"Is the Roaring 20s just around the corner?" the specialized fashion publication WWD wondered a few months ago when identifying some signs of this aesthetic on the catwalk. The series and films set in that decade have contributed to mythologize that historical period, immediately after the First World War, when part of society wanted to leave the horror of war behind and enjoy life while they could. In the collective imagination, this hedonistic aesthetic is represented with trends in a festive key: flappers dressed in sparkling dresses, women with short hair decorated with jeweled headbands and sophisticated feather boas that, together with the smoke from the cigarettes, hide the faces of the invited to parties. However, as the art historian specialized in fashion and clothing Carlos Sánchez de Medina explains, the wardrobe of that decade also had its dose of sobriety. "The archetypes that we see in the different film versions show us that most festive and crazy part that was lived in some big cities like New York or Paris. All that excess of feathers, fringes and sequins is associated with dance clubs, parties in mansions and a feeling of debauchery and fun. There are many other more simple and austere tendencies, especially in countries like England, Italy or Spain where the nobility or religion still had an important weight".
A century later, and in a pandemic context that has not yet been left behind, the nods to the 20s aesthetic do not seem a coincidence. There is no certainty about how what seems to be the end of the coronavirus crisis will unfold, but the feeling of fatigue is transversal. The professor of sociology and medicine at Yale University, Nicholas A. Christakis, predicted in the book Apollo's Arrow, published last year, that by 2024 we could experience a new roaring 20s in what, in his opinion, will be a return to "sexual licentiousness, excessive spending, and a reversal of religiosity." Today's world looks radically different from the world of a century ago, but at least in the field of fashion, looking back decades has always been a common exercise and, in these heydays of vintage commerce, in addition to what more lucrative.
As Sánchez de Medina explains, "the 20s of the last century were characterized by freedom. Movie stars, nouveau riche, gangsters... the new tastes were no longer imposed by the nobility and the most important transformation in history took place of fashion. The female body begins to show itself (legs, arms, back...), the shapes are blurred for the benefit of comfort". That comfort is evident in the loose-fitting dresses, finished with fringes or feathers and much more comfortable than other silhouettes popularized in later decades, such as the corseted New Look. In the last century, Life magazine illustrator Russell Patterson helped promote that flapper aesthetic through his now-iconic drawings. Film adaptations of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel The Great Gatsby equally reflect that unattainable-looking wardrobe. In the version directed by Baz Luhrmann in 2013, the person in charge of Carey Mulligan's outfits won the Oscar in the category of Best Costume Design. These relaxed dresses are repeated in Chanel's PreFall 2022 collection. Among them, a long black model in combined fabric, loose lines and cut at hip height. The garment is combined with long gloves, another recurring accessory from those years.
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In the proposals devised by María Grazia Chiuri for the new Dior season, the mini-dresses studded with shiny fringes also bear a certain resemblance to the creations that seemed to take on a life of their own when flappers in Parisian clubs waved them to the sound of the Charleston. But what is perhaps the most striking element of those years is present in Paco Rabbane's spring/summer 2022 collection, in which Julien Dossena proposes a jeweled skullcap revised in its most extreme version, with a star print and fringes that cover a good part of the face At Zara, irrefutable proof of the arrival of a trend in the mainstream, there is no shortage of 20s-inspired skullcaps, they opt for one with metallic appliqués and another with pearl-effect beads.
To find out if they are discreet brushstrokes or potential style hits, there is no other option but to wait. The historian specialized in fashion is skeptical about the real return of this style: "The 20s are a trend periodically. In 2012 there were many collections with this inspiration. Gucci, Carolina Herrera, Marc Jacobs, Etro... many brands opted for Art Deco and the "flapper" style (also coinciding with the latest version of "The Great Gatsby"). That now some details that remind us of this time appear again is normal but I think that it will not last too long in time. The comfort and simplicity will be a priority in the coming years, this does connect with the 20s of the last century... but on the contrary, setting up a more responsible and less polluting fashion will be increasingly necessary and this is totally opposite to the crazy 20s ”.
A growing interest?
The fashion search engine Lyst throws some information about the growing interest in this aesthetic. As they point out from the platform, in 2021 they have detected an increase in "feather garments and jewelery headdresses, especially due to the return of clothes to go out after the restrictions during the pandemic and a more hedonistic and playful vision of Fashion". And they add: "Searches for head jewelery rose 68% in December, with brands like ASOS, Area, Gucci and Akira the most popular. Feather tops, on the other hand, increased in searches by 14 % in that same month. Attico and Sleeper are two of the most searched brands on Lyst for the down trend." On the red carpet, recent examples with nods to the 20s aesthetic are few but striking. The actress Dakota Johnson dazzled last September at the Venice Film Festival with a spectacular jewel dress encrusted with pear-shaped crystals, a creation signed by Gucci and defined by the specialized press as a tribute to the roaring 20s. At the moment, there are 12 months left to see if this promising trend is consolidated.