Sunday, September 19, 2010

Art Deco Fashion History (1920-1939)

Sources for article.
Source 2: Historic Fashion.
Source 3: Decolish.
Source 4: Hunt For.
Source 5: Art Deco Women.
Source 6: Fashion Era.
See also Art Deco on Wikipedia, for an overview.
Below is an experiment in composing a collaborative, mash up essay. My own writing intersects with that of others' whose articles were experienced impersonally, lifted from while browsing the Internet, in attempt to conceptualize for myself both Art Deco and why Art Deco sees a continuing resurgence periodically and now. This article is evolving and in flux.

Its development coincident with Fordism in industry, Art Deco stands at the voluminously productive crossroads where output of the traditional artisan begins to intersect with the technological advances and mass market of the 20th century. The Art Deco movement emerged in the early 1920s, lasting roughly until the outbreak of global conflict in 1939.

A quote: This period of time is referred to as the "breath of fresh air taken between the smoke of World War I and World War II and The Great Depression."(, 2008). The breath for whom, of course, as well as what the air was, should be taken into account.
Representing a rapid cultural modernization in style, and reflecting innovation in industry and labour worldwide, the tendency showed a taste for the mixed bag of imperial styles of bygone ages and far flung traditions. While already widespread in fashion in North America and Europe, the term itself, Art Deco, not known until 1925, was derived from the 1925 "Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs Industriels et Modernes," held in Paris. Themes that emerged from the Exhibition were 'Modernity,' 'Technology' and 'Luxury & Leisure.'

The practitioners drew upon Art NouveauCubismFuturismModernismNeo-ClassicismConstructivismBauhaus and art history as sources, as well as traditional practices experienced as exotica via European and American colonialist adventure, in the first ever instances of mechanized, simultaneous, global-scale cultural contact. Less a direct influence, the style is also reminiscent of the Precisionist art movement, with its interest in practical applications for Cubism, which developed in North America at about the same time.

At the time, Paris, the center of the fashion industry, was worth about 2.5 billion francs in exports (equal today to roughly 2.5 billion US dollars), meriting its own pavilion at the Art Deco. Three major Paris couturiers were on the board of organizers, Jeanne LanvinJeanne Paquin and Paul Poiret and they ensured that the displays of fashion, accessories, jewelry and perfumes were a tour de force of luxury, refinement and exoticism that earned a place amongst the most elite forms of decorative art. Expo was dedicated to "La Parure," (adornment) a word which invoked ornamentation and beauty.

Egyptomania and Art Deco
The Paris Exhibition in 1925 focused primarily on the Art Deco movement in France. However, the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in November of 1922 spawned a cosmopolitan fascination with all things Egyptian, further contributing to this evolving aesthetic. On February 16, 1923, English archaeologist Howard Carter entered the sealed burial chamber of the ancient Egyptian ruler King Tutankhamen. Because the ancient Egyptians saw their pharaohs as gods, they carefully preserved their bodies after death, burying them in elaborate tombs containing rich treasures to accompany the rulers into the afterlife. Egyptomania, as it came to be known, spread throughout the globe and influenced everything from architecture to jewelry to common household objects. Hence, we recognize the classic Egyptian Ziggurat (staggered tier/zigzag/pyramid shape) as a staple Art Deco motif.

Form, Practice, Style, Materials, Ornament
Art Deco Stained Glass Ceiling- Buffalo City Hall 

Art Deco was a Modernist follow-up to Art Nouveau in much the same way Art Nouveau before it had been an adaption of the Arts and Crafts movement for a technologically-supplied mass culture. Where Art Nouveau was stylized and curvilinear, Art Deco was streamlined.

Art Deco routinely made use of a sleek aesthetic, symmetry, geometric shapes, bold bright colours like yellow, purple, ruby and turquoise. Skyscrapersfurniture, and everyday objects were embellished with angular patterns like zigzags, sunbursts and chevrons, as well as stepped forms, detailing and copious, elaborate ornament. Automobiles, trains, ocean liners and other means of transport began to take on a more futuristic, aerodynamic look. Unlike past historical styles, Art Deco influenced almost every aspect of contemporary living from fashion, to art, to household commodities, to vehicles, to architecture, making its appearance almost synonymous with the rise of the mechanical replica. Thus, some of the above motifs were ubiquitous--for example the sunburst motif was used in such varied contexts as a lady's shoe, a radiator grille, the auditorium of the Radio City Music Hall and the spire of the Chrysler Building.

As leisurely travel came into vogue and leisure became the experiential totem of the young and well-heeled, a need for marketing exotic destinations to the youthfully affluent became increasingly important. Major advances in graphic design were happening during this time and in turn there was a mass producing of advertising paraphernalia that came out of the Art Deco era, most notably the travel poster. For additional samples of travel posters of that time, see also: here.

Steel, glass, lacquered wood, mechanical novelties at the time, were used to achieve a sleek, modern look. Booming economies allowed for the liberal use of expensive materials, such as diamonds and onyx in jewelry, and mahogany and ivory in furniture. Different types of wood and precious metals, tortoise shell, lacquer, egg shell, shagreen, leather, aluminium, stainless steel, inlaid wood, sharkskin and zebraskin, all were the characteristic signs of this materially rich machinist-craftsmanship, primarily aimed at a wealthy international clientele.

It was an updated look based on very classical (ie. general, functionally reproducible) forms. The style was at once wistful towards tradition and industrially innovative. Interesting and eccentric forms of ornamentation and cutting edge ostentation abound, including: tourbillions in watches, sun bursts and stylized flowers as flourish, overwrought tobacciana and desk sets, mirror boxes, ornamental domestic equipment like baths and mirrors, the helmet-like cloche, applique on fabrics and a whimsical symbolism set that included, nymphs, fawn, silhouettes, birds, machine gears and gray hound motifs.

Well-established artists at the time were painter Tamara de Lempicka, jeweler and glassmaker Rene Lalique, fashion illustrator Erte and graphic designer Adolphe Mouron (Cassandre). New York skyscrapers Empire State Building and The Chrysler Building were examples of 1930s-era of Art Deco style in architecture. The latter, designed by architect William Van Alen, is one of the world's most representative Art Deco buildings. Briefly the world's tallest building, the skyscraper is adorned with eagle hood ornaments, hubcaps and abstract images of cars.

Additional important artisans (artisan-technicians) include: Jean DunandPierre LegrainFrancois JourdainEileen Gray, Lewis Sue, Paul Jirbe, Robert Mallet-StevensRene Prou, Andre Mane, Armand Albert RateauJacques Emile Ruhlmann, Jean Puiforcat. See also: Helen DryderPaul Manship.

Magazines--an increasingly disposable refinement of mass print--help spread the style. Key periodicals include: La Gazette du Bon TonLe SourireThe New YorkerVogueMcallsHarper's Bazaar.

Early Art Deco in Fashion (1911-1929)
This was a period is marked by the women's movement, as coinciding with women's integration into liberal economies as workers. Added to this, a prosperous Western economy and key improvements in technology all led to the development of a whole new way of life--a life of progressive modernity, with its desired ends of luxury and leisure. Art and commodity effected an alliance with the luxury market which have set the tone for both art market and haute couture until now: not for museum or temple, but for private dwellings of the refined, modernly cosmopolitan and monetarily deft.

There was immense social upheaval, particularly for women, in the first wave Feminist movement, which culminated in the passage of the Suffrage amendment. This was also the decade of World War I, which shook apart the previous social order with its spectacular scale and destruction, and also called upon women to step into roles never before filled by women, as men went off to war. After the war, there was an explosion of exuberance in style, as a youthful generation took center stage amid a decade of prosperity. The excitement of Jazz Age life, peace times, prohibition and subversion, and the idealization of college men and coeds in North America gave to fashion a youthful emphasis. The mobster became an important popular (infamous) figure typified by the sensational and brutal escapades of gangster Al Capone

The period saw a fusion of inspiration between artists, painters and designers. The painter Sonia Delaunay's shop at the Expo displayed fabrics and clothing designs in her dazzling Cubist and geometric motifs. While the fashion designer Paul Poiret decorated three exhibition barges floating on the banks of the Seine with his comfortable Art Deco living spaces. The arrival of Serge Diaghilev and the Ballet Russes in Paris in 1909 had transformed French design. The Oriental splendor of Leon Bakst's set and costume designs led to fashion designers such as Paul Poiret introducing the brilliant oranges, bright blues and greens into their increasingly exotic garments.
By 1914, Jean Worth, head of one of the longest-lived haute couture houses in Paris commented that "the sweet reasonableness of the previous generation had been forgotten . . . . It seems to synchronize with the growing restlessness of this age, an age of fast motors and flying machines and feverish craze for excitement and distraction." This outpouring of visual splendour gave rise to a new breed of fashion illustrators such as George Barbier, Paul IribePierre Brissaud and Erté who brought the fashion magazine into the realm of bourgeois art.

Lanvin evening dress ca. 1925
Women's Fashion
Between 1911 and 1919, dress forms moved to a narrow, relaxed, almost semi-fitted silhouette reminiscent of the Directoire and Empire period. Although many women continued the habit of wearing corsets, the tubular clothing silhouette no longer required it. Hemlines also began to climb from ankle length in 1910 to mid-calf by 1919--and all the way up to the knee by 1925. The waistline essentially disappeared. Before 1919, it was high, just below the bustline; by 1920 it had settled at the hips.

The silhouette was basically tubular throughout the period. However, this was also a period of great experimentation--the first time in centuries that designers had a truly different silhouette to work with. Innovative seaming, draping, gauzy fabrics, beads, and feathers were all called upon. In this example (right) from the mid-1920s the use of seaming as a decorative detail can be seen.This love of surface embellishment and abstract, graphic design is a general characteristic of art deco design. Menswear concepts were used also, including a number of sportswear ideas, such as the sweater. Knits, leather, and rayon for the first time became important fashion materials. Poiret and Fortuny were among the most well-known designers of the period before World War I.  Designers such as Chanel and Patou were trend setters in the 1920s.

René Lalique French (1860-1945)
Dragonfly woman corsage ornament
Women began wearing make up, its use characterized by lips painted in the shape of a Cupid's bow, kohl-rimmed eyes, and bright cheeks brushed with bright red blush. Street clothes switched from high-buttoned to low cut, pumps to saddle oxfords. The straight-line chemise topped by the close-fitting cloche hat became the uniform du jour. Socks went from black and white wool to cotton, beige silk and rayon. Socks became really noticeable when skirts gradually inched up. 1923 arrived and so did the new style of skirt which now went from ankle to middle of calf. By the 1920s swimsuits followed the current of rising hemlines. A new emphasis was placed on sexual beauty over the ideal of the recently disposed of, demure, feminine Gibson girl.

Art Deco and Perfumes 

Costume designed by Edith Head for
Ginger Rogers in Lady in the Dark (1944)
- one of the most expensive costumes
ever made.
Chanel No 5

Ernest Beaux created Chanel No. 5 for Coco Chanel in 1921. It had a floral top note of ylang-ylang and neroli, with a heart of jasmine blended with rose all above a woody base of sandalwood and vetiver. Chanel's intention in launching the scent was to give women a perfume with the scent of a woman rather than the scent of a flower bouquet. "I want to give women an artificial perfume," said Chanel. "Yes, I really do mean artificial, like a dress, something that has been made. I don't want any rose or lily of the valley, I want a perfume that is a composition." With its success, Chanel reputedly went from saying "Women perfume themselves only to hide bad smells" to stating she believed women should wear perfume wherever they hoped to be kissed.
Cobalt Perfume Bottle
(source: ebay)

Guerlain's Shalimar launched first in 1925. It was a refined "oriental" feminine fragrance with iris, vanilla, and rose. Jacques Guerlain was inspired by Mumtaz-Mahal, the woman for whom the Taj Mahal was built. The fragrance was named after the Garden of Shalimar in Lahore, which had been built by the Emperor Shah Jehan (builder of the Taj Mahal) for his favourite wife, Mumtaz. Of various marketing campaigns, it was once sold as a remedy to the Great Depression. For more history.

Molyneux and Schiaparelli and other designers produced exotic perfumes in direct competition with Chanel. In 1932 Dana made the exotic Tabu, Worth made the memorable Je Reviens which remained popular in the 50s and 60s. In 1934 Elizabeth Arden developed Blue Grass. Jean Patou launched Joy in 1935.

In the unconstrained 1920s, teens and young women generally abhorred the heavy corsets on which their
mothers depended for figure control. Fashionable young women often rolled their stockings and limited underwear to a wispy bandeau and step-in panties. By the mid-1920s, as a contoured silhouette began gradually to return to women’s fashions, flappers and other fashionables accepted garter belts and light girdles. The advertising agency J. Walter Thompson reported the views of a Manhattan department store buyer thus: “widely talked of abandon [sic] of corsets was a myth. Even flappers wear something, if it’s only a garter belt or corselette.” Girdles of the 1920s usually extended from natural waistline to hipline, came in white or peach-tone knit elastic, and were worn over step-ins. More conservative girdles included woven brocade panels over the tummy and derriere. Generally priced from $1 to $6 dollars, girdles appealed to the budgets of young women.

Flowing lace trimmed chiffon negligees were loose-fitting and cut similarly to the fashionable dresses of the day. A lovely cream silk crêpe negligee might have wide lace inserts and silk ribbon trim.

This "Hostess Gown" was offered in a 1925 Franklin & Simon catalog, an elegant New York Fifth Avenue establishment. It was made of filmy chiffon with a tunic of Margot pattern lace and available in tea rose, turquoise or orchid over pink or peach color silk crêpe.

By the 1920s, the traditional cotton and lace cap of the 19th century had been transformed into a confection of colorful silk and lace-- ornamented with silk ribbons, bows, and flowers. These boudoir caps were worn in the lady's bedroom to protect her coiffure while dressing.

This elegant matching boudoir set would be purchased for a young lady's trousseau. Included were pink satin slippers, garters and a boudoir cap—each decorated with lace and tiny silk ribbon roses.

A "step-in" chemise was a popular undergarment for the young flapper of the mid-1920s. The garment would be lavishly ornamented with wide lace inserts and a pretty "boutonnière" of silk ribbon flowers.

A Step-in Chemise could be of silk crêpe de Chine with creamy laces and an embroidered appliqué. It was available in peach, flesh pink, coral or yellow. An example is a Vest-Chemise of silk crêpe de Chine with matching Step-in Pantaloons.

The Miracle Reducing Rubber Brassiere
The Miracle Reducing Rubber Brassiere gave the "desirable flat lines" sought after by young women in the 20s. It was paired with the Miracle Reducing Rubber Reducer, which molded the lines of the figure while
Evening dress, 1924
reducing it. The garment was "scientifically designed without bones or lacings." 

Jeanne Walter patented the rubber bandage in 1904. The following year she invented a two-piece rubber suit of undergarments designed to retain perspiration and heat for therapeutic purposes. By 1909 this had developed into a severe-looking full-body garment that was supposed to compress all your extra flesh down into a svelte figure. Walter’s 1909 patent presented the garments simply as foundation wear for holding in the flesh, but later advertising also capitalised on the sweatiness of the rubber and claimed that this would actively result in weight loss. One Canadian stockist used the slogan: Perspire and grow thin.

The Bramley Corsele was a combination brassiere and corset of self striped flesh colored satin batiste, invisible under a "flapper" dress.

Symington Side Lacer
After 1918 fashion bras were simply lace fabric bands with straps. The boyish figures needed for styles by designers like Chanel didn't need upholstered corsets.

The best bra to get the right effect was called the Symington Side Lacer, a reinforced bust bodice. Side lacing meant that it flattened the bust when laced tightly. Soon the word brassière was abandoned for bra and ever since in fashion history we have referred to the bra.

Latex to Dunlop's Lastex to ElasticAlthough rubber had been around some time it needed to be transformed into a textile fabric for use in clothing. By the thirties bra history was to change forever when Dunlop chemists were able to transform latex into reliable elastic thread in all sorts of dimensions. The yarn was knitted or woven and eventually made into washable Lastex fabric.

Early crossover front panel pull on girdle
Lastex was revolutionary. Heavy boning and lacing were soon replaced in corsetry by Lastex. Figure control was soon under elastic fabric panels. A longline girdle called the ' Gossard Complete ' was a boneless firm foundation garment worn with backless evening dresses of the 1930s. It was advertised as not requiring the help of maids as it fastened with side hooks and bars.

One all rubber garment that women over 50 can always recall is the rubber Playtex girdle of the late 1950s early 1960s. It left an imprint of tiny spots all over the buttocks. The spots were from the evaporation holes in the girdle rubber. Yes, it was totally rubber. Cream rubber. Think of a very thick rubber glove or windsurf suit with pinhead size holes. After wearing the girdle for an hour the buttocks appeared to have developed a rash akin to German measles.

A neater everyday girdle commonly called a roll-on was a directional stretch garment much the shape and size of a pair of waist high panty briefs, but sometimes with legs that covered the thighs. It was worn up until the 1960s in place of a suspender belt. It gave tummy control and held up stockings. It's interesting to see that lots of ladies panties now have in built Lycra that performs in a similar way when wearing slim skirts or trousers.

Prominent Designers
From her first millinery shop opening in 1912, to the 1920s, Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel rose to become one of the premier fashion designers in Paris, France.

Known for comfort and casual elegance, her fashion themes included simple suits and dresses, women's trousers, costume jewelry, perfume and textiles.

Evening ensemble ca. 1929
She was born in 1883 in France - her mother worked in the poorhouse where Gabrielle was born, and died when Gabrielle was only six, leaving her father with five children whom he promptly abandoned to the care of relatives. She adopted the name Coco during a brief career as a cafe and concert singer, 1905-1908. First a mistress of a wealthy military officer then of an English industrialist, she drew on the resources of these patrons in setting up a millinery shop in Paris in 1910, expanding to Deauville and Biarritz.

Soon she was expanding to couture, working in jersey, a first in the French fashion world, outraging the fashion industry by using the fabric at a time when it was strictly associated with underwear. By the 1920s, her fashion house had expanded considerably, and her chemise set a fashion trend with its "little boy" look. Her relaxed fashions, short skirts, and casual look were in sharp contrast to the corset fashions popular in the previous decades. Chanel herself dressed in mannish clothes, and adapted these more comfortable fashions which other women also found liberating. In 1922 Chanel introduced her perfume, Chanel No. 5, her signature cardigan jacket in 1925 and signature "little black dress" in 1926.

Most of her fashions had a staying power, and didn't change much from year to year -- or even generation to generation. She briefly served as a nurse in World War I. Nazi occupation meant the fashion business in Paris was cut off for some years; Chanel's affair during World War II with a Nazi officer also resulted in some years of diminished popularity and an exile of sorts to Switzerland. In 1954 her comeback restored her to the first ranks of haute couture. Her natural, casual clothing including the Chanel suit once again caught the eye -- and purses -- of women. She introduced pea jackets and bell bottom pants for women. She was still working in 1971 when she died.

In addition to her work with high fashion, she also designed stage costumes for such plays as Cocteau's Antigone (1923) and Oedipus Rex (1937) and film costumes for several movies, including Renoir's La Regle de Jeu (The Rules of the Game).

Madeleine Vonnet (1876–1975)
French fashion designer Madeleine Vionnet is something of a mystery. She was an architect of fashion, greatly influencing the course of fashion during the 20s and 30s. But, in contrast to so many fashion creators, she chose an intensely private lifestyle, avoiding public displays. Madeleine Vionnet’s ideas led to a more natural trend in women’s fashion: freeing women from the constraints of the corset, her models followed the body’s forms, rather like Greek sculpture. Her work has been compared to that of the Cubists. She added a third dimension to clothes, giving them a flowing and supple structure, which not only expressed the body’s shape, but giving them an emotional dimension as well. To quote Madeleine Vionnet, "When a woman smiles, her dress should also smile."

Madeleine Vionnet chose fabric and line based on the client and cut with mathematical precision. She made most of her designs on wooden puppets first, letting the shape fall around them continuously until she was satisfied.

She worked for Parisian and London dressmakers and designed for the Callot Soeurs and Jacques Doucethouses before opening her own studio in 1912. In the 1920s she created a fashion revolution by introducing the bias cut, a technique that enables fabric to cling softly to the body while moving with it. Eschewing corsets and other constricting undergarments, Vionnet dominated haute couture in the 1930s with sensually draped garments that were inspired by Greek, Roman, and medieval styles but brought suavely and sexily up-to-date. Characteristic Vionnet styles include the handkerchief dress, cowl neck, and halter top. By 1940 she had retired, but her bias cut and her urbanely sensual approach to couture has been a strong and pervasive influence on contemporary fashion designers.

Elsa Schiaparelli (1890–1973)
A French fashion designer, Elsa Schiaparelli was born in Rome, of Italian and Egyptian heritage. She was a great-niece of Giovanni Schiaparelli.

Elsa Schiaparelli was the design trend setter of the 1930s. With a background in the arts, and famous for her audacious improvisations, she truly did design the unusual. In the mid 1920s, "Schiap" got her start in Paris by sketching a sweater and having it made by an American craftswoman. The black sweater had a large white bow motif knitted into its front. It was such a novel idea that Schiaparelli immediately received an order from an American buyer. Her sweater designs fitted in perfectly with the surrealistic art of the time. One design, featuring white ribs outlined on a black background, looked like an X-ray view of the chest, the forerunner of the decorated T-shirt.

Schiaparelli's first salon, opened in 1927 and called Pour le Sport, specialized in sportswear and suits. Schiaparelli used bold accents of color, especially "shocking pink," which she made famous.

Chanel evening ensemble ca. 1930
When the Depression put an end to frivolity, it also ended the Flapper Look. The waist returned to its normal position and skirts fell below the knee. In addition, Schiaparelli moved the center of interest to the shoulders, which she began to widen, accentuating them by pleats, padding, or braid silhouette that remained popular through World War II. Often called hard chic, her designs were smart rather than pretty. Schiaparelli used the bias cut for dresses, giving them a sensuous, clinging look that showed off the female figure. Very photogenic because of their bold statements, her designs dominated the fashion magazines. Schiaparelli's daring nonsensical gadget accessories, such as fish buttons, foxhead gloves, and newspaper-print scarves, were just the right touch for the last frivolous, decadent years before World War II.

She is also well known for her surrealist designs of the 1930's, especially her hats, including one resembling a giant shoe and one a giant lamb chop, both which were famously worn by the Franco-American Singer sewing machine heiress Daisy Fellowes, who was one of Schiaparelli's best clients and who owned a pink gemstone that inspired the color shocking pink. Schiaparelli also collaborated with many surrealist artists, Salvador Dalí, Jean Cocteau among them, between 1936 and 1939.

Progressive Modernity Style Icon: The Flapper
Additional things to read! Selected Stories of Agnes BoultonFlappers And Philosophers, by F. Scott FitzgeraldFlapper Poems by Dorothy Parker

The women's movement was making significant progress. The 1920s and 1930s saw many countries recognize women's right to vote - including the USA, England, South Africa, Italy, Spain, Brazil, The Philippines (In Canada, it came in 1918). During WWI, women across the globe went to work for the first time to fill the employment void created when men went off to war. Many continued to work after the war and began to demand equal pay for equal work.

This new sense of freedom and liberation created a radical shift in the lives of women everywhere. Attitudes were changing and the progressive, modern women of the 1920s started rebelling against tradition. Many saw as prudish Victorian values and did everything possible to radically distance themselves from that tradition, including its feminine image. It was during this period of change and rebellion that the first Art Deco fashion icon, The Flapper, Charleston-ed her way in.

Barbara Stanwyck
Women started wearing their hair and skirts short, got their drivers licences (so that they no longer had to rely on a man to take them shopping or visit their friends), started smoking, drinking, kissing and petting in public, wore heavy makeup and danced the Charleston at the hottest jazz clubs of the day.

These young women came to be known as Flappers, "in reference to a young bird flapping its wings while learning to fly" ( Just like a bird flapped its wings to fly the coop, the 1920s women also flapped their wings, symbolically speaking, to escape convention and tradition.

A quote. Extract from “Growing up in The 1920s”, written by Amanda Clark. London: B.T.Batsford Ltd, 1986.

Although in agreement concerning the revolutionary nature of the flapper’s new attitudes, many experts clash with respect to the spirit of her aforementioned physical appearance. Valerie Steele argues that the ideal was not boyish, as Roberts and Yarwood suggest, but “youthful” -- “girlish
Flapper Barbie. Source.
immaturity,” she states, carried the day.” Alison Lurie similarly notes that women “did not look like men, but rather like children.“ The openly sexual flapper who adopted masculinity was clearly a dangerous individual; she who resembled the female child would appear to be less threatening.

Roberts, in a compelling discussion of the post-war French male mindset, argues that this sexually ambiguous creature wreaked havoc on French society, resulting in everything from lawsuits against hairdressers to the dissolution of families.20 Yet these often violent reactions to the new woman’s attire and/or hairstyle were not, in Roberts’ opinion, simply due to their “novelty:’ -- the fact that the look was such a drastic departure from that of the Gibson girl of years past. Something else propelled the obsession. The radical feminist Henriette Sauret is quoted as poking fun at the male journalists of the time, whom, though confronted with news items such as the end of the war and the “threat” of Bolshevism, still devoted “a good third of their daily remarks” to the flapper’s bobbed hair.

Cloche Hat
Yellis offers insight into the driving force behind such an obsession. Citing women’s entrance into the worlds of both business and the comer saloon, he discusses the shock inherent in the shift from Victorian notions of womanhood to that of the smoking, drinking, sexually assertive flapper. According to Yellis, both her actions as well as her attire were “seen as a sexual assault, and it was obvious to the men that they were its objects.“22 A 1924 cartoon by Max Beerbohm, entitled “The Insurgence of Youth," serves to best illustrate the pressing nature of the threat; just one glance perfectly articulates the crisis of masculinity and its disastrous effect on men. The animated flapper, with her boyish torso, masculine body language and bobbed haircut, has forced her companion to squeeze effeminately onto the comer of the couch as she assumes the dominant role. Their dialogue indicates that she is not only in command physically, but intellectually as well -having the “nerve” to use whatever expletives she pleases. Source.

Characteristics of Flapper Fashion
  • Masculine forms - "bustless, hipless, boyish shapes" (Mendes, 2003)
  • Streamlined
  • Short hemlines (mid calf to just a smidgeon above the knee)
  • Tubular silhouette
  • The Cloche (domed or bell-shaped) hat
  • The classic, beaded, fringed 'Charleston' dress
  • Geometric, angular shapes and designs
  • Rolled down stockings
This needlework site shows some beautiful examples of Art Deco fashions recreated in blackwork. Prominent flappers include: Norma Talmadge, Marie Prevost, Marion Davies, Joan Crawford, Louise Brooks, Edna Purviance, Dorothy Sebastian, Clara Bow, Betty Compson, Anita Page, Barbara Stanwyck, Norma Shearer.

Evening dress, 1936
Late Art Deco (1930-1946)
During the depression years of the 1930's fashion was driven by the fantasies of Hollywood, and by a desire to return to a more traditionally feminine image for women, as women were forced by economics to return to a more traditional life. In the face of mass unemployment, it was generally felt that women should leave the workplace to men-- at least until the outbreak of World War II in 1941. During the early 1930s hemlines dropped again to just above the ankles, and longer dresses were again in vogue for evening wear (right). The tricks of draping and intricate seaming learned in the 1920s were now applied to making dresses that clung to the body. Soft crepe, chiffon, and satin cut on the bias were used. For evening the bared back was the new erotic zone, replacing the legs of the 1920s. As the decade advanced, hemlines would rise again. The shirt dress (left) was a new style introduced in this period that would become a classic. Vionnet and Schiaparelli were among the leading designers. In this period movie stars like Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn made it acceptable for women to wear trousers in public (below, right). With the outbreak of World War II, as women were being encouraged to replace men in the factories and offices, clothing generally became more tailored, and frequently borrowed from military looks-- even to prominent, padded square shoulders (left). Wartime shortages led to official directives to keep dresses narrow and short, without extra draping and excessive use of fabric. Since clothing was rationed, accessories became important as a way of varying a limited wardrobe. The war also provided an opportunity for American designers to establish themselves; previously fashion ideas had emanated mainly from Paris.

Related Articles
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Art Deco Fashion continued: Theme 3 Leisure - The Sporty Girl
Famous Flappers (Photographs).
The Painted Woman - 1930s Glamour and Fashion

In menswear there were two distinct periods in the 1920s. Throughout the decade, men wore short suit jackets, the old long jackets (on morning suits and tail-coats) being used merely for formal occasions. In the early twenties, men's fashion was characterized by extremely high waisted jackets, often worn with belts. Lapels on suit jackets were not very wide as they tended to be buttoned up high. (This style of jacket seems to have been greatly influenced by the uniforms worn by the military during the First World War.) Trousers were relatively narrow and straight (never tapered) and they were worn rather short so that a man's socks often showed. Trousers also began to be worn cuffed at the bottom at this time.

Famous Arrow Shirt 1920s, worn by
the Arrow Collar Man
By 1925, wider trousers commonly known as "Oxford Bags" came into fashion, while suit jackets returned to a normal waist and lapels became wider and were often worn peaked. Loose fitting sleeves (without a taper) also began to be worn during this period. During the late 1920s, double breasted vests, often worn with a single breasted jacket, also became quite fashionable. During the 1920s, men had a variety of sport clothes available to them, including sweaters and short trousers, commonly known as knickers. For formal occasions in the daytime, a morning suit was usually worn. For evening wear men preferred the short tuxedo to the tail-coat, which was now seen as rather old-fashioned and snobby.

Men would have worn double breast suits, loose set of pockets or they would wear cardigans and khaki pants to match their socks or visa-versa.Arrow collars jutted from blazers.

The Arrow Collar Man
Part of the Arrow collar popularity was the creation of the Arrow Collar Man by artist J.C. Leyendecker. This good-looking man, always dressed in the latest Arrow items, became one of the most recognizable brand icons. President Theodore Roosevelt was among his many fans, and at the height of his popularity, the fictional Arrow Collar Man was getting up to 17,000 fan letters a day --- mostly from young women.

Men's Hats
Men's hats were usually worn depending on their class, with upper class citizens usually wearing top hats or a homburg hat. Middle class men wore either a fedora or a trilby hat, and working-class men wore a standard flat cap or no hat at all.

Children's Fashion
For the first time, children had a style of there own. For the boys they wore trousers and shirt which had a khaki appearance. As for the girls they had khaki skirt and a top with a full pleated waist band.

More Related Links
    Art Deco K.J Henderson Motorbike (Source).
  • The Advertising Archives - 1930's: Thirties artwork was inspired by romance and the Art Deco movement, with brilliant illustrators such as Norman Rockwell and Leyendecker in the US establishing high standards
1947: Eight wheeled double front-ended railcar. Source. Art Deco Jewelry: It was an age of prohibition, cocktail parties, flappers, and the Charleston.    
  • Art Deco - Erte is an on-line exhibition of works by the Russian-born artist and designer Romain de Tirtoff (Erte) in all media: sculpture, paintings, graphics, fashion, stage and costume design.    
  • My Studios- Tamara de Lempicka: Lempicka is best known for her Art Deco-styled portraits. Sexy, bedroom-eyed women in stylish dress are rendered in haunting poses.  
  • Tamara de Lempicka biography: When someone mentions the Roaring Twenties, it conjures up the Jazz Age, flappers, Prohibition, the Charleston, gangsters...    
Other Art Deco Links of Interest
1930s Art Deco Greyhound Desk Set • Signed "Grigio"
Gray Hound Desk Set - Source.
  • Virtualology : Art Deco By: Neal McLaughlin.   Decopix has dozens of spectacular photographs of the world's major Art Deco buildings, along with a discussion of the style and examples of art and design of the period.  
  • The Art Deco Society of New York is a non-profit organization for the study, preservation and celebration of all forms of Art Deco. Membership, events, newsletter, links. 
  • Fair Park Mural Conservation Project aims to conserve the murals of Carlo Ciampaglia at Fair Park, Dallas, a product of the 1936 Texas Centennial Celebration. Illustrated history of Fair Park, project overview and progress.  
  • Art Deco: Lee Tanner provides pictures and raytraced images of Art Deco objects.  
  • Art Deco Society Inc is a non-profit organisation promoting the preservation Art Deco in Victoria and Tasmania. News, events, publications, membership.  
  • Deco Nut displays photographs of Art Deco architecture, especially in Omaha, art and design. Feature on unusual period radios.

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