Elegance in an Age of Crisis: Fashions of the 1930s

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Elegance in an Age of Crisis: Fashions of the 1930s

Many view the 1930s – a decade that emerged from the Jazz Age and ended with the onset of World War II – as the period in which truly modern clothing was created. As the rise of classicism became a dominate force in art and design, a balanced and well-proportioned body became the fashion ideal. The structure and rigidity of the Edwardian era and the shapeless styles of the 1920s were replaced by fashions that enhanced the human form without restricting it. Born of innovation and traditional craftsmanship, the phenomenon of modern and elegant dressing occurred in the realms of both women’s high fashion and men’s bespoke tailoring, as well as their respective accessories.

It is a compelling irony that the elegant and progressive qualities of 1930s fashions emerged during one of the most tumultuous periods of modern western history. Set between the stock market crash in 1929 and the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939, this decade was a startling paradox, as the title of this exhibition suggests. From 1914 to 1945, the world was embroiled in two horrific world wars, with a soul-searing, catastrophic economic depression separating them. Yet despite these crises—or maybe in reaction to them—the 1930s exuded an especial elegance: the blatantly beautiful neo-classic, art moderne aesthetic.

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