'Byzance' evening dress
Jean Patou (1880-1936)
Silk, embroidered with glass bugle beads and imitation baroque pearls, lined with georgette, and fastened with metal hooks and eyes
Museum no. T.198-1970
Given by Lord and Lady Cowdray
This sleeveless dress has a low square neckline, which was popular in the the mid 1920s. Its straight bodice is embroidered with a design that reveals the influence of Egyptian patterns. Jean Patou (1880-1936) was born in Normandy, France, the son of a tanner. His uncle owned a fur business, which Patou joined. In 1914 he opened a small dressmaking business, Maison Parry, in Paris and sold his entire opening collection to an American buyer. His career was interrupted by the First World War of 1914-1918, but in 1919 he reopened his salon, this time under his own name. His collections continued to be a great success. Along with 'Coco' Chanel he was considered a leading exponent of the androgynous 'garçon' look, creating smart, tubular, well-tailored clothes. Throughout the 1920s he also consistently championed the shorter length of skirt that did much to stimulate the demand for stockings. His long-waisted evening dresses with their emphasis on luxurious design and rich decoration were worn by famous actresses, such as Louise Brooks, Constance Bennett and Mary Pickford. Patou died in 1936, and his brother-in-law, Raymond Barbàs, took over the business. In 1963 the artistic direction of the company was taken over by Michael Goma.