Anyone following Downton Abbey on TV will have enjoyed the beautiful evening wear featured on yesterday’s episode. 1920s evening gowns and accessories, influenced by the opulent stage designs created by Léon Bakst for the Ballet Russes and by the more exotic elements of Art Deco style, are among the most stunning fashions of the 20th century.
Early in the decade evening gowns were long, clinging and feminine, worn low on the calf or ankle-length. Bodices were short-sleeved or sleeveless, often layered, shaped into a plunging V-shape at the back. or styled along classical lines, worn off one shoulder or fastened with sparkling diamanté or metallic chain straps. Fashionable materials were floating chiffon, gleaming silk or sumptuous velvet, in rich colours or dramatic black ornamented with glittering beads.
This elegant early-1920s evening dress is formed of black beaded net layered over black silk and has chiffon kimono-style sleeves. From: http://www.1860-1960.com/
By the mid-1920s jazz music and energetic dancing were all the rage and flapper dance frocks mirrored this trend. Short, narrow dresses featured undulating hemlines or swaying fringes, were slit at the sides or layered with multiple strips of material, to accentuate movement. Shimmering silks and gleaming silver or gold lamés embroidered with lustrous pearls, shining sequins, bright beads and glinting metallic threads reflected light and created an effect of sparkling brilliance. Fashionable late-1920s evening colours ranged from bold black and dazzling white, through Nile green and sky blue to hot orange and begonia.
This vibrant late-1920s flapper dance frock with vandyked hem is formed of a red underslip beneath a sheer red silk chiffon overdress decorated with cobalt-blue beads. From: http://www.1860-1960.com/
Fashionable 1920s evening accessories included cloaks, shawls, feather boas, tiaras, bandeaux, dance shoes, slave bangles, pendant earrings, decorative bags and cosmetics compacts, fans and cigarette holders.
1920s silver brocade dance shoes from http://www.1860-1960.com/
A complete chapter on 1920s evening wear features in my new book, ’Fashion in the 1920s’ (Shire Library, 2013): http://www.shirebooks.co.uk/store/Fashion-in-the-1920s_9780747813088