The freewheeling, boundary-pushing clothes beloved by the era’s flappers, vamps, and sweet young things have a resonance that has lasted far beyond the Jazz Age. Galleria Dallas examines their enduring appeal with the exhibition “Decadence: Fashions From the 1920s,” a unique exhibition on view now through February 28.
Housed in the north end of the center on level one, just across from Tiffany & Co., “Decadence” is open from noon to 6 pm daily. Presented by Galleria Dallas and curated by Ken Weber of Vintage Martini, the exhibition originally was planned to coincide with the last series of Downton Abbey.
But what started as a fairly small showing of clothes grew to include more than 130 garments, featuring pieces from the Susan Denn and Robert Schmidt Collection, Janet Schwartz, and the Texas Fashion Collection of UNT College of Visual Art & Design. Jewelry came from collectors Schwartz, Erik Yang, and Linda Smetak.
“I had come up with this idea two years ago and wanted to bring something to the patrons of Galleria Dallas that has never been seen before,” says Martha Hinojosa, Galleria Dallas’ director of marketing. “I feel this era appeals to so many people because of its glamour, luxurious textiles, intricate details, and femininity,” says Martha Hinojosa, Galleria Dallas’ director of marketing.
“What started as a few pieces spread around the mall turned into a major museum exhibition,” says Weber. “I wanted to mainly find pieces that had not been seen before from private collections. Susan and Robert had bought from me for years, so I knew she had incredible pieces, but I never dreamed we’d have French, Spanish and Italian couture.”
Including couture garments from the likes of Madeleine Vionnet, Mariano Fortuny, Maria Monaco Gallenga and Lucien Lelong, the designs found in the Louvre, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, according to Weber. He puts it on par with the Dallas Museum of Art’s 2011 Gaultier exhibit, although he admits, “we don’t have the special effects Gaultier did. But we definitely have exciting eye candy!”
As fashion revolves through its inevitable cycle, women who view “Decadence” will find the looks on view unexpectedly modern. The slip dresses and Deco florals of the upcoming spring collections are close descendants of the designs on view.
And Weber doesn’t see the allure of the ‘20s ending anytime soon, partially because it represented such a key time in history for women.
“It’s the party decade. Women were release from structured garments and petticoats—they got to wear free-flowing easy pieces. Finally they got freedom and went beyond what they were supposed to do, and it turned into a whole new era in history.