Last weekend I went down to London for a few days, to be extremely cultural and go to lots of exhibitions. So cultural in fact, that I didn't even go to Goldhawk Road! (Truth to tell, this was largely because I'm nowhere near making up everything I've bought on previous trips, and even I realized that the last thing I need is more fabric.)
Top of my list to visit was the Fashion and Textile Museum, to see the exhibition 1920s Jazz Age Fashion and Photographs, so I dropped my case off at the hotel and headed to Bermondsey.
|The Dolly Sisters, photographed by James Abbe|
When I got off the tube at London Bridge I was amazed to see Cate, who writes the fabulous Vintage Gal blog. We follow, and often comment on, one another's blogs, but we'd never met. She had come up to London with her mum for a few days, and once she'd got over the shock of being accosted by a total stranger on the London Underground we discovered that we were all heading to the exhibition.
|Cate looking fabulously elegant as always, me . . . less so!|
We joined a guided tour of the exhibition, and then went for lunch in the museum café. It was lovely to go round the exhibits with someone who takes as much interest in these things as I do, and to have a good chat afterwards. Plus, I was able to examine Cate's amazing jacket in detail, and get some tips for my 1930s suit. Thanks Cate!
The exhibition begins with a display of drawings by the (female) American fashion illustrator and costume designer, Gordon Conway.
|Fashion illustrations for 'The Tatler' and 'Britannia and Eve' magazines|
All of the clothes on display are from the collection of Cleo and Mark Butterfield, and what a collection it is. Almost nothing is behind glass, which allows you to get a really good look at the details - my favourite sort of exhibition!
The exhibition is set out as a series of scenes, each with a title. It starts with a selection of opulent coats and capes.
|Scene: At the theatre|
Next it moves to a more intimate scene.
|Scene: In the boudoir|
Amid the lingerie and pyjamas I spotted a little figure. Gina, does this remind you of anything?
|Silk pyjamas, and a boudoir doll|
From silk to cotton, and a beautiful display of organdie dresses in sorbet-like colours.
|Scene: Picnic at the lake|
These afternoon dresses are in more muted colours.
|Scene: Time for tea|
I loved the embroidery on this dress (and the fact that I could get close enough to see it in detail).
|Chemise-style dress, c 1925|
It isn't all pretty pastels, there are outfits in bolder colours as well.
|Scene: On the cruise liner|
Suspended over the stairs is a seated figure.
|Gold lamé and matching shoes|
Upstairs the exhibition moves from day to evening wear.
|Scene: In the night garden|
|Scene: Chinatown at night|
|Scene: Cocktail hour|
The brown velvet dress with its swirl of diamanté trim seemed to be a favourite of everyone who saw it. As someone who Doesn't Wear Black, I particularly loved it.
|Please, no drool on the dress|
The final 'scene' is a wedding, with a bridal dress with a twist; it's not white.
|Scene: A wedding|
|Silk and lamé wedding dress, 1920|
|The bride, Barbie Lutyens, and groom, Euan Wallace|
The exhibition also has a series of small displays in cases. These include collections of 1920s accessories such as hats and stockings, and some advertisements from the period.
|Fans, bags and smoking paraphernalia|
Apologies for the poor quality of this photograph, but I just had to include the bizarre method of applying lipstick - I can't imagine why it didn't catch on.
|Stencil your lips!|
The 1920s displays were book-ended with what came before, and after.
Needless to say, both Cate and I loved this suit. There may even have been a discussion along the lines of, "I'll distract the staff, you run off with the mannequin"! It has clearly lost its original belt buckle, but is still a thing of beauty, with wonderful details.
|Too small and prong-less buckle, and fabulous pockets|
Cate is inspired to make her own version, and I'm really looking forward to seeing it.
So that's the fashion, what about the photography?
The final room contains fashion studies by James Abbe, an American photographer who was based in Paris for most of the 1920s.
|Dancer Anna Ludmilla (born Jean Caley), 1927|
|The Brox Sisters, sharing a hat (and possibly a dress), 1925|
Continuing the theme of wanting to recreate items from the exhibition, I'd love to make this hat. It's described as, "green felt with felt gardenia, edged in silver and stitched in silver thread and available then from Louise Marsey".
|Gilda Grey, 1925|
Finally in this epic post, another hat. This turned up in one of the Pathé News clips being shown. I spotted the pinched detail in the crown, similar to my purple hat, and had to watch the whole sequence several times to get a decent photo!
|Hat with folded crown|
1920s Jazz Age Fashion and Photographs runs until 15 January, so if you're in London, why not take a break from Christmas shopping or the sales - it's well worth a visit.