And All That Jazz

Jazz Age Fashion & Photographs Exhibition at the Fashion & Textiles Museum

The 1920s is my absolute favourite style era. The height of glamour, sophistication and the first decade that was truly about the young generation. For me, this was when true style exploded around the world; so an exhibition dedicated to 1920s fashion has my name written all over it.

‘Jazz Age’ is a major exhibition at the Fashion & Textile Museum in London which pays homage to clothing and photographs from the 1920s. With over 150 items on display, this exhibition is a feast for the eyes. The whole museum is taken over with a variety of garments from the period including sportswear, silk pyjamas, beaded evening wear and, no 1920s exhibition would be complete without the flapper dress.

The first room is devoted to the movie magic of the decade. The twenties brought change to lifestyles, morals and a new liberation, particularly for women, was born. Movies soon reflected the new sense of personal freedom and it wasn’t long before cinema audiences saw modern day actresses such as Louise Brooks, Clara Bow and Joan Crawford gracing the silent films of the day; the age of the flapper girl had arrived. The cinema was exciting and alluring for women which showed them an alternate way of life with a different set of values.

The main collection of the exhibition is then spread over two floors. The ground level focuses on the evolving silhouette of the age which was far less exaggerated than in the 1900s, and clothing had a more streamlined and natural flow. This is reflected through the wide range of garments used for day-to-day wear, pyjamas, sportswear and the ready-to-wear clothing and not just focusing on the iconic drop-waist flapper dress that has come to define the age.

With the girl in the moon greeting you as you venture upstairs,  the exhibition progresses to evening wear, flapper dresses and accessories including stockings, hats and cigarette holders. These items reflect the spirit and style that defined the Jazz Age. The heavily beaded dresses, the art deco designs, the movement and swing of the fabrics all testify to the age of the Charleston, nightclubs and the flapper girls.

The 1920s was a decade of change. Women entered the workforce in growing numbers and experienced life differently to passed generations and warranted a new way of dressing.The free movement of this new mode of dressing mirrored the new freedom that was being experienced by women. This new generation of women, who listened to jazz, drank, frequented nightclubs and rebelled against acceptable behaviour were termed as ‘Flapper Girls.’

F. Scott Fitzgerald, regarded as the voice of this liberated generation, published ‘This Side Of Paradise’ in 1920. The first writer to celebrate this period, Fitzgerald helped define the Jazz Age of the Roaring Twenties and the modern young woman regarded as a ‘flapper’ became a feature of his work.

By having an exhibition dedicated to the Roaring Twenties is in itself testament to the ongoing fascination with this era. This is in fact touched upon in the exhibition with a very special inclusion and one of the absolute highlights for me. On loan to the museum is the incredible crystal dress worn by Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan in the 2013 film ‘The Great Gatsby’ by Catherine Martin with Miaccia Prada.

These outfits from a modern adaptation of Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel in an exhibition devoted to the decade shows the continued contemporary wonderment that exists for this extraordinary era.

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