโ€™s name and was possibly the first, in 1922, to use monograms on garments. He was also famous for incorporating contemporary painting styles to embellish his fashions. His sweaters and bathing suits, decorated with bright Cubist images, have been much copied to the present day.

UNITED STATES – JANUARY 01: The stylist Jean PATOU choosing his models in the United States for his French atelier. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

Patou was both the creator and destroyer of the Garconne Look. In 1929 he unexpectedly lengthened his dresses, returned the waist to its natural position and emphasised the bust, paving the way for the more fluid fashions of the 1930s.

The house of Patou has remained open under the direction of various top designers, including Marc Bohan, Karl Lagerfeld and Christian Lacroix.

Sources

Dormer, P. (1991). The illustrated dictionary of twentieth century designers: The key personalities in Design and the applied arts. Mallard Press.

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