American Museum Bath
18th March – 29th October
In the 1920s , post WW1, wealthy women in America experienced a seismic shift in moral, social and cultural attitudes.
This emancipation was reflected in fashion where new trends called lounge wear and sportswear appeared reflecting a less austere, freer and more relaxed lifestyle for these affluent ladies. Travel was popular amongst the wealthy classes and Paris had been established as the centre of fashion in Europe but the Americans were now eager to set their own trends and spread this influence through fashion, music and the silver screen.
Pyjamas were no longer only the garment of choice for his lordship’s at night. Ladies of immense leisure could now float around the house in sumptuous and elaborating decorated loungewear based on this more utilitarian attire. Printed, embroidered and even beaded these loose garments oozed elegance yet freedom from constriction.
Topped with a Kimono the look became superbly exotic. Only the privileged few would have any idea about the Japanese origins of the garment. In the last couple of years both kimonos and pyjamas have graced our high street but few as lovely as these.
In the 1920s there was a new trend, attributed to Coco Channel, called sun bathing to obtain a tan. “Les Sportives” adorned the beaches in the South of France and this was quickly picked up by States side ladies. Swimsuits were now developed to exposure more of the body to the sun’s rays and frolicking in the water was now an acceptable genteel and fun past time for ladies of society.
Previously a tan was to be avoided as this suggested that a woman was forced by toil or other circumstances to be outside exposed to the elements as a peasant. Outside pleasures had until then be shaded under parasols, verandahs and picnics under trees.
Prints on garments and swimsuits were influenced by the art movements of the time with bold cubist, geometric and abstract forms.
The above pyjamas with hem detailing and the mixing of plain fabrics and printed seems so of this moment today as does the placement embroidery. There is an oriental feel that we have all be trying to emanate in today’s fashions but we can see that it has as usual been done before.
I particularly liked these dark based florals shot with lame and boldly coloured flowers.
Lastly the looseness of this coat with its exotic Egyptian print allowed the wearer freedom of movement but also demonstrated boldness and exoticism from another culture. Without prior knowledge it would be extremely difficult to guess the date of such a garment and I would have probably said much more recently.
1920s Jazz Age: Fashion & Photographs is organised by The Fashion and Textile Museum
Preview the exhibition with this informative video