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Art Deco Style. Interwar Period Fashion Design

Exhibition of costumes from the private collection of Alexandre Vassiliev (Paris)

4. AUGUST31. OCTOBER. 2010
Museum of Decorative Arts and Design: the Great Hall

Preses konference
Art Deco stils – starpkaru perioda mode
4. AUGUST. 2010
Art Deco. Ekskursija
3. SEPTEMBER. 2010
Art Deco. Radošā darbnīca pieaugušajiem
Diāna Dimza Dimme
3. SEPTEMBER. 2010
Art Deco stils un latviešu māksla
Ilzes Martinsones lekcija
24. SEPTEMBER. 2010
Laimīgais stils un skaistums
Ģimenes dienas pasākums
3. OCTOBER. 2010
„Art Deco stils – starpkaru perioda mode”
Aleksandra Vasiļjeva kolekcijas izstādē
7. OCTOBER. 2010
Art Deco sieviete, māja un interjers
Renātes Čaupales lekcija
16. OCTOBER. 2010
Art Deco stils – starpkaru perioda mode
Tikšanās ar izstādes kuratori Alīdu Krēsliņu
24. OCTOBER. 2010
20.gs. 20.-30. gadu skaistuma kopšana šodien
Daces Brantes lekcija
24. OCTOBER. 2010
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The exhibition “Art Deco Style. Interwar Period Fashion Design” from the private collection of Alexandre Vassilev (Paris) is dedicated to the European fashion development in the Interwar period (1918-1939). The display comprises 80 outfits and more than 200 accessories, as well as photos and paintings related to the 1920s and 30s, telling the story about manifold changes in the fashion of the time in Europe. The leading style of this turbulent time was Art Deco. This artistic and design style was named after the 1925 exhibition in Paris: Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes

The end of World War I lead to significant changes in the political map of the world. Due to the collapse of big empires: Russia, Austro Hungarian, Ottoman Empire and Germany new states appeared – Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, the Baltic States. This was a factor, which, indirectly, had an impact on the fashion development of the time, because in the field of fashion design there was growing interest in the East European folk motifs. The time was a period of immense social upheaval, particularly for women. It was the beginning of Women's emancipation movement, at last women won a possibility to obtain higher education, vote and get a divorce. This consequently resulted in the rise of their self-assurance wishing to prove that they can stand on equal positions with men professionally and socially.
Corsets were no longer in fashion, as it was already predicted time ago by Paul Poiret (a Parisian fashion icon at the beginning of the 20th century). This lead to the changes: dress outlines moved to a narrow, relaxed, almost semi-fitted silhouette. Although many women continued the habit of wearing corsets, the tubular clothing silhouettes no longer required it. This kind of silhouette was in fashion all through the 1920s. 
Heavy toll of men on battlefields during World War I lead to a quantitative misbalance between men and women and created intense rivalry among women.  
In the 1920s sexiness and the wish to denude came into fashion and, in fact, it is impossible to find any analogy to this phenomenon in the whole fashion history. Backless dresses, bare arms and legs are the main elements of the Art Deco style expression in its first decade. Hemlines climbed up to the knee by 1925, but the public obsession with jazz and new dances, such as foxtrot, ragtime and charleston widely opened doors for attractive fashionable silk dresses with bead, glass bead, glitter and fake gem embroideries which made women conspicuous even at night or diminished room lighting in jazz clubs. The bright Wampum style make up was in trend following the images of the Hollywood silent movie stars. The image was accentuated also with bright colour accessories: bead embroidered purses and bags and clutch bags, long pearl strings, diadems, fake diamond and gem brooches, cigarette holders, cloche hats, ostrich feather boas, silk stockings in different colours, shoes on French heels. 

Fashion silhouettes were created by numerous fashion designers of this decade: Jean Patou, Gabriele Chanel, Jeanne Lanvin, Callot Soeurs, Worth etc., garments by which are exhibited in this Riga show.  
A significant role in the creation of the Art Deco style was also played by Russian emigrants who after the Revolution of 1917 found their asylum in Paris. Among them are fashion designers Erte and Sonya Delaunay, as well as fashion houses Kitmir, Irfe, Adair, Yteb, Caris, also represented in the exhibition. 

The year of the change in the Art Deco style was the fall of 1929, when New York experienced the Wall Street financial crisis, which further lead to the world economic crisis and the Great Depression. The fashion industry reacted immediately to the limited purchasing power of its clients. Expensive, bead embroidered dresses came out of fashion. The silhouette also changed – it was tighter, prolonged; dresses were made from monochrome colour fabrics, frequently black and white responding to the style seen in the movies, and formed the base for the fashion of the 1930s. The new image of the woman was far from the “sexy wampum style” which was popular in the previous decade. Instead came the style which was close to the totalitarian ideas of the pre-war time, dictated by Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and Franco – the woman had to be a positive member of the society, mother and, frequently, a member of the ruling party. In the early 1930s the silhouettes of dresses became more feminine with accentuated bust, a heightened waistline and hips. This trend reminds us the antique neoclassical design which was characteristic to the fashion of the pre-war period, which, thanks to the introduction of a diagonal cut, was started by the brilliant fashion designer Madeleine Vionnet; one of her dresses is also on the show in the exhibition. 
The beauty standard of the 1920s and 30s was the Swedish - American movie star Greta Garbo. Women's padded shoulder dresses repeated her broad shoulder fashion trend. Fake eyelashes to imitate her looks came into fashion. 
During the pre-war period the Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli becomes a generator of exciting ideas and the leader of the field. Parisian fashion design follows her surrealistic fantasies and adopts her love for fucshia colour.  
In the 2nd half of the 1930s Riga becomes the fashionable centre of the Baltics. The most outstanding fashion salons in Riga were: K.Plauže, Kronbergs, Lambergs.

But the most significant Hatters' salons were: Dzenits, Zvirbulis, Dagelis, Rašel Ribuš etc.
The advancement of fashion market in Latvia was interrupted by World War II and the Soviet occupation, but some of the reminiscences of the Riga Interwar period fashion are fixed in a documentary, which is demonstrated in the exhibition. 

The exhibition is organized in cooperation with the Latvian National Museum of Art and the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design. 

I extend thanks for the financial support of the exhibition to: 
Aizkraukles banka, 
Latvian Culture Capital Foundation, 
Culture Department of the Riga City Council
and others.


The author of the display is Alexandre Vassiliev – an outstanding fashion historian, a scenographer and collector. He is the author of 27 books on fashion history, as well as documentaries, a lecturer and a developer of projects. Alexandre Vassilev was born in Moscow in 1958, but in 1982 he immigrated to Paris. In 2009 he visited Riga to organize the exhibition “Fashion of the Victorian Era” in the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design where he showed a part of his collection. In 2000 he made a stage setting for the ballet “Nutcracker” at the Latvian National Opera in Riga. He delivers lectures and leads seminars on fashion all over the world, including Riga. The exhibition “Art Deco style” was previously exhibited in Paris, Sydney, Hong Kong , Tokyo, Istanbul and Moscow. 

Alīda Krēsliņa, Curator of the exhibition

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Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, 10/20 Skarnu Street, Riga, LV-1050, Latvia