Art Deco dresses from the roaring twenties Dazzle at the Winchester Discovery Centre

By Richard Moss | 17 December 2010
a photo of a female mannequin with a golden dress on it
A 1920s golden chiffon dress - one of several flapper dresses on display in Winchester
Exhibition: Dazzle, 1920s Dresses, Winchester Discovery Centre, Winchester, until January 16 2011

The roaring twenties were a high point for many things in popular culture - from music to cinema to literature - but one of the most recognisable and enduring things about the decadent decade was the influence of Art Deco fashion.

Spurred on by the innovations in art, ballet and film, female fashion developed a new simplicity combined with a richness of fabric and colour that drew on exotic sources. Classy but simple designs, dropped waists, short hem lines and exquisite decorations became the strikingly iconic themes of this dramatic era.

Now the Gallery at Winchester Discovery Centre is heading back to these exciting times with Dazzle, an exhibition of classic Art Deco evening dresses selected from the collection of Hampshire County Council's Museums Service.

Although the twenties were a period of relative equality in fashion that saw middle class women copy the simpler, straight and up and down styles of the 1920s dress, the quality of workmanship demonstrated in the 25 pieces on show reveals them to be the costume of women of wealth, status and glamour.

“The black silk 'peacock’ dress is possibly the most stunning, with its black, white and silver beads arranged like feathers,” says Curator Kirsty Nutbeen. “Equally amazing is the pink silk chiffon dress, lavishly decorated in glass bugle beads, pearlised sequins and silver sequins.”

Elsewhere a procession of silver lame, green silk and golden beadwork shows how women of standing liked to dress.

Complemented by hand-picked objects on loan from Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove and Portsmouth City Council Museum, Dazzle gives visitors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see some preciously preserved pieces of fashion history.
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