mardi 15 janvier 2008

Les Annees Folles

Reading fashion magazines as frequently as I do, it was remarkable to note that all the Autumn and Winter collections for 2007-2008 were all in one way or another greatly influenced by the fashion of the Roaring Twenties. This was clear from the cloche hats decorating the models to the drop waist dresses that appeared on the runway. It seemed that something about the twenties was ready for a comeback. To be honest, I have an idea about the twenties but am not at the same time as well versed as I would like to be. Which is why, it is extremely timely that an exhibition on twenties fashion is currently running at the Musee Galliera. Thus, one gray and rainy afternoon, we went to see the exhibit aptly titled Les Annees Folles 1919-1929.
It is a wonderfully organized exhibit of the key designs of the twenties. More importantly, there is a real effort by the organizers to place the designs in the context of those times. As such, there are explanatory notes everywhere regarding the mood and taste of the times as well as the societal changes taking place. For instance, we learned that it was during the twenties that the defining element of fashion was ease and freedom of movement. More and more women wanted the same ease that men were accustomed to in their manner of dressing. It was also the time of liberation from the tyranny of the corset and fashion reflected this movement accordingly. To bolster such explanatory notes, there are some short films to show societal evolution; for instance the short film on the La Garconne.
Amongst the celebrated designers featured, there were a good number of gowns by Paul Poiret (who was the leading proponent against the corset), les soeurs Callot, beautiful gowns by Jeanne Lanvin (who initially started to design and make clothes for herself and her daughter) and even Chanel and Charles Worth make their appearance. But what I found truly remarkable was the number of excellent gowns by designers whose names are now lost to us. Despite their anonymity, their creations remain as vivid as the day they came out of their ateliers. The exhibit shows a progression of day and night gowns and some truly remarkable coats. There are also dresses for the beach and gowns for the late afternoon when ladies changed from their day dresses. There are even some bathing suits.
All the gowns are startlingly well preserved with their exquisite paillettes and broderie shining in the glass cases in all their full glory. It is clear in viewing such beauties that an enormous amount of painstaking care was taken in their execution. And it must be noted that all these gowns were hand made. There is one particularly beautiful gown by Lanvin (you’ll know which one I’m referring to when you see it) that doesn’t look dated at all and in fact it looks like it could still be worn by the fashionable set of today. Aside from gowns, there are well preserved examples of shoes, which had their fair share of embroidery and gold paint, as well as delicate little bags.
For the time you spend viewing the exhibit, you are fully immersed in the twenties and coming out of it, one has a better understanding of the captivating fashion of the times but more importantly of the spirit that infused such fashion.

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