The 1920s were a decade of excitement and glamour, synonymous with excess and change. Wildly different from the reserved Edwardian years before, the Roaring Twenties as it is otherwise known was a period of intense social growth, dizzying with its fast-paced frivolity as the world began to recover from the Great War of 1914-1918. The modern age bought liberation for women: fashion was designed for movement and dancing, with changing social structures saw hemlines raised and waistlines drop.
The 1920s Jazz Age exhibition currently on at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum showcases over 150 different styles from the era, ranging from the expected – the obligatory flapper dresses are of course dazzling in their splendour, alongside velvet capes and exquisitely beaded eveningwear – to the equally delightful yet for the most part unanticipated pieces; sportswear figures, as do charming day dresses in eye-catching prints and luxurious silk PJs. Many items on display come from the dazzling personal collection of husband and wife duo Cleo and Mark Butterfield, who boast one of the largest privately owned fashion collections in the UK from their base in Devon. It is a collection that upon meeting them has clearly been curated with love and that it is impossible not to be envious of.
Alongside the vintage pieces, it is also fascinating to see how contemporary fashion continues to interpret the fashion of the 1920s. One particular highlight of the collection is the chance to see the chandelier crystal dress worn by actress Carey Mulligan when playing Daisy Buchanan in 2013’s The Great Gatsby. Designed as a collaboration between costume designer Catherine Martin and fashion powerhouse Prada, many of the costumes in the film took inspiration from Prada’s past collections, reworked to give them a 1920s skew.
Upstairs, there’s also an incredible array of photos, many of which have been shot by renowned photographer of the time, James Abbe. The subjects include many famous figures from the 1920s: Louise Brooks, Dolores Wilkinson, the Dolly Sisters and Fred and Adele Astaire are just some of the faces that line the walls of the top gallery. The glimpse into the life of the 1920s celebrity is fascinating. Work by celebrated photographers Cecil Beaton, Man Ray, and Baron de Meyer also feature, as do illustrations by Gordon Conway that highlights the role of graphic art in promoting the Jazz Age look. For anyone with a keen interest in fashion or the 1920s, the exhibition is a must visit!
Exhibition Dates: 23 September – 15 January 2017
London Fashion and Textiles Museum
From £6.00 – £9.90