SOBERING UP: The Turbulent Thirties and its fashion — ranging from the influence of Hollywood films to the rise of suburbia — will be the focus of a new show called “Night and Day: 1930s Fashion & Photographs” at The Fashion and Textile Museum. The exhibition will open Friday and run until Jan. 20.
Split into different tableaux, the exhibition highlights the changing political and cultural landscape of the decade, and its impact on fashion. There will be a total of 100 looks on display, lent by Mark and Cleo Butterfield of C20 Vintage.
“Whilst carrying out the research and planning Night and Day, it became clear that escapism was a major theme that needed to be explored. While the decade is famous for its glamorous bias-cut evening gowns that showcased a woman’s curves and its magical musicals full of romance and glamour, these years were defined by a constant anxiety about the harsh economic reality and shifting social status,” said co-curator Teresa Collenette.
Following the Twenties jazz age, Thirties fashion witnessed a drop in hemlines to the ankles and the broadening of shoulders while trouser suits increased in popularity. Alongside practical daywear options, eveningwear was bias-cut and embellished, with an emphasis on the back and legs.
Reflecting the influence of Hollywood films and movie stars, the first two tableaux underline the popularity of the dance halls and night clubs. Dresses are made from crepe, lamé and satin, and one of the highlights is a caramel-brown gown with a crossover sash and draped pleats.
While these dresses reflected the mood of escapism, the ones on show upstairs presented the realities of the Thirties, highlighting topics such as women in the workforce, domestic labor and mass manufacturing.
Printed dresses made from rayon were the result of increased demand for ready-to-wear fashion and also served women who were returning to household duties in the post-World War I era. On display are dressmaking supplies such as a Singer sewing machine and a book of fabric samples.
In the last room, black-and-white photographs from British photographer Cecil Beaton are on display. They include portraits of Gary Cooper, fashion designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel as well as model Mary Taylor and actress Gertrude Stein.