Is Fashion, Beauty and Beauty, Fashion?

Or, If clothing is both pretty and functional, does that mean it cannot be fashionable?

In doing research for my 1930s set ongoing fiction project, I’ve come to the startling realization that the decade was not considered, well, all that fashionable.  I am using fashion in a very specific sense here, to mean not merely what is worn but rather what is influential in clothing design beyond the moment at hand. 

I noticed this when thumbing through my historical fashion bible: Fashion: The Collection of the Kyoto Institute (A History from the 18th Century to the 20th Century)

Specifically, the section on the 1930s is about 10 pages while the section on the 1920s is about 50. 

This tells me several things.  First, that clothing in the 1920s was varied, interesting, innovative, and influential.  Second, that clothing in the 1930s was not.  You could give a representative sample and cover the major design developments in a handful of pages.

What this also tells me–perhaps a confirmation bias, since from looking at photographs and design plates from the decade I already considered it as such–is that it was a very WEARABLE time period. The clothes were for the most part simple, underwear was uncomplicated, lengths and styles were practical.  This was the era of the morning dress, the afternoon dress, the cocktail dress, and the evening gown.  A morning dress could last through the afternoon, an afternoon dress through cocktails, a cocktail dress through the evening, if necessary.  The fabrics were practical, the adornments limited. 

This was the era of the beach pyjamas and specific sportswear for riding, tennis, golf, because ladies could do those things freely now.  It was the era of hats and gloves and reasonable heels (2-3″ instead of our ridiculous modern 4-5).

The clothes were beautiful.  They were flattering to the basic shape of women’s bodies.  But they were not that innovative or so over-the-top that they shaped fashion for decades to come.  No wonder I look at all the silhouettes and think, “I want that”–they are so unfashionable as to be timeless.

Yes, please.  More of this.


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Filed under Ramblings, Research

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