‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’, New Year, New Woman: Celebrating 100 Years Since the 1920s
“In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
New Years is always an exciting occasion, but even more thrilling and electrifying is that this very new years eve is the centennial of the Art Deco era! Not only is this a major cause of celebration and excuse for appreciating the wealth of literature, art, and of course jewellery created in this period, but also it means that any item that was created in the early 1920’s is officially antique! How exciting for all of us here and fellow Art Deco jewellery collectors.
It is no secret that our Lillicoco University article dives deep into the great cultural merit and impact that this era possessed. 100 years ago, our ancestors were just upon the cusp of change, some of the world’s greatest literature was about to be written, and political and social upheavals like the First World War, allowed for a momentous shift in attitude and a state of limitless euphoria. The 1920’s roared, the 1920’s walloped, danced and sang to the beat of her own drum, crashing in 1929 at a dizzying speed. The beautiful and the damned, no other moment in history has been able to replicate this sudden fall from grace (probably for a good reason!).
Notably, young women during this period felt this change greatly. For the first time, women felt that their lives and fortunes were in the palms of their hands. Master puppeteers, it became easier to facilitate and propel financial control, they had a political voice, and they could dress however they wanted. Hemlines shortened, the corset was forgotten, tailoring became looser and more masculine - the ‘garconne’ look took major stage.
As we ponder how much change has occurred for women in the past century and decade, we owe much to the 1920’s woman who clip-clopped her way before us. This blog is dedicated to them.
The New Woman
“Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.”
― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
The new woman was a concept that evolved from the Suffragette movement in the late Victorian and Edwardian era - women were at the centre of shifting paradigms, developing two new identities, the working woman and the woman of pleasure. The shadow of the prohibition period did not cast itself upon the elite, with secret bars, house parties and hideaways becoming the hotspot on at every night of the week. The 1920’s was, for young women, beguiling, allowing women of a certain class to indulge within her inner sybaritic nature.
The New Women were epitomised through fashion icons, Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Zelda Fitzgerald and Josephine Baker, the original influencers perhaps. Women designers like Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, Madeleine Vionnet, Jeanne Lanvin and Florrie Westwood, were making names for themselves in a world that was both feminine and masculine.
With this in mind, independence became both a change in inward and outward attitude, reflecting and bouncing off every hemline and feather boa that these women wore. All of these combined added to the magnetic pull that this era fervently possesses in our minds today. Though feminism would ebb and flow until the 1970s, women owe much of their sartorial and intellectual privilege to this era, this catalyst for change.
The media has always been clever and sly, quick to bite and gorge upon any new piece of information or cultural shift. For the first time, women had more disposable income, which led to a boom in women-centred advertising that reached beyond household and domestic items. The idea of the ‘it girl’ heavily fed into advertising, women wanted to become the person within the images. For example, fashion accessories like bejewelled mother of pearl cigarette cases became du jour, and perfume, cosmetics and soap became the objects that women simply needed at the time. Of course, although women did have more disposable income, if they were married, men still retained greater control over their finances. However, the media knew this and was incredibly clever. Helen Lansdowne Resor has been dubbed to be one of histories most powerful women in advertising, identifying that sex appeal was a huge pull for both men and women in buying products.
During the 1920’s labour saving devices were invented within the domestic sphere, cookers, electric irons, refrigerators, washing machines and vacuum cleaners were thrown onto the market - becoming the must have for any woman who desires to devote more time in her life to herself rather than just her family and husband. Providing a salve from domesticity, women became more active agents in shopping, reading and agents of their own destinies.
This vain concept of self-improvement and indulgence we can still evidently see today, yet many remark on the negative aspects of this, instead thinking that women should be focusing upon more altruistic pursuits rather than ones of fancy, frippery and ‘foolishness’. Although, you cannot deny that these at the time new spheres that women could dominate would now be considered materialistic, these allowed them to take advantage and possession of more confident identities, giving them the power to push through into masculine worlds in the centuries to come.
We like to think that like Mrs Dalloway, women were buying jewellery for themselves too... and why not?! We deserve it!
As the last blog of 2019 we'd like to take this opportunity to thank you! - If you are reading this blog then you have made it to our website and have stuck around long enough to read this message... We salute you!
Thank you all for your continued support and encouragement! As we go forward to our fourth year of Lillicoco we'd like to thank our customers, followers and readers for allowing us to follow our passion, and continue to find amazing vintage and antique jewellery for you to treasure and enjoy!
Wishing you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous and 2020. Happy New Year!
If you are lucky enough to still have a few days of holiday spare and enjoy looking at Art Deco era jewels, here is a link to our Art Deco Era Jewellery for you to browse!