The year 1938 was a period of transition from the catastrophic Great Depression to World War II. Women’s fashion was exuberant: vibrant colors, Surrealist accessories, ornate hats with minimal embellishments were key trends. However, the overall silhouette was simple, clean, and sophisticated. Hemlines began to fall down below the knees. Restrained, structured shoulders evolved into the iconic puff sleeve. Public figures such as the Duchess of Windsor inspired women in their everyday dress.
Tag: 20th century
Fashion in the 1960s became progressively more casual across all genders and ages. Womenswear followed three broad trends: a continuation of the previous decade’s ladylike elegance, the youthful styles of Mary Quant and the Space Age influence, and the late 1960s “hippie” style. Menswear saw an increasing amount of color and pattern, military influence, and new fashion icons in the form of rock stars. Children’s wear saw less change, but also became more casual and bright in color and pattern.
Fashion in the 1950s saw a clear gender divide. While men and boy’s fashion moved towards a more casual day-to-day style, women and girl’s fashion prioritized elegance, formality, and perfectly matched accessories. Couture womenswear saw rapid change with new designers such as Cristobal Balenciaga and Hubert de Givenchy disrupting the overtly feminine silhouette popularized by Christian Dior while novel prints and colors marked a playfulness in fashion for both men and women.
1930 was a transitional year. Not yet at the height of glamour reached later in the decade, designers’ 1930 collections moved away from the flapper’s boxy shape in an attempt to define the look of the modern woman who must navigate through the Great Depression.
John Galliano impresses the fashion world at the turn of the century with this champagne-pink, punk rock inspired evening gown. The asymmetrical bias-cut silk, daring slit, and body-hugging boning make the garment sexy, intriguing, and memorable.
The Ballets Russes, a ground-breaking dance company at the beginning of the 20th century, took inspiration from ancient art and sculpture from Greece, Rome, and Egypt to create costumes, poses, and set designs as “Hymn to Apollo: The Ancient World and the Ballets Russes” explores.
With the first half of the 1940s dominated by World War II, fashion stalled. Both men and women were often seen in their uniforms during the war and if they were not, their clothes were dictated by rationing and Utility clothing. After the war, Christian Dior launched the New Look in Paris, returning women’s fashion to an overtly feminine silhouette, while men, women, and children’s clothing all began to lean towards the sporty, casual American Look.
“Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving,” on view at the Brooklyn Museum, displays a collection of her personal belongings, including clothes, cosmetics, accessories, medical devices, and paintings, allowing the audience to imagine themselves in the shoes of Kahlo.
In the 1930s, fashion saw a profound influence from films and specifically Hollywood. Men’s, women’s, and children’s styles were based on fashions seen on screen with stars like Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, and Shirley Temple among the many who directly influenced fashion. A return to conservatism after the Roaring Twenties also marked fashion during this period.
Part 1 of this essay covers the emergence of department stores in New York City during the nineteenth century. Part 2 discusses the roles of salesclerks and anonymous fashion designers who worked for department store labels.
By examining fashion modes, economical and societal fluctuations, and urban developments, this essay explores how New York City department stores changed from their initial founding as dry goods stores, developed through the turn of the twentieth century, and emerged in the interwar years.