Louise Brooks, 1926
a very modern, very elegant actress
Before the book is released, I was able to read Jayne Shrimpton’s own article “Puttin' on the Ritz”, in Inside History Magazine, Jan-Feb 2014. I am not that excited about whether one generation liked seams sewn on the bias or not, or whether tulle became old fashioned and jersey became popular. So it was lucky for me that Shrimpton wanted to examine the wider social and cultural historical context as a backdrop to 1920s fashion. She also wanted to consider the special clothing worn for particular occasions, such as weddings and sports. I too want to know about whether universal suffrage was achieved, how unemployment affected returned-servicemen, were progressive or conservative social values dominant in post-WW1 society and what impact did cinema have on daily life?
The wedding party 1920s
Photo credit: State Library of Queensland
Written material included popular novels, letters, diaries and memoirs. Visual images ranged from newspaper and magazine advertisements, fashion illustrations and family photographs. Shrimpton summarised her top six sources for information about 1920s fashions thus:
1. Fashion plates, produced specifically for high-end magazines like Vogue. Artists worked closely with dress and textile designers like Paul Poiret.
2. Magazines and periodicals which showed advertisements for average clothes available to the general public. Many were from great, inter-war department shops.
3. Paper garment patterns, for sewing and knitting done at home. This became hugely popular after the troops came home from WW1.
4. Surviving dresses, in antique clothing companies, shops and museums. And in my case, from grandmother who married in 1923.
5. Images and memories from family picture collections. Some were formal studio portraits with people dressed up; others were casual amateur snapshots, relaxing in the garden or on the beach. Bridal photos were a very helpful source of information.
The evidence suggests that many women thought about things other than jazz music, smoking cigarettes and driving fast cars. Flapper dresses and the "anything goes" attitude of the Roaring '20s did not define and restrict the post-World War One generation.
Echo of Paris Pattern Book