It is the 1930’s, the economy is still reeling from the Great Depression, Jazz music is floating out of every bar and club across Britain and America and the Art Deco movement reigns supreme. Geometric skyscrapers made from steel structures that reflect in the shiny sheet glass windows are punctuating city skylines from one side of the Atlantic to the other whilst the air is full of microscopic waves, carrying radio shows to every Marconi radio in the world.
Fashion is also undergoing a tumultuous change, shifting from the brash, experimental fashion of the 1920’s and moving towards an elegant, sophisticated, feminine style with long hemlines and sumptuous fabrics being used in the creation of dresses. This sartorial transition starts with a scandalous marriage, causing outrage within the British royal family and stirring up a feeling of anxiety in women across the nation. The marriage in question is the marriage between American divorcee Wallis Simpson and Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor that took place in 1937 and led to the abdication of the Prince so that he could marry the ‘Woman (he) loved’.
In reality, the year is 2011 and the fashion industry finds itself saturated with different styles, recycled year upon year to become the next big trend. Women no longer stay at home looking after the house and children but instead have become business men in their own right and now need a wardrobe to match. The increased advances in technology mean that life is being lived at 100mph and as a result most wardrobes are designed for comfort and not for elegance.
Madonna seems an unlikely woman to bring back a fashion trend but her latest film, titled ‘W.E’, detailing the life of Wallis Simpson has stirred up such fervour in the world of fashion it is hard to ignore the film and its magnificent costumes. Billowing skirts that brush the floor, fitted jackets cinched in at the waist and cascades of rubies, sapphires and emeralds will be a familiar sight at the end of 2011, beginning of 2012. The trend has already made its début on the AW11 catwalks with Dior naming Wallis Simpson as its inspiration for their AW11 Ready-to-Wear collection which features Balmoral-esque tweeds and furs, sheer and slender silk dresses and a cocktail of lace, pearls and feathers which embellish every available inch of fabric or body part. This is evidence that current fascination with the era is steadily mounting. So much so that the trend is making a huge impact on the catwalks for SS12 with designers such as Alice Temperley compiling a collection that is bursting at the seams with 1930’s influences. Headscarves frame the faces of models, which are hidden behind sunglasses, and sharply tailored dresses flutter around ankles with deep slits in the skirts showing off long and slender legs. A palette of ultra feminine hues imitating the colours of rose petals contrasts with the opulent colours of the deep jewels and rich gold that adorn the necks of the models.
This sharp and graceful sense of style, which has formed a vast part of British social history, can be easily translated into the wardrobe of a modern day woman. Pencil skirts and tailored jackets, linear silhouettes, regimented prints and silk embellished with a variety of gems will become staple items for next season.
There will be a return to femininity, decadence and sophistication, which will filter down through magazine editorials into high street stores. Everything appears expensive, with a lavish display of wealth through the choice of fabrics and the accessories that go with them. The 30’s were an age of elegance…your presentation could make or break your social status and true feelings had to be hidden behind a beautiful façade. This façade is being recreated next season and it is up to you whether you embrace it or hide from it.