Tennis Dress | c. 1926
A few weeks ago I was considering doing theme Thursdays again on Defunct Fashion the first being Gatsby inspired and I found a nakey pic of my great grandmother! She was a Ziegfeld Girl from age 17-21 in the late 20s. There was a story printed in a NYC paper saying that she was Ziegfeld’s highest kicker and he had her legs insured for $1 million. I don’t know if that’s true but it sounds like a great story from the roaring 20s. She would later run off and marry a photographer against her parent’s wishes, they moved to Brooklyn then finally settled in San Jose, CA and had many children and then I came around a few years later. My mother adored her and speaks of Nana Consuelo’s strict morals and etiquette. I wonder if she had a stack of these pictures from her theatre days hidden in box in a closet?
So here is the picture I found from 1925 and a picture hanging in my parent’s house, decked out for a premiere. (Isn’t that coat the bee’s knees?)
Wedding Ensemble | Yves Saint Laurent | c. 1976
House of Worth | c. 1882
This dress is in the Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity exhibition currently at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is stunning in person. The train has wide pleats of satin and tulle that fan out perfectly. I could not look away. I just wanted to keep staring but some 55 year old mother and her precocious, test tube, 5 year old daughter cock blocked me and pressed their faces against the glass.
Inaugural dress of Fay Webb Gardner, 1928-29
From the North Carolina History Museum
Mourning Dress | c. 1910
This is from the collection of Heather Firbank (1888-1954), daughter of the MP Sir Thomas Firbank and sister of the novelist Ronald Firbank. The dress is a half-mourning dress, meaning that it was worn in the later stages of mourning. Mourning etiquette was well controlled and what could be worn at each stage was rigidly prescribed.
Jet Mourning Tiara | c. 1880-90
Jet is the fossilised remains of driftwood. In Britain, the main source is Whitby, in Yorkshire. It became particularly popular in mourning jewellery in the mid 19th century.
The custom of wearing mourning dress was encouraged by Queen Victoria’s prolonged mourning after the death of her husband Albert in 1861. Formal mourning required black crepe or bombazine clothes along with ‘a few trinkets to accentuate the general sombreness of the costume’. This tiara shows that jet or its substitutes was worn at the highest level of society: only those above a certain social class would have had the occasion to wear a tiara. It is interesting that it is made of ‘French jet’, a cast glass substitute for jet. As supplies of jet were not sufficient to keep up with the demand, dark cast glass known as ‘French jet’ or ‘Vauxhall glass’ was often used.