Friday, 23 September 2016

The glamour, excess, frivolity and modernity of the decade

A Fashion Phantasy by illustrator Gordon Conway

The Dolly Sisters

Prada design for the film The Great Gatsby

Twenties showgirl "Dolores" - my muse

We're in our element! A new 1920s-themed fashion and photography exhibition opens in London today. As the blurb explains:
From Paris and London to New York and Hollywood, the decade following the Great War offered the modern woman a completely new style of dressing. With over 150 garments, this stunning selection of sportswear, printed day dresses, fringed flapper dresses, beaded evening wear, velvet capes, and silk pyjamas reveals the glamour, excess, frivolity and modernity of the decade.
From Women's Wear Daily (now known as WWD):
All of the clothing is part of the private fashion collection of Cleo and Mark Butterfield, the largest of its kind in the U.K. Cleo began collecting jazz-era clothing in the Seventies on her numerous trips to the vintage flea markets on Portobello Road. “I told myself, ‘You will not get these things in the future so get it while you can,’” said Butterfield.

The clothing displayed reflects the massive social and political changes of the decade. To illustrate the modern woman’s more active lifestyle, the exhibit is divided into sections based on different settings in which she may have found herself. Fur-collared coats and rich coloured velvet capes accompany lamé and silk dresses. A standout piece is a trompe l’oeil heavily sequinned Elsa Schiaparelli original. In another section are shorter tennis skirts and sportswear, which exemplify the increasing popularity in female athletics. One room is completely devoted to sleepwear. “I wanted it to be what ordinary people wore, not just couture. I wanted to get away from that flapper stereotype,” Butterfield said about the selection.

Alongside the clothing are miscellaneous popular culture items. Magazine covers, cigarette cases and even some of the first self-tanner for women, which all help to put the fashion on display into context. In the final room of the exhibit is a collection of photographs and celebrity portraits by James Abbe. By capturing more candid moments in the lives of film stars like Fred Astaire and Louise Brooks, Abbe may very well have started the whole celebrity paparazzi craze.

“It is no surprise that Jazz Age fashion is a key reference point for our students and visitors: the quality, characteristics and rich vocabulary of design forged in the decade set the standard for generations to come,” says Celia Joicey, head of the museum. “If you need further proof of the decade’s lasting influence, a line of display cases filled with Miuccia Prada’s creations for the 2013 version of ‘The Great Gatsby’ greet you on your way in and out of the exhibit.”
We are organising our group visit as we speak...

1920s Jazz Age Fashion & Photographs is on at the Fashion and Textiles Museum, 83 Bermondsey Street, London SE1, 23rd September 2016 to 15th January 2017


  1. those dresses are FABU! all that intricate beadwork...I can see mistress maddie wearing something like that.

    the lady in white halfway grandmother wore shoes and a dress similar to that for her 1929 wedding. the dress was not as revealing as this one though, since granny was a modest sort of woman.

    PS - do you know jean-paul of the blog he talks about bermondsey all the time.

    1. Dolores certainly ain't modest! Jx

      PS I'll check out the link you recommend in due course...

  2. Amazing frocks and amazing workmanship.

    1. And we should be going to see it in real life soon... Jx


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