Roaring Twenties Fashion

 With the recent release of Baz Lurhman’s film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, 1920s fashion has been taking over clothing stores and style magazines.  The film’s extravagant costumes reflect the excesses of the period while becoming part of the setting and characters. If you visit the Morris Museum from July 18 to October 27, you can see over 200 years of women’s fashion in our exhibition An Evening of Elegance, including a series of dresses from the roaring twenties that could very well have been worn at one of Jay Gatsby’s parties. 

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The 1920s was a decade of fashion revolution that changed the course of women’s clothing. During the period, hemlines were getting shorter, women were losing their tight-fitting corsets, and waistlines were dropping to a woman’s hips.  Dramatic beaded and sequined fashions were quite different from the structured dresses and tailored jackets that were used to cover women’s legs and décolletage at the turn of the century.

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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s magnum opus, which takes place in 1922 Long Island, explores the themes of decadence, idealism, and socio-economic class structure, all of which are reflected in the film’s characters and their fashion choices. Jordan Baker, played by Elizabeth Debicki, is a female golfer who personifies the growth of gender equality since the passing of the women’s suffrage in 1920.  She wears a pantsuit in her opening scene and has a short bob-style haircut. Isla Fisher, Myrtle Wilson’s character, wears clothes that  embody the nightlife of the 1920s: bright, flashy, and a bit scandalous. Daisy Buchanan, played by Carry Mulligan, wears lady-like expensive dresses to represent the wealth of the upper class during the decade. These costumes, which were designed by internationally famous Miuccia Prada, reflect Daisy’s femininity and trophy-wife status, as they are adorned with crystals, lace, bows, and beads. 

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So if you loved the dramatic, ornate costumes in The Great Gatsby, come visit the Morris Museum’s An Evening of Elegance exhibition to experience authentic 1920s fashion, as well as other beautiful pieces from American women’s fashion history. And if you’d like to learn more even more about the dresses, join us on August 8 at 6:00 for a discussion on the collection with our curators.

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