Deco for Spring

Watching this year’s Oscars red carpet pre-show, I was struck by the Deco details on Louise Roe’s custom Black Halo dress, with its geometric, layered peplum and rhinestone buckle. (Details on the dress here.)

Spring’s Deco trend is gathering force. In September, many of the Spring ready-to-wear collections contained references to the Twenties and Thirties. There was flapper fringe at Marchesa and geometric dévoré at Alberta Ferretti. Veronica Etro found inspiration in two avant-garde art movements of the early twentieth century: Futurism and Constructivism. (See the collection statement here.) And Marc Jacobs resurrected the Twenties drop waist:

Siri Tollerød in Marc Jacobs Spring 2012
Model: Siri Tollerød. Image via

Two of the most sustained interpretations of the Deco influence were made by Gucci and Ralph Lauren. At Gucci, Frida Giannini was inspired by New York skyscrapers. In this campaign image, one of the collection’s fringed and beaded dresses is paired with a very Deco minaudière:

Abbey Lee Kershaw in Gucci Spring 2012 advertising campaign shot by Mert and Marcus
Photo: Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott. Model: Abbey Lee Kershaw. Image via

Patrick Demarchelier’s recent Vogue Italia editorial, “The Outstanding MCB,” casts Mariacarla Boscono as a Gucci-clad flapper:

Vogue Italia, February 2012. Photo: Patrick Demarchelier. Model: Mariacarla Boscono.
Vogue Italia, February 2012. Photo: Patrick Demarchelier. Model: Mariacarla Boscono. Stylist: Patti Wilson.

(The Artist’s Bérénice Bejo was photographed in a similar Gucci dress for Vanity Fair’s March issue—in the Contents section, not the Hollywood portfolio, where she wears Ralph Lauren.)

Ralph Lauren presented a Gatsby-themed collection for Spring 2012, full of delicate beading, bias gowns, and three-piece suits in pastels and pinstripes. Cloches, boas, and long scarves or strands of beads completed the looks. (See the collection on here, or view the Vogue UK trend slideshow, “Gatsby Glamour.”)

Models backstage at Ralph Lauren SS 2012
Backstage at Ralph Lauren’s Spring 2012 runway show. Image via Vogue UK.
Katia Kokoreva wears a tailored look from Ralph Lauren's Spring 2012 collection
Model: Katia Kokoreva. Image via Vogue.

The Ralph Lauren collection is well-represented on the cover of Vanity Fair’s March Hollywood issue (click to enlarge):

Vanity Fair March 2012 Hollywood issue cover
Vanity Fair, March 2012. Photo: Mario Testino. Stylist: Jessica Diehl. Image via Vanity Fair.
Vanity Fair March 2012 Hollywood issue cover
Vanity Fair, March 2012. Photo: Mario Testino. Stylist: Jessica Diehl.

Rooney Mara, Mia Wasikowska, and Shailene Woodley wear dresses and boas by Ralph Lauren, and Elisabeth Olsen and Lily Collins’ shoes (as well as Ms. Wasikowska’s) are also Ralph Lauren Collection. The cover photo was taken at a New York set inspired by the work of English interior designer Syrie Maugham.

This was a return to the Jazz Age idiom for Ralph Lauren: early in his career he was responsible for the menswear in the last film adaptation of The Great Gatsby (1974). As Nicole Phelps points out in her review of Lauren’s collection, the designer got a jump start on the Twenties fever expected to follow the opening of Baz Luhrmann’s 3-D version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel this Christmas.

Luhrmann Gatsby
Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, and Joel Edgerton in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. Image via the New York Times.

The bias evening dresses in Ralph Lauren’s Spring collection show the reach of the current Deco trend, beyond the Twenties into the Thirties and the glamour of Old Hollywood. Clothes on Film’s Chris Laverty has credited the current revival of classic Old Hollywood style to Keira Knightley’s green dress in Atonement (2007). HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and The Artist can’t help but give added momentum to a Deco revival.

The recent interpretations of Art Deco took varied approaches to their vintage inspiration. Collections like Gucci’s or Etro’s, which emphasized geometric prints and embellishment, are drawing on motifs from architecture and the old artistic avant-garde. When it comes to sewing patterns, Deco fashions tend to achieve their geometric look through contrast, trim, and seaming detail:

1920s geometric dress pattern McCall 5239 April 1928
McCall 5239. McCall’s, April 1928. Image via vintage123.

Marc Jacobs’ drop waists, often with blousing and soft detailing at the hipline, were most faithful to Twenties silhouettes, like this repro design from the Vintage Pattern Lending Library:

McCall 5751 1920s evening dress pattern at the Vintage Pattern Lending Library
McCall 5751 (1929) Dress. Image via the Vintage Pattern Lending Library.

Despite the strong Twenties flavour to the daywear in Ralph Lauren’s Spring collection, for evening he reached for those mainstays of Thirties glamour, bias gowns and boas:

Pictorial 7447 1930s bias evening gown pattern
Pictorial 7447 (1934) Evening dress.

Even the masculine tailoring that punctuated the Daisy Buchanan girliness has a Thirties precedent, as shown by this pattern for a three-piece suit consisting of a waistcoat, double-breasted jacket, and cuffed trousers:

Simplicity 1210 1930s women's tuxedo pattern
Simplicity 1210 (c. 1933). Three-piece suit and blouse. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

It’s funny how ‘Gatsby’ functions as shorthand for what we like about Twenties fashion. The Great Gatsby is set in the summer of 1922, but recent reinterpretations seem to favour mid-to-later ’20s styles. Here is a sample of 1922 eveningwear:

early 1920s evening dresses on McCall news December 1922
McCall Printed Pattern Style News, December 1922.

It’s been years since Vogue Patterns reissued any Deco-era eveningwear patterns. Vogue 2241 was released in 1998, Vogue 2609 in 2001, and Vogue V2859 in 2005. More Twenties and Thirties, please, Vintage Vogue!

(If you missed my posts about sewing 1920s designer patterns, you can see the Patou dress here, Miler Soeurs cape here, Martial et Armand wrap here, and Chanel evening dress here.)

One thought on “Deco for Spring

  1. Thanks for featuring a picture of my pattern!
    Simplicity 1210. You can read more about it on my blog, Ralph Lauren’s interpretation on model Katia K. is nearly identical to the pattern, from the shawl collar on the vest to the cuffed pants!

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