If the thirties are remembered at all these days, they are remembered for the rise of Adolf Hitler and for the terrible course of events that led to the 2nd World War. So large is the shadow of that dreadful conflict that it seems to have overshadowed almost everything else that took place in the decade that gave us the Lindy Hop, the Volkswagen Beetle and the jet engine.
The fact that, for the most part, people in the 1930s lived ordinary, unremarkable lives – that they shopped, ate & drank, danced and went to the movies – seems to have been lost in the headlong rush to reshape the decade as one long buildup to war.
In reality, the thirties were a vibrant time for culture as new technology, media and consumer products changed the way people lived. The relatively new medium of the cinema was booming, the jazz age was in full swing and in fashion, the influence of Hollywood was evident with stars like Katharine Hepburn leading the way.
Now, a new exhibition at the Fashion & Textile Museum is looking to shine a light on that lost decade, revealing the way people lived, worked and played during the period through the medium of fashion photography. The exhibition takes the visitor on a dizzying tour of the nightclubs, cinemas and streets of the period, showing how people typically dressed in each location.
The exhibition explores the changes in society that were taking place during the decade, with the rise of the department store and the dramatic changes in how women in particular dressed.
Female icons like Marlene Dietrich were challenging ideas of how women should be with her movies and her outspoken views. Dietrich was famous for saying: ‘I dress for myself. Not for the image, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men.’ It was no surprise then that the actress would later earn applause and acclaim for wearing a tuxedo.
At the same time, Katherine Hepburn was gaining a reputation for wearing menswear and for making wide legged trousers and shirts popular among women.
Night and Day: 1930s Fashion Photographs is on at the Fashion and Textile Museum until 20th January 2019.
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