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Art Deco Fashion    by Suzanne Lussier order for
Art Deco Fashion
by Suzanne Lussier
Order:  USA  Can
Bulfinch, 2003 (2003)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Suzanne Lussier, a curator in furniture, textiles and fashion at the V&A Museum, gives us a fascinating historical perspective (including sixty color photographs) on Art Deco fashion, a combination of 'exoticism and modernity'. The author defines Art Deco as 'an aesthetic in vogue between 1909 and 1939 which was adopted in architecture, the decorative arts, textiles and fashion.' She speaks of the catalytic influence of the Ballets Russes in 1909, and tells us that both the general liberalism of the 1920s and the emancipation of women were central to the development of this artistic movement.

We learn about many famous designers, from Paul Poiret to Madeleine Vionnet, Gabrielle Chanel and Sonia Delaunay (through this period Paris remained the fashion capital of the world). Lussier shows us the influence of historical events on what was worn. World War I dictated practical styles, rationing shortened dress lengths, and post-war exuberance created a demand for the exotic. The growing popularity of sports required freedom of movement in clothing. The Bolshevik Revolution brought Russian embroiderers to Paris, resulting in the embroidering of materials, as well as use of a combination of fabric and fur. Exotic influences on dress also came from China and Japan, ancient Egypt and Africa.

Everyone has heard of Gabrielle Chanel, and we learn here that she drew 'her ideas from the social circles of her lovers' and, by the end of the 1920s 'had established the 'basics' of modern fashion'. There are introductions to Fashion and the Avant-Garde, to Italian Futurists and Russian Constructivists. And it's not all dresses and coats. There are sections on Art Deco Hats, Bags, Shoes, Make-up and Hair styles. We learn about the development of Fashion Illustration and Fashion Photography and about Art Deco styles in the cinema (fashion made an even more significant statement in early silent films than it does in the movies today).

Though fashion is a topic that does not usually hold my interest, I was most intrigued by its inter-relationship with history, as described here. I also found it fascinating how so much of the basics of modern dress design arose during this period - and given the cyclical nature of fashion, some of the specific styles are sure to show up again soon. Overall, I recommend this book as a beautifully illustrated, informative introduction to Art Deco Fashion.

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