Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The magic of Erté



Most of you know I have an obsession with historical fashion.

Like, I would give my left arm (or saw off somebody else's) to go back in time and rock 1950s Dior gowns, or prance around in delicious cake-inspired Marie Antoinette creations.

I'm also obsessed with anything 1920s.

When you put both of my passions together, you get Erté.



Sit down, my little pupils, and let me tell you the story of one of the most famous pioneers in fashion history.

No other fashion designer, including Chanel or Dior, had greater influence in the 20th century than Erté. His flamboyant designs defined one of the most opulent and iconic decades in history: the 1920s. Traces of his style would later go on to mold fashion in the 1960s.



Erté was born as Romain de Tirtoff in 1892 to a wealthy family in St. Petersburg, Russia. When he was five, he stunned his parents by creating his first beautiful fashion design. It was a passion that took over his life. His father expected him follow in the family footsteps and become a naval officer, but Romain had other plans.



At 18, he changed his name to Erté (to avoid disgracing the family name) and became the apprentice for famed designer Paul Poiret in Paris. In 1915, he scored an enviable contract with Harper's Bazaar to design more than 200 covers.



In the 1920s, Erté introduced the world to "art-deco," a style illustrating the elegance, sophistication, and playfulness of the jazz age.



His fashion designs were in high demand from the biggest Broadway stars and Hollywood movie stars of the decade. He pieced together glitzy, sexy little showgirl costumes for the Ziegfeld Follies. He spent hours inspecting every detail of the glamorous, extravagant gowns created for films.



Erté's designs were deliciously exotic and outrageously impractical, which delighted both the working-class girls who worshipped his dresses from afar and the lavishly wealthy women who could afford to make him rich.



His gowns were painstakingly hand-made with beads, fur trim, lace, sheer draperies, leather, and glittering embroidery.



By World War II, however, the lust for his extravagance diminished, as society grew more practical. But his career revived in the 1960s.



Erté's designs can be found at the most famous art museums in the world.



The famous fashion designer died in 1990, at the age of 97.



Today, everyone from Anna Wintour to Karl Lagerfeld hails Erté as one of the most important figures in fashion history.

What do you think of his designs?

38 comments:

debbiecutieface.com said...

I love his illustrations! I too have a thing for historical fashion :)

Tara said...

Girl, I learn so much about culture through reading your blog...This girl from Kansas doesn't get much of that haha! :) Oh, I wanted to ask you, do you go to First Fridays ever?

Meri said...

that's funny, in my head I had him as a furniture designer, not a clothing designer. I adore 20s and 30s fashion, and am just loving all of the prints. I want to pin them all!

Josie said...

Jen, I learn SO MUCH reading your blog! These are so bright and pretty.
xo Josie
www.winksmilestyle.com

CC said...

Another really good post...I learn so much from you :) Keep it coming ! :) xoxo

Sherin said...

His designs are amazing! What a talent.
The 20's are one of my favourite fashion era's so I'm loving these.

Shybiker said...

I love Art Deco and appreciate your adding to my understanding of it. Great post!

Sarah said...

Beautiful pictures, love the 20s!
x

French Girl in Seattle said...

I am almost embarrassed to admit I had never heard of Erte. Thank you for teaching me something today. Since we have been snowed in since Monday, I welcome any entertainment I can get. This was perfect! Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

Chyrel Gomez said...

Am I born in the wrong century?

Raquel T.G. said...

1920's drawings are so SO beautiful!! nice post :)
xx

Chrisy said...

Love his designs...and that photograph of a model in one of his gowns is just exquisite...thanks for telling us more about this talented man...

Couture Carrie said...

Exquisite post, darling!
Love the bio and illustrations.
His work is so gorgeous!

xoxox,
CC

Kim (A Very Sweet Blog) said...

Thanks Jennifer! I've seen these pics but didn't know the story behind them. I always thought they were gorgeous. His story is amazing.

http://averysweetblog.com/

A BRIT GREEK said...

I am also a sucker for historical fashion, starting with Charles Frederick Worth... but Ere has held such an influence over the course of fashion history and the 20's is def a fave era of mine.

Thanks for sharing doll!

x.o.x.o

Ash Louise said...

Such pretty pictures :) I love them.

Diego R. Wyatt said...

Erté is an iconoclast in the industry, inspiring nearly every visionary designer to come after him. What I find funny is that so many young people in the industry have no clue who Erté is but when they cite their fave designer it's always someone blatantly influenced by him. He was the master of flamboyance and flare, but did it in a refined way.

Diego
www.howtozipyourfly.com

David L Macaulay said...

you are an education and a gorgeous post as always - but maybe you wouldn't be as stylish back in the '50s with one arm

Oh to Be a Muse said...

thanks so much for this Erte lesson. i learn so much when i visit your great blog, which i've missed btw. i think i'm becoming a fan of this as well.

Lemanie said...

I think they are really beautiful!!

Esmeralda said...

I've enjoyed reading this post so much, I love historical fashion too!!!
Great post ;)

Lisa said...

I love Erte. He was such a pioneer. There is not a fashion designer who has made such an impact with his illustrations - they are iconic and instantly recognizable. Excellent post - thank you

Cafe Fashionista said...

Ohmigosh I LOVE the Harper's cover! Seriously wouldn't mind seeing more magazine covers like that nowadays - so cute! :)

Nicole✗✗ said...

His designs are wonderful!! I have always seen illustrations like these but it's interesting to learn about the man who did them or even inspired other artists/designers. I love reading these mini biographies!

Fash Boulevard said...

so fabulous. great post, love. I hope you had a wonderful weekend. I've got a brand new outfit post and a fabulous giveaway. I'd love to hear your thoughts. xo

www.fashboulevard.blogspot.com

Amy said...

Wow, so interesting! Those illustrations are gorgeous!

Tights Lover said...

I love his designs. What an amazing story, too.

Good thing he didn't become a naval officer...hahaha!

scawes said...

I would be interested in selling my Erte's, one of which is displayed here - Fox Fur. My uncle paid around $3-4k for it in the 1970's or 80's; I'll have to check the sales slip. Left it to me after he passed away. If anyone is interested text me at 916.880.6460 or call 877.250.5433. - Spencer

scawes said...

I would be interested in selling my Erte's, one of which is displayed here - Fox Fur. My uncle paid around $3-4k for it in the 1970's or 80's; I'll have to check the sales slip. Left it to me after he passed away. If anyone is interested text me at 916.880.6460 or call 877.250.5433. - Spencer

Becky Tjandera said...

Hi Jen! Wow he was such an amazing designer. I really love the illustrations. Thank you for posting, I wouldn't know this much if it wasn't because of you. Hehe.

aki! said...

Wow. Wow. Wow. Gorgeous indeed. I can't believe I've never heard of him. Thanks for sharing.

Gayatri said...

Oh my goodness, I had no idea. This is why I love your blog. I always learn something new.

Liezyl Gomez said...

if his designs are hand-made, he really is a genius!

Ocean Dreams said...

What a great designer and he lived to be so old too! Love his designs...gorgeous!

2 button suits said...

I like the illustrations. You're very creative and intelligent. Thanks for the inspiration.

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MYSAVIOR said...

AWESOME illustrator and designer.

Anonymous said...

I too love the Erte designs and have a collection of his fashion illustrations made into 3-D porcelain figures by Franklin Mint. FM also sold some collectible plates bearing his art. I learn here that he died in 1990 - long after I purchased my collection of his legacy.
Thanks.