The simple shape of twenties "flapper" shift dresses meant that bold decorative geometric designs were very popular. Simple lines of beading and dropped waist-lines help to create a very understated and elegant look, whilst the emphasis on movement can be seen in the extensive use of pendant tassels and layered uneven hem-lines. Shading and bold colouration were also popular so that the wearer would stand out on a dance floor or in a cocktail bar.
Beaded dresses were particularly fashionable, and were surprisingly heavy towards the hem, due to the huge numbers of glass bugle beads forming the patterns. They were never intended to be permanent creations, and over the years this weight can easily tear the narrow shoulder straps, whilst the beads can snag and come detached. Surviving examples should never be worn, and they need to be displayed carefully and stored flat in trays or drawers rather than on hangers in wardrobes. There are several beaded 1920s dresses on view in the Gallery, with a modern sample to touch, and there is also an example of beading in our Schools Handling Collection.
Full item descriptions:
"evening dress" [1951.136], Maison Ross
"evening dress" [1956.323]
"evening dress" [1947.4297]
"dress & sash" [1946.124]
"dress" [1947.4286], Molyneux, Edward