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Paul Poiret's Thousand and Second Night Party

Whether he was planning a wild and chic party or heading off for a quick airplane trip to London from Paris, Poiret was up for anything.

© Bettmann/CORBIS

Ever wonder when harem pants and lampshade dresses, two iconic garments of the 20th century, first made their appearance? It was June 24, 1911, at Paul Poiret's Thousand and Second Night Party. Poiret, a French couturier and rather crafty fellow, planned his private party for two reasons. First, simply to throw a party. Second -- and perhaps most importantly -- to stage a fashion show of his cutting-edge garments, with guests serving as models [source: Basye].

The 300 people Poiret invited had no idea this was his intent when their invitations specified they must dress in Persian-styled costumes, and that if they refused and appeared in other attire, they'd have to immediately leave or change into clothes he'd designed. They simply thought it was a fun idea. Poiret filled his guest closet with the new lampshade dresses and harem trousers he'd recently designed, which were considered rather scandalous attire at the time. Lampshade dresses were knee-length, triangular shifts wired at the hem and edged with fringe. Harem pants were blousy pantaloons. The two were often paired together [source: Basye].

The party was a hit. Guests loved the dress-wear dictum, and the party décor was similarly festive, featuring brightly lit trees with parrots sitting on their branches, pink ibis, multicolored cushions and a golden cage, in which lounged Poiret's wife, Denise. For his part, Poiret wore a fur-bordered caftan and jeweled turban, and greeted his guests from a green-and-gold throne. Even today, that would make for quite the entrance [source: Basye].

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