A few months ago I stopped by the Cooper Hewitt Museum to see the exhibition The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920’s. The 1920’s was a time period in which fashion and NYC were on the rise and full of changes. Many of the buildings that make up the famous NYC skyline today were built during the 1920’s. While speakeasies (hidden bars, some which still exist) held raving parties full of dancing flappers, the name given to the fashionable, newly liberated women of the time who received their voter rights in 1920. European art influenced America, while the American rising skyscraper awed Europe. Europe and America continued to influence one another through music, film, textiles and more. It’s always been one of my favorite eras in history, particularly for the fashion of course. So although the exhibition showcases over 100 pieces of architecture, furniture, art and more today I’m going to focus on fashion.
I had never been inside the Cooper Hewitt, although I’ve walked by it a few times. If you’ve ever walked the upper east side you will know that Fifth Avenue is full of beautiful original impressive mansions. The Andrew Carnegie mansion that houses the museum is certainly one of them. From the outside alone you can tell it is going to be gorgeous inside. And it did not disappoint, as I stepped inside chandeliers and marble flooring led the way. All the rooms are complete with intricate moldings framing the doors. Although my absolute favorite part of the house turned museum was the grand wooden staircase. Another chandelier lit the path as I ascended the stairs to the second floor where the exhibition began.
To my surprise the Cooper Hewitt is a conceptually modern museum inside this very original house. The Smithsonian design museum pushes contemporary artists and technology into the art world. Like every visitor when I arrived I was given The Cooper Hewitt Pen. This stylis looking instrument allows you to engage with the artifacts when pressing the pen onto a plus sign next to each artifacts description. Those descriptions and pictures are saved to the online profile created for you when you first bought your ticket. The museum also has giant touch screen tables that allow you to look up all the artifacts and info saved to your pen. These tables are also virtual design labs where you can create furniture, clothes, home goods and more and save them to your profile.
Paris and its artistic movement during the1920’s influenced fashion in America. New artistic styles including cubism influenced media and society. During the 20’s and 30’s one of the most important designers was Mariano Fortuny. He created the Delphos style dress in 1907.This dress consisted of folds that held their shape when a person wore it. The style became a popular trend for the time period and was often imitated. The green dress with jacket in the slide show was sold by Interior designer Elsie McNeil who received exclusive right from Fortuny to sell his work.
Fashion For Leisure
Before the 1920’s people were accustomed to wearing swimsuits and leisurewear that covered the arms and legs. In the 1920’s leisure wear consisted of clothing that made the arms and legs visible with thinner straps and shorter hemlines. The style was introduced on the beaches in the South of France. Also introduced for the first time was men and women lounging at the beach in these risqué new styles together. Americans that vacationed in France brought the trends of the new swimwear and commingling beach time to the U.S.
Creating fashions for nightlife became important for in the 1920’s. French and American designers were inspired by the ruin findings in Asia, Egypt, Russia and Latin America. Tassels became a big trend appearing on jewelry, clothing and accessories. Use of the color blue also became popular in fashion .
In an upcoming post I will cover more of what was showcased. Unfortunately this exhibition is no longer showing but you can learn more about it here. I hope you learn a bit about the Jazz Age and is flapper fashion.