1920s at the Fashion and Textile Museum: Flappers galore!

Hi lovely people! Here I am writing again and this time I bring you a different type of post… Yesterday, I visited the London Fashion and Textile Museum to see their latest exhibition, 1920s Jazz Age, and thought it would be a nice idea telling you about my experience there. The Fashion museum only holds temporary exhibitions (if you want to see some beautiful period garments you can also visit the Victoria and Albert Museum) so it’s only opened when those are running and even though my favourite fashion eras are for sure the late 50s and early 60s, I thought it would be great getting out of the studio, seeing something different and finding inspiration!

About the number of pieces, even though the exhibition was not massively big, it had some really nice garments and a good bunch of information about the 1920s, the flappers,  the Jazz aesthetics and how the First World War and the 1929’s Black Tuesday changed how women dressed.

Apart from original (and oh so beautiful) costumes from the movie The Great Gatsby that welcome you as soon as you step in (and that were worn by Carey Mulligan), you can also watch fragments from popular 1920s movies as the starting point of the exhibition.

Women were deeply influenced by movie stars (like today!) and how they dressed. They even started exercising to get that tubular and athletic body shape actresses had at the time (here I realized how women have been trying to have a different/specific body for centuries. Not nice, right? So tired of the tyranny of what is supposed to be beautiful…).

1920s fashion textile museum exhibition london

Coats made using velvet and other very rich fabrics

1920s fashion textile museum exhibition london

Pjs and lounge wear using silk and fine fabrics

Women from the 20s entered the workforce in growing numbers after the IWW; a new-found freedom ushered in a new sense of dressing. Scott Fitzgerald wrote This Side of Paradise in 1920 and became the voice of a young and radical generation who liked to party, drink, talk about sex and dance. Fitzgerald made the modern young woman who became knows as ‘flapper‘ his specialty and who was represented by the famous tubular drop-waist dress.

1920s fashion textile museum exhibition london

Night dress with a more 50s feel to it

Along the decade, lots of changes could be seen on the way women dressed:

*On 1920 in reaction to the end of fabric rationing (yes, there was such thing. Imagine having to ration our stash right now…) after the war, hemlines dropped from calf length to the ankle in 1922.

*On 1921 garments started to present straighter shapes although belts were still used and of course, decorative details were luxurious, like draperies, superposed fabrics, hanging panels, beaded embroideries and tassels were all the rage.

1920s fashion textile museum exhibition london

Swimwear using cotton fabric

*On 1922 garments were more simple, minimalist and tubular.

*On 1923 the waistline disappeared completely as belts were worn lower on the hips creating slender silhouettes.

1920s fashion textile museum exhibition london

All a flapper needs in her dressing table

*On 1924 there was an Oriental influence with patterned fabrics.

*On 1925 the three-pieces suit invented by Coco Chanel (that would become the iconic look of the garçonne) became a basic of modern fashion. Here the skirts reach the knee.

1920s fashion textile museum exhibition london

*On 1926 the boyish look was embellished with pleats, jabots, bows and angular motifs inspired by sport garments. In the evening, feathers and beads on dresses accentuated the movement when dancing.

*On 1927 floating panels hanging on the sides of the hips became a recurring feature.

1920s fashion textile museum exhibition london

Zelda Fitzgerald, Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, was the first ‘Flapper’

*On 1928 evening garments became more flared by superposing layers of flounces and godets creating asymmetrical shapes.

*On 1929 waistlines returned to their natural place and the Crack of Wall Street and the beginning of the Great Depression ended a decade of luxurious, rich fabrics, sequins and embellishments, parties dancing the night away and champagne everywhere. Women starting using cheaper and more spartan materials for their clothes and so the traditional lines that would be seen later on the 30s, 40s and 50s took charge.

1920s fashion textile museum exhibition london

Fashion changed completely on the next decades after the Crack of Wall Street in 1929

So if you are a 20s fan this is for sure your type of exhibition (it will be on till January next year). Also if you just love fashion or are like me a seamstress or just a home sewer, I am sure you will enjoy seeing all these amazing dresses and try to decipher how they were made. Oh! don’t forget to pop into the gift shop, they have lots of beautiful fashion books and even sewing patterns and haberdashery.

Come one, it’s all about the Jazz!




Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.