Sunday, 17 February 2008
Les Années Folles
On this sunny Sunday afternoon, I wandered down to the Musée Galliera, museum of fashion of the city of Paris, to catch the Années Folles exhibition before it ends next week (it has since been extended to March 30th). With queues round the block since it opened in October, I'm delighted I managed to catch it.
The show took us through the Roaring Twenties in style. The floaty, free shapes of Poiret and Fortuny - whose Greek-inspired Delphos dress weathered changing styles for nearly forty years as a wardrobe staple beloved of stars of the time like Isadora Duncan and Sarah Bernhardt - cut for women like Poiret's wife Denise, celebrating a new-found independence
are well-known precursors to the flapper look, widely seen doing the Charleston or the 'Boston Hésitation' in the nightclubs and dancehalls of Pigalle and Montparnasse. With economic prosperity, came easier travel and trade, reflected in the Orientalisim and exoticism of Asian-inspired beading, African prints and Indonesian batik, along with fragrances of the time like Guerlain's Shalimar or even Chanel No 5, heavy, serious scents which trail after the wearer and left their mark in a world which was witnesses women's first tentative steps out of the shadow of their men.
With new modernity, came new fabrics like Chanel's silk jersey and low-cut waists on fluid, comfortable outfits, for active women who now drove cars, went dancing, played tennis and skied with their male counterparts, although they would have to wait another 20 years for the vote in France. Velvet, silk, fur all oozed the luxe of the lifestyles of the young and well-off, who could afford 'afternoon' outfits along with their morning dresses, to see them through a tea dance or garden party, to the cocktail hour and beyond as boundaries blurred and fabrics and finishes traditionally considered 'evening' were seen during daylight hours. In a world of decadence, opulence and smoking, satin pyjamas and trouser suits soon took over the from the afternoon dress as de riguer for lounging.
The emergence of garçonne style, an androgynous look with masculine tailoring, ties, jackets and sometimes even trousers was another controversial style step, which spawned unisex fragrances like Jean Patous's Le Sien, decades before Clavin Klein came up with CK1. For all the severity of the Louise Brooks-style bob and the newly-chic black, previously only seen for funerals, the sheer volume of beading and embroidery in the show and the energy of the soirée outfits against a backdrop of jazz and Josephine Baker, brought home the hedonism and excitement of the inter-war period in Paris.
Musée Galliera, Les années folles (1919-1929) 20th Oct 2007 - 30th March 2008
10 avenue Pierre-1er-de-Serbie, Paris XVI
10am to 6pm