Special Exhibitions GalleryFebruary 7 -
April 19, 2014
|Wood Carlson Co., tuxedo, black wool, 1935, USA, gift of Kay Kerr Uebel, 89.65.9 / Gown, metallic, silk, circa 1935, USA, gift of Mrs. Jessie L. Hill, 93.71.12|
Despite a dire financial and political environment, the 1930s was a period of great stylistic achievement and technical innovation in design. In contrast to the preceding Edwardian era - in which stiff, structured clothes dominated high fashion – 1930s garments were softer, minimally ornamented, elegantly proportioned, and reflected the streamlined art moderne aesthetic. Presenting both men’s and women’s fashions, Elegance in an Age of Crisis: Fashions of the 1930s celebrates some of the most innovative and beautifully designed clothing made in the twentieth century.
Elegance in an Age of Crisis reveals the grand transformation that took place in women’s and men’s fashion. A synthesis of cutting-edge technology and the finest hand-craftsmanship was necessary to forge a truly modern aesthetic in clothing. Significant advances in dressmaking and tailoring techniques helped achieve truly “modern” clothing, one that allowed for movement and highlighted the “natural,” well-proportioned, and classically idealized body. Technical innovations in textile production transformed what was possible for designers: wider width fabrics, for example, gave dressmakers a means to rethink and refine draping techniques, while featherweight textiles lent garments new suppleness and flexibility. Even the look and feel of many sports clothes, such as swimwear, underwent profound change due to the creation of new synthetic materials.
The look of the 1930s was an international phenomenon. Menswear tailoring innovations in London and Naples paralleled breakthroughs in haute couture draping in Paris as well as custom design in New York, Havana, and Shanghai. Hollywood, too, played a role in defining and popularizing this glamorous new look. Clothing made in these cities for clients from the United States, Latin American, Europe, and Asia is on view in the exhibition.
This exhibition is organized by Patricia Mears, deputy director of The Museum at FIT, and G. Bruce Boyer, leading menswear writer and editor. A publication accompanies the exhibition, edited by exhibition curator Patricia Mears and published by Yale University Press.