Who doesn’t love the Jazz Age, that decade of zinging fashion and wild behaviour that gave us the flapper, the drop-waist dress, silk pyjamas and Art Deco style? The Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey, just along from the Shard, knows we can’t resist it, so they’ve brought together a stunning display of haute couture and ready to wear fashion from 1919 to 1929 and teamed it with a fascinating series of talks about 1920’s life and style.
The exhibition gives us a series of tableaux, beginning just after the end of the First World War when women lives and clothes began a decade of radical change. The corset was banished; in its place came the boyish silhouette and an increasing emphasis on sport and exercise.
The sporting trend was set by designers like Coco Chanel and famous tennis player Suzanne Lenglen. Suddenly tennis clothes mattered, and travel on trains, ocean liners and new fangled airlines became not just possible but desirable.
The simple lines of 1920’s clothes were a boon to home dressmakers, making fashion accessible to all via paper sewing patterns and dressmaker journals. it was the start of the consumer culture.
It was a decade of dance, with clothes designed to move as dancers swayed to the new jazz rhythms. The Charleston, Black Bottom and Shimmy showed off the new free designs where the waist was consigned to the dustbin of history.
But it all came to a sudden and calamitous end with the Great Depression of 1929. The stock market crashed, money ran out and fashion lost its carefree glamour.
Oddly enough it was just as the 20’s came to an end that 20’s fashion began to have an effect in the slower moving world of architecture, as my frequent partner on my London expeditions Yannick Pucci told us in his fascinating talk on Art Deco buildings in London. Dividing Art Deco into style categories like Miami, Ocean Liner and Egyptian, he gave us a whirlwind tour of Art Deco London, including the spectacular interiors of Eltham Palace and the elegant curves of Hercule Poirot’s residence, Florian Court.
You can find more information about Yannick’s Art Deco walks and food tasting tours on his website, London Unravelled.