EVENING DRESSES

During the 1920’s, lavish evening gowns became an obvious symbol of the wearer’s wealth and social standing. Made of luxurious fabrics such as velvet, satin, crepe de chine, or silver and gold lamé, glittered with rhinestones, even fluttered with fringe. Formal evening gowns would have been appropriate attire for balls, the opera, the theatre, elegant dinner parties, and upscale restaurants. (1)

Real vintage 1920's dresses from metmuseum.org
Real vintage 1920’s dresses from metmuseum.org

Gowns were designed in the basic shape of a sleeveless tube, either deep U- or V-shaped necklines or high-cut, wide, boat-style necklines. After about 1926, plunging necklines were cut not into the fronts but into the back of gowns, and women sometimes draped long necklaces of beads or faux pearls down their exposed backs. (1)

Actress Alden Gay wearing an evening dress by Chanel, 1924. Photographed by Edward Steichen.
Actress Alden Gay wearing an evening dress by Chanel, 1924. Photographed by Edward Steichen.

During the late 1920’s, French designer Madeleine Vionnet pioneered dress design using the “bias cut” (a term used to describe fabric cut on the diagonal) to soften the severe angular shapes of fashionable dresses. Bias-cut skirts, collars and sleeves fell in delicate folds and clung gracefully to a woman’s figure. (1)

Edward Steichen, Madeleine Vionnet dress, 1929
Edward Steichen, Madeleine Vionnet dress, 1929

There were enthusiastic crazes for new kinds of dance music like the tango and the Charleston from the 1910’s onwards. Dancers reveled in the upbeat sound of this new music, and the 1920’s came to be known as the “roaring twenties”, or the “jazz age”. Garments with materials shown off to their full effect by dance movements, such as sequins and fringes, became very popular. (2)

evening dress 6

The exoticism of the 1920’s was influenced by the many cultures that had reached Western Europe: Orientalism that had continued from the 1910’s, an Egyptian style spurred by the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb (1922), and the Mexican craze influenced by Aztec art. (2) Amazing and luxurious exotic evening dresses were the perfect party attire of the decade.

Paul Poiret, evening dress with Egyptian-style motifs, 1923.
Paul Poiret, evening dress with Egyptian-style motifs, 1923.

Please follow link to learn more about 1920’s Day Dresses.

Sources:

(1) The 1920s (American Popular Culture Through History) by Kathleen Drowne, 2000

(2) Fashion. A History from the 18th to the 20th century by Akiki Fukai, 2006

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