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1920s Jazz Age: Fashion and Photographs

Start Date 18 March 2017
End Date 29 October 2017
Venue American Museum and Gardens
Location Bath, UK
Curator Dennis Nothdruft and Kate Hebert

America in the 1920s created a cultural shockwave that reverberated around the world, creating icons on an industrial scale— from stars of the silver screen to skyscrapers.

This worldwide phenomenon will be explored in 1920s Jazz Age: Fashion and Photographs, which examines how the world saw— and sees— the US as a global taste-maker and trend setter.

The period after the Great War created a seismic shift in moral, social, and cultural attitudes. Emancipation combined with burgeoning affluence offered women the chance to adopt a completely new way of dressing, from sports to evening wear. The show features over 100 fashion objects, including flapper dresses, evening capes, lame coats, couture, and ready-to-wear garments from 1919 to 1929. A decade of change is documented through the shifting hemlines and waistlines of the era’s fashions.

The exhibition will also include the work of photographer James Abbe, whose portraits present a candid commentary on early twentieth-century celebrity.

From Hollywood to the Folies Bergère, Abbe documented the world of entertainment and created the modern-day concept of celebrity through his portraits of stage and screen stars such as Gilda Gray, the Dolly Sisters, and Louise Brooks. The exhibition will also include illustrations by Gordon Conway to show visitors how graphic art and photography promoted the ‘Jazz Age’ look.

The American Museum is particularly delighted to display the work of James Abbe. Many of his sitters had personal connections with Beatrice Pratt, the mother of one the Museum’s founders. Items from the American Museum’s archive collection will explore Beatrice’s role as fashionista during the first half of the early twentieth century, demonstrating the impact the 1920s had on fashion and the social scene.

 1920s Jazz Age: Fashion & Photographs is organised by the Fashion and Textile Museum and is accompanied by works from James Abbe: Photographer of the Jazz Age.