Jazz Age re­turns as fash­ion loosens up

The Washington Times Daily - - Life -

Fash­ion in­flu­ences from the Jazz Age are mak­ing some noise this spring. Dropped­waist dresses, sporty knits, fringe and long neck­laces are among the trends born from the ground­break­ing, looser look that first emerged in the 1920s. They’re a blend of an un­fussy at­ti­tude that still main­tains a pol­ished ap­pear­ance.

Ev­ery­thing old al­ways seems to be­come new again in the sea­sonal style cy­cles, and the time seems right to re­visit this era as peo­ple are once again look­ing to have a lit­tle fun and are eas­ing the tight grip on their wal­lets.

“There’s a lit­tle op­ti­mism that comes with the ’20s,” said Mered­ith Melling Burke, Vogue’s se­nior mar­ket di­rec­tor. “You have the color, the 3-D em­bel­lish­ment. It all feels up­beat, and it all plays into a more care­free at­ti­tude.”

The ex­u­ber­ance of the time — and es­pe­cially in the clothes worn for nightlife and danc­ing — is ap­peal­ing, but you also run the risk of an over-the-top look that can­not be sus­tained for a long time, said Harold Koda, cu­ra­tor in charge of the Cos­tume In­sti­tute at the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Mu­seum of Art. That’s what hap­pened af­ter the stock mar­ket crash in 1929 when any­thing flashy sud­denly looked wrong, he ex­plained.

The clothes and at­ti­tude of 2012 are a smarter ver­sion of what was of­fered in the flap­per days; it’s all be­ing done in a more ap­proach­able, thought­ful way, Mr. Koda said.

But he said he sees a so­ci­o­log­i­cal link be­tween then and now when it comes to peo­ple test­ing boundaries. “There was a gen­er­a­tional change hap­pen­ing. It was about los­ing the Ed­war­dian re­stric­tions then, but there was a sense of so­cial op­por­tu­nity that’s in the air now.”

He also can draw some par­al­lels in fash­ion trends. Rich, lux­u­ri­ous tex­tiles were so im­por­tant — as they are now — and the fa­vorite sil­hou­ette was long and lan­guid, just like you’ll see on the cur­rent cat­walks.

“It’s a drift of cloth over a re­ally el­e­gant body,” Mr. Koda de­scribed. “It’s dec­o­rated with em­broi­deries and fringe, or any kind of or­na­ment. The woman is wear­ing a sen­sual ex­pres­sion of tex­tile and tech­nique rather than high­light­ing the fine points of her body. The look sug­gests an­i­ma­tion . . . but it’s a straightup and straight-down line in supple fab­rics, satin, ge­or­gette or chif­fon. It’s not an os­ten­ta­tious sex­i­ness, but you could see it might ap­peal to women who are be­ing at­ten­tive to their fit­ness. It’s an el­e­gant way to show off what you’ve been do­ing on the Pi­lates ma­chine.”

De­signer Tory Burch’s new col­lec­tion is full of the chemise dresses, sleeve­less tops and tiered skirts that were ground­break­ing in the 1920s. She took her in­spi­ra­tion from the then-pop­u­lar sea­side French re­sort of Deauville.

Other de­sign­ers, in­clud­ing Marc Ja­cobs and Ralph Lau­ren, tapped into the menswear-in­spired styles and cloche hats, too. There were some hand­ker­chief hem­lines as well, which is how Coco Chanel, Jean Pa­tou and Jeanne Lan­vin first be­gan to ad­just the col­lec­tive eye to­ward a shorter, less ma­tronly skirt dur­ing the youth of to­day’s great-grand­moth­ers.

“I love the ef­fort­less­ness of the era. It was the dawn of mod­ern sports­wear,” Ms. Burch said. Even then, there was an eye-catch­ing mix­ing and match­ing of menswear-in­spired jack­ets and trousers with very fem­i­nine dresses in pretty makeup colors and del­i­cate prints — a look that’s equally rel­e­vant now, she ob­served.

Ms. Burch’s ad­vice on how to wear a ’20s-in­spired style with­out ap­pear­ing cos­tumey is to push those un­ex­pected com­bi­na­tions: Try a silk dress with a leather jacket or a printed dress that’s dot­ted with se­quins. That should be just enough to push you out of your com­fort zone and into the trend, she said. It has to all come off ef­fort­lessly, though, never look­ing like you are try­ing too hard, she added.

If in doubt, start with the long neck­lace.

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