Around here, Dress-down Friday is usually dedicated to individuals of outstandingly idiosyncratic style, so this entry is a little off-beam. At first glance these images, which all date from 1913, have much in common with other fashion plates of the time, with their fanciful neo-Rococo imagery viewed through an Art Nouveau filter. But beyond the modish fête galante style you may notice the artist’s focus isn’t always on the clothes, especially in the black & white drawings.
These illustrations were created for a French magazine by the name of La Vie parisienne, and while the non-committally titled magazine did indeed feature fashion among its range of subjects, its target reader was not, as a rule, the lady of the house. This early 20th century publication was a precursor to later soft porn titles for men, its deceptively innocent images considered quite risqué in their time.
But if these pictures are sedate compared to those found in their present-day equivalents, they are far more restrained than others produced by the same hand. Gerda Wegener was a Danish artist who arrived in Paris in 1912. Highly versatile, her illustrations for La Vie parisienne fell at about the mid-point of a continuum which stretched from fashion plates for Vogue to erotic illustrations for works by Casanova.
It is about now that I must confess that part of my motivation in posting these images (apart from their obvious appeal and the insight they offer into the tastes of 1913) is to introduce the extraordinary story of Gerda and her transsexual husband Einar. I couldn’t improve upon its telling by the late, lamented Coilhouse, so if you want to know how two people can live in a menage à trois, click and read on. Oh, and there you can see examples of Gerda’s erotica as well (may be NSFW, depending on where you W).