I recently had the pleasure of going to the Night and Day exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey. The exhibition explores the day and evening styles of the 1930s and is complemented by photographs of the stars of that decade.
The 1930s was a period of social change, seeing the end of the excesses of the Jazz Age of the 1920s and seeing the beginning of World War II. These changes were echoed in the clothing of the decade, which was inspired by the Art Deco and Moderne styles, but also by the surrealism art movement as well as the sensuality of the silver screen sirens.
Living in the 1930s meant dealing with extremes, from the depths of poverty for many people, to dazzling parties for the wealthy. The glamour of the era was reflected in the evening wear.
The sleeves of the black crepe gown above drape beautifully and are covered in sequins, while the dress below uses sequinned clusters to create a shiny polka dot effect.
Dancing became a social pastime in the 1930s, inspired by the glamour of the Hollywood movies. Liquid satin and bias cuts helped to create fluidity and drama, with fitted waists and greater volume in the sleeves creating a sculpted effect that oozed glamour.
I was amazed by the fineness of the silks on show and the ability to create such technical gowns with such a difficult fabric to work with, yet with the outcome of sheer effortless beauty.
The dresses were very feminine and the red dress above has pretty frill details that float when you move.
I love the flesh and peach tones of the era. You can see how the bias cut works on the dress below (right) as well as the decliacy of the detail in the criss-crossing straps on the neckline.
As film stars became key fashion influencers, Hollywood costume designers took influence from Parisian design, and Paris designers created fashions inspired by Hollywood, with exaggerated detail.
This heavily embellished jade evening coat is embroidered with white beads and shells in the Rococo revival fashion of the late 30s and was designed by Norman Hartnell.
The 1930s saw the growth of mass manufacture and cheaper ready-to-wear fashion. Printed dress fabrics made of rayon became very popular, having the practical advantage of being cheaper than embroidered fabrics and less likely to show stains.
The brown, pink and yellow leaf print dress below has a pretty cowl neck and long narrow sleeves.
The brown and yellow circle print below has yellow edging at the neckline. The addition of a belt adds a pretty detail to the dress and cinches in the waist.
Home dressmaking was very popular in the 30s and the yellow floral dress below was most probably hand made. The collar has a decorative crocheted edge.
Going abroad was too expensive for most people and by the mid 30s seaside resorts within the UK were popular, with colourful advertisements in newspapers and brochures to lure people in. My favourite outfit in this section of the exhibition was the coat and bathing suit below, which features an abstract marine print by Crysede, a Cornish fabric printing company. The bathing suit is made of wool but uses Lastex, which revolutionised the fit of swimwear.
I also love the stylish outfit below which consists of white cropped trousers with a fabulous red spot handkerchief halter top. Casual trousers became a favourite with active women in the 1930s.
Although this exhibition is small, it is filled with beautiful gems from the 1930s and is a joy to visit.
The Fashion and Textile Museum is the only museum in the UK solely dedicated to showcasing developments in contemporary fashion as well as providing inspiration, support and training for those working in the industry and was founded by Zandra Rhodes in 2003.