Art Deco Preservation Ball
By Karen Geer & The Fashion Salon Team
On this page is an overview of what each decade brings to the cutting table. The designer and gallery links will send you to a visual search or article outlining that specific designer.
The jazz age and the flapper come into their own. The silhouette is straight and boyish. Evening gowns can be floor length, but are usually shorter, up to one inch below the knee. The fabrics are lavish and exotic: silks, velvet, satins, chiffons, beads-beads-beads, feathers and fringe. Gowns are usually sleeveless, sometimes backless and generally show some skin, think risqué instead of whorish.
The fashion rules of the Victorian era fell and the new rules (which we still occasionally live by) hadn't been set in stone. So we see velvet in summer, chiffon and wool together and, of course, Chanel's shocking long strands of pearls with a tweed suit. The rule that remains standing in all this change is clothing appropriate for time of day. Afternoon is afternoon and evening is evening and never the twain shall meet.
The body is radicalized: breasts are down and as flat as possible, waists are non existent, the hip carries most of the detail and legs are really seen for the first time in Western history. This doesn't mean you must have a boyish figure to wear these fashions, but it helps.
Designers: Chanel, Cheruit, Callot Soeurs, Fortuny, Lanvin, Patou, Paquin, Poiret, Vionnet, Worth
1920s Gallery at Vintage Fashion
1920s Fashion at 100 Years of Fashion
The Frock Gallery
Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (1883–1971) and the House of Chanel (The Met)
George Barbier, 1924
Evening Gowns from 1932
The Depression hits and things become considerably more serious. Morals tighten, hemlines drop and "the Rules" are reset and carved in stone. Formal means floor length. The silhouette is curved and very feminine, often with a slight mermaid effect for the skirt.
The bias cut dress appears for the first time ever. Instead of cutting fabric on the vertical and horizontal lines, we now cut diagonally. This makes the fabric drape more fluidly and the garment must rely on the body underneath for its form.
Arms and backs are bared and Décolletage is shown, but still demure.
Another important and unique trend from the thirties is unusual seaming, using seams as a decorative effect instead of simply executing the design.
Hollywood starts making a tremendous impact on fashion as folks flock to the movie theater to escape their cares. When looking to period films remember that often the stars of the time were glammed to an over-the-top borderline fantasy level. If you want to recreate a Ginger Rogers gown, the Art Deco Preservation Ball is definitely the place to do it. Just keep in mind, if you are not the over the top glamazon type, that this is not what regular people actually wore and there are plenty of dresses with varying levels of drama.
Designers: Balenciaga, Chanel, Charles James, Mainbocher, Madame Gres, Schiaparelli, Vionnet, Carnegie
Vintage Textile Gallery
Edward Steichen: In High Fashion
Web Shots: Movie Stars in Evening Gowns
Evening Gown from 1942
World War II enters and changes fashion yet again. Women enter the work place by the millions as the men go off to war. The silhouette becomes a bit masculine with shoulder emphasis and even shoulder pads. Instead of gently curving to the waist we are now nipped in at the waist often with a belt even for evening wear.
Fashion of frill, fringe and fantasy of the past two decades are gone. In its place is common-sense and purpose. As for high-fashion, things change radically. Paris, the world's fashion capital falls to the Nazi's in 1940. Many ateliers close their shops as others move to New York so they can continue to work.
Evening events are less grand and an "evening gown" is less flashy. Separates for evening are also popular with an evening skirt worn with a fancy top allowing the wearer to get more mileage out of both. This trend also included a low décolletage dress with straps on the shoulders, covered with a chic bolero. The heart shaped neckline also comes into vogue.
Trends are sleeves, capped, straight, dolman and puffed, but never too big as rationing forced fashion down to less fabric. More fabric, however, was added to shoulders and backs. If the thirties were refined, the 40s were positively prim. Sequins were not rationed and very popular for evening.
By 1947 the war was over, rationing ended and influence of Art Deco on fashion ended with it. Christian Dior changed everything again with The New Look, This ultra-feminine style went with a social movement that encouraged women to dial back the past two decades and half of progress and go home and stay there.
Designers: Adrian, Mainbocher, Norman Norell, McCardell, Schiaparelli, Hattie Carnegie, Balenciaga, Molyneux, Charles James
Dorothea's Closet Vintage Gallery
myvintagevogue 40s Gallery
A Pocket Guide to the Decades
The Fashion Salon Team is and has been: Kimberly Manning Aker, Sara Klotz de Aguilar, Karen Geer, Alice Jurow, Derek Kerr, Cherie Oliver and Maria Rivero care to join us?