Marianne Moore: Poetry

October 31, 2010

Haute Couture

"With wrists like paper knives and feet like / the leaves of the willow" (ll. 1-2)

On November 28, 1918, Moore submitted to “Others” a poem entitled “Callot-Drecol-Cheruit- Jenny-Doucet-Aviotte-Lady”  (2003 edition, pp. 129-30). I see from my ancient notes that at one time I thought these names might have belonged to amusement park ponies (the “Chase through the Clouds” appears near the end of the poem).  But  no, they are all Parisian Houses of Haute Couture; all but Aviotte can be found quite easily, and that name may be a stand-in for Vionnet.

The illustration at left appeared in the Gazette du Bon Ton, Paris, and is captioned “Robe du soir de Doucet, 1914.” It seems to suggest the opening lines of the poem.

Below are the first five names, identified and illustrated, from the holdings of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Callot Soeurs, run by four sisters, worked in Paris from 1895-1937. The sisters’ mother was a lacemaker and decorative laces became an early hallmark of their designs. Callot Soeurs clothing was known for its exotic detail. Gold and silver lamé dresses emerged first from their house. After World War I, their fashions were sought in the United States as well as in Europe.

Callot Soeurs

Dress, Evening, 1910–1914, Callot Soeurs, cotton, silk, metal.The Jacqueline Loewe Fowler Costume Collection, Gift of Jacqueline Loewe Fowler, 1981 (1981.380.2). Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Maison Drecoll, famous for its theatrical costumes, originated in Amsterdam with Christoph von Drecoll. When it moved to Paris, it became known for taking on the “form and spirit of Paris.”


Dress, Evening, 1913–1914. House of Drécoll, silk, rhinestones. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of the estate of Mrs. William H. Crocker, 1954 (2009.300.2408)

Madeleine Cheruit, active 1906-1935, trained with the House of Raudnitz in Paris until she opened the House of Cheruit in 1904. By 1914, she became known for her walking suits and afternoon dresses. After World War I, she made cinema capes and evening gowns, heavily embroidered and ornamented.


Cape, Evening, ca. 1920. Madeleine Chéruit (French, 1906–1935), silk. Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Julia M. Weldon from Mary McDougall, 1978 (1978.337.1). Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Madame Jenny Sacerdote, of the House of Jenny, was trained to become a professor of French Literature. Turning to fashion, she was known for her aristocratic taste, jabots and narrow skirts.  Her little grey suit of 1915 marked her collection.




Wrap, Evening, early 1920s, Jenny (French), silk, fur, glass. Gift of Mrs. William F. Goulding, 1962 (C.I.62.14.2). Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art


Jacques Doucet, active 1880-1930, dressed  the famous French actresses  Réjane, Sarah Bernhardt,  and Liane de Pougy. He also collected modern art, even owning Les Demoiselles d’Avignon for a time. He inherited from his mother his Maison Doucet on the Rue de la Paix in Paris made it a leader in haute couture.


Dress, Evening, ca. 1910, Jacques Doucet (French),silk, fur, linen. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Orme and R. Thornton Wilson in memory of Caroline Schermerhorn Astor Wilson, 1949 (2009.300.1154).


  1. Thank you for these sources; I have been wondering about this poem for some time now. In the Gazette du Bon Ton illustration that you provide above, were the lines “With wrists…” included in the original version? If not, may I ask why they would suggest the opening lines of the poem?

    Thanks very much for your very helpful and interesting website.

    Comment by VR — February 24, 2011 @ 11:11 am |Reply

    • Now that I look again at the figure I used in the post, her wrists don’t look very much like paper-knives. But I have seen illustrations from the period where the wrists and feet are exaggeratedly thin. If you see a better illustration, please let me know. Meanwhile, I’ll see if I can find one.

      Comment by moore123 — February 25, 2011 @ 12:22 pm |Reply

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