This week’s study tour trip was to the Museum at FIT for a private tour of the exhibit Elegance in an Age of Crisis. Created from pieces of the 1930s, a time torn by the Great Depression and World War, the collection delivered an unsound romanticism within its history lesson.
Representing the first sense of modern fashion, the items coordinated by Patricia Mears and Bruce Moyer demonstrated the parallels between menswear and womenswear during the time period, specifically in their construction and inspiration. Both fashions went through a dramatic transformation from the rigid Edwardian garments of the Victorian age, as attention was now called to the shape of the body. Men’s suits now featured darting and rounded shoulders for an exact fit. Women’s fashion veered from the restrictions of corsets to sleek and streamlined garments that were now making use of the popularized bias cut, enhancing the drapability of fabrics. Fabric manipulation also took decorative approach, as designers moved away from applied decoration of the 1920s, such as beading and appliqués, and used pleats and darts to create detailed designs within fabric itself.
The collection featured numerous notable design houses, but womenswear designer Madeleine Vionnet was the most noted by our tour guide. An advocate for fair working environments, the former child laborer was not only a creative force in fabric, but a visionary in allowing her employees paid vacations and fair wages. Vionnet in claimed with “inventing” the bias cut. She drew inspiration from Roman and Greek classicism, a style that became increasingly popular throughout the decade.
My favorite piece in the collection was an orange resortwear dress by Vionnet. The stunning floor-length piece featured cutouts individually stitched to create a 3D effect.