Monday, April 23, 2012

History's Runway: The Chanel Blue Sequin Evening Gown, 1932

Gown by Chanel, 1932
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

How 1932 does this dress look?  Can’t you see Joan Crawford slinking around in this, looking for her next husband and slinging back tumblers of vodka?  This long, sleeveless evening dress is made of saxe-blue silk and is completely covered with small matching sequins.

In the style of the era, it features a wide V-neck front, which dips to the waist at the back. A large bow of matching silk has been applied to the front bust, with another matching application below the waist at the back. The skirt is gored to flare from the knees in the front and also from the waist at the back.

During the first half of the 1930s, designers concocted evening gowns which were intended to wrap women in luxurious, body-hugging sheaths.  This was a clear response to the short, flat square gowns of the 1920s. During this period, the floor-dusting evening gowns were mostly sleeveless and very often showed off a bare back or a low neckline.  The white and light pastel colors of the 1920s gave way to the stronger, more acidic colors which were fashionable in the 1930s.  Chemically-charged tones were combined with jewel tones for a dramatic contrast which helped define the era.  Furthermore, the fashions of the 1920s tended to flatten out a woman’s curves, making young ladies look quite androgynous.  The gowns of the 1930s bolstered femininity and allowed women of the time to use the spunk and strength that they’d amassed during the last decade as a means of expressing their womanhood. 

The gown was designed by Chanel who had previously championed the sportier looks of the 1920s.  By the time this gown was designed in 1932, she had begun to embrace the more luxurious draping of the time and became known for the highly feminine fashions for which her label continues to be celebrated.  

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