5/30/12

Fashion Gets Set for Return of the Roaring Twenties



Put another pin in your hat, Dot. You’re in for a fast ride!’

– Phryne Fisher

Television can sometimes have an explosive effect on the fashion industry – witness the rage for all things sixties created by Mad Men. The phenomenally successful Downton Abbey has introduced a new generation to high-end Edwardian couture and jewellery, setting off a number of global trends.

Another era 
is currently receiving a much-deserved boost. The Roaring Twenties  the extravagant period that came before the long slog of the Great Depression – changed fashion forever. Its being brought to life for a whole new audience in recent and forthcoming movies and TV series showcasing the sheer larger-than-life glamour of the era.

The twenties was the most revolutionary decade for fashion in the 20th century, says Nicole Jenkins, owner of Melbourne vintage fashion store CircaThis era  has reverberated through the years since.

Nicole,  also a costumier and collector, points to
 revivals of twenties styles in the 1960s and 80s, as well as current revivals by Prada and other design houses.

The twenties has [also] been a perennial favourite for dress-up parties, as the look is so distinctive and easy to put together.’

Two recent Australian television series have already showcased, to great acclaim, Roaring Twenties pizzazz. Underbelly: Razor (pictured below) is a 13-part Australian miniseries set in Sydney. It depicts therazor gangs who controlled the citys underworld between 1927 and 1936 and features truckloads of glitzy, gaudy twenties glamour. According to Wikipedia, the first episode made the show the highest rating drama in Australian history’. The Daily Telegraph ran a competition giving readers a chance to play extras in the series, and was inundated with entries.



Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is a detective series set in Melbourne, Australia, in 1928. Oozing glamour and sensuality, wealthy amateur sleuth Phryne Fisher swishes through the staid drawing rooms, foggy back lanes, grimy docks and smoky jazz clubs of the city with her sleek chestnut bob, toting her pearl-studded pistol as she brings murderers to book aided by her handsome colleague Detective Inspector Jack Robinson.

The series has just completed its first run in Australia and a second series is in the pipeline. I couldn’t find information about overseas sales, but I’d be very surprised if Phryne doesn’t make an appearance on the BBC and possibly North American screens at some point.


Phryne – superbly brought to life by the elegant Essie Davis – is a style icon with a conscience, a glamour girl from humble origins who strives to achieve justice for the underdog. She resides in an elegant two-storey Victorian mansion replete with iron lace balconies and wonderful art nouveau decor, supporting a household staff of three, a foster child and a dedicated lady companion, Dot Williams, who assists in her investigations. With a series of exotic suitors and a simmering sexual tension between her and DI Robinson, she epitomises the new sexually liberated woman of the twenties. Her superbly tailored wardrobe delights the eye with its intricate designs, bold patterning and deliciously luxuriant fabrics.

The series is based on the bestselling novels by Australian solicitor Kerry Greenwood. An intellectual heavyweight with a yen for crime, Greenwood has created a larger-than-life heroine, a period female superhero who speaks several languages and is as adept at flying a plane as she is at dancing the tango. Yet Greenwood strives for authentic period settings, and only agreed to the TV series because she was given a say in the design. She was thrilled with the results.

The odd cloche hat makes an appearance, but Greenwood wanted to distinguish the distinctive style of the late twenties both from the flapper fashion that marked the early part of the decade and the very fitted styles of the thirties. At the time, costumes were designed as whole ensembles, with everything matched from underwear through to coats, and fabrics were incredibly fine and embellished. While purists have pointed out historical anomalies in some of the props, the gorgeous locations are apparently in the main true to 1928 and the years before it.

Nicole concurs that the fashions in Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries are distinctlyfashion forward, and not always recognisable as classic twenties. She goes on to suggest that these days original twenties fashion is not always replicated ‘in its true form because styles arent always flattering – yet the era has still been highly influential.

‘The drop waist styles are loose and comfortable and particularly flattering for ladies with slim, boyish figures. Unfortunately, theyre not suited to curvy figures, which most of us have, so interpretations usually involve adding a bit more shape.

More twenties glamour to come

Cloche hats, concave bobs and  sequinned, feathered headbands will certainly be on display in Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming extravaganza The Great Gatsby. I’ve only seen the trailer, but that alone suggests that the film will make Chicago look like a Sunday picnic.  It’s to be released in 3D, and will be playing in US cinemas from 25 December and in Australia from 10 January.



Nicole is  looking forward to seeing how Luhrmann portrays the fashions of the time. ‘It promises to be very swish and stylish, stylised even, as his creative team like to produce a hyper-real and creative version of history.

The forthcoming third series of Downton Abbey is also set to provide sartorial thrills. The show has become a cult hit in the USA, with Sunday night viewing parties and themed merchandise. MSNBC’s Today show has given fans advice on how to dress like the Downton Abbey ladies and produced a collection of unauthorised Downton Abbey jewellery that it was later forced to pull.

The third series is already creating plenty of buzz. Airing in the UK from September, it will be set in the post-war era and will feature twenties fashions. Below are some examples of the Edwardian styles that have made such an impact.


As far as twenties fashion goes, it seems that the unassuming Dot Williams is not the only one in for a fast ride in the next few months   I cant wait!

Until next time!

If you enjoyed this blog entry, you might also like Wanted – An Annie Hall for the 2000s.


1 comment :

Bridget from Refined Vintage said...

Loved your post.I think that series about the woman who solves mysteries sounds fantastic, I hope it comes to America soon! Mean while I will look for the books. I have always loved the styles from the 1930's and would love to see this influence in fashion today,I really enjoyed my visit!