Fashion Fridays: The Roaring 20s

I awoke last Friday morning to a series of frantic-sounding emails from the newspaper’s editor in chief. Did you know about this? Are you covering it? Can you take photos? Further investigation and a couple of emails later, I learned that Clare Sauro, curator of the Drexel Historic Costume Collection, was hosting a special seminar that afternoon.Ā “No,” “Now I am!” and “Yes!” were my answers.

The Style section of the Triangle is a fairly new entity, only having been around since fall of last year. At this point we only publish three issues a term, so I was flattered that I was contacted directly to cover a breaking story (the A&E editor was carbon copied on these emails as well, but I was willing to fight her for it). I briefly considered sending out a mass email to my contributors who, though I appreciate a great deal, are not the most responsive people I’ve had the pleasure of working with. So off I went, with my Moleskine in one hand and my Nikon in the other, to report on the first ever Fashion Friday seminar.

Myself, along with about a dozen attendees, were guided into the costume collection’s new state-of-the-art storage facility. According to Clare, the container units we have in the URBN center are the same ones used by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Met’s Costume Institute. Laid out on display were only a select few of the Costume Collection’s items which date back to the 1920s.

One of the most novel items on display was a copy book from importer Harry Angelo. These books contained illustrations of couture dresses from leading European designers and were sent to independent dressmakers in the United States. Dressmakers could select and order a dress kit that came complete with a pattern, fabric, and trims, which they would assemble themselves and sell as a designer piece!

A donor, who happened to be in attendance, recently gifted the collection a series of small enamel handbags made by the premiere producer of the time. They were small enough to hold a woman’s makeup compact and lipstick tube, because that was all she needed for a night out. It was unheard of for a young woman to carry around money.

Clare was also able to determine the how early in the decade these beaded dresses would have been worn based solely on their hemlines! A dress with a more constricting shape would not have been worn during the height of the Charleston dance craze.

But what may have been the crowning jewel of the collection was a coral encrusted evening dress designed by Hubert de Givenchy and originally worn by Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco.

Fashion Fridays hosted by the DHCC will continue to run as a quarterly event throughout the rest of the year, and students will be able to purchase tickets at a discounted price. The next event is slated for around Valentine’s Day and may feature the collection’s selection of vintage lingerie!

-Words and photos by Courtney Denton



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