ALL THAT JAZZ: Today, London’s Fashion and Textile Museum unveiled its latest exhibit: “1920s Jazz Age Fashion & Photographs.” Spanning across two floors of the museum are more than 150 garments and accessories from the period, ranging from decadent evening dresses to the earliest forms of women’s sportswear.
All of the clothing is part of the private fashion collection of Cleo and Mark Butterfield, the largest of its kind in the U.K. Cleo began collecting jazz-era clothing in the Seventies on her numerous trips to the vintage flea markets on Portobello Road. “I told myself, ‘You will not get these things in the future so get it while you can,’” said Butterfield.
The clothing displayed reflects the massive social and political changes of the decade. To illustrate the modern woman’s more active lifestyle, the exhibit is divided into sections based on different settings in which she may have found herself. Fur-collared coats and rich colored velvet capes accompany lamé and silk dresses. A standout piece is a trompe l’oeil heavily sequined Elsa Schiaparelli original. In another section are shorter tennis skirts and sportswear, which exemplify the increasing popularity in female athletics. One room is completely devoted to sleepwear. “I wanted it to be what ordinary people wore, not just couture. I wanted to get away from that flapper stereotype,” Butterfield said about the selection.
Alongside the clothing are miscellaneous popular culture items. Magazine covers, cigarette cases and even some of the first self-tanner for women, which all help to put the fashion on display into context. In the final room of the exhibit is a collection of photographs and celebrity portraits by James Abbe. By capturing more candid moments in the lives of film stars like Fred Astaire and Louise Brooks, Abbe may very well have started the whole celebrity paparazzi craze.
“It is no surprise that Jazz Age fashion is a key reference point for our students and visitors: the quality, characteristics and rich vocabulary of design forged in the decade set the standard for generations to come,” says Celia Joicey, head of the museum. “If you need further proof of the decade’s lasting influence, a line of display cases filled with Miuccia Prada’s creations for the 2013 version of ‘The Great Gatsby’ greet you on your way in and out of the exhibit.”
The exhibit will run until January.