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What Is Art Deco Fashion?

What Is Art Deco Fashion? The Art Deco movement in Western culture stretched from the early 1920s all the way to World War II. During this time, high art revolutions...

What Is Art Deco Fashion?

The Art Deco movement in Western culture stretched from the early 1920s all the way to World War II. During this time, high art revolutions such as fauvism and cubism burst out of the Paris salons and into the real world.

New York City architecture, geometric Vogue covers and glamorous silent movie stars all got their iconic looks from Art Deco pioneers. The era's prints and Art Deco fashion plates may seem pleasantly old-fashioned now, but a century ago, they represented the height of progress.

What Is Art Deco Fashion?

Art Deco is arguably more famous as an architectural and art style than a wearable one. The movement's metallic sheen and geometric shapes are immortalized in New York City's Chrysler Building. Art Deco is also a popular interior design aesthetic today, appearing often in the over-the-top living rooms of Architectural Digest's celebrity home tours.

Fashion was a huge part of the Art Deco movement as well, a fact which is often overlooked. Trends during this period were so much broader than the archetypal "Great Gatsby" look of fringe dresses, long cigarette holders and single-feather headbands.

French fashion houses introduced bias-cut gowns and bright metallic colors that look modern even today. A famous Jeanne Lanvin violet gown from 1935 could easily be a modern red carpet look or even a take on '80s nostalgia. Art Deco fashion designers finally stepped into the spotlight as masters of fine art.

While many people associate Art Deco clothing with icy silvers and golds, it often explored bright, contrasting colors. These weren't the old-world jewel tones of the Art Nouveau style. Art Deco incorporated eye-catching saturated hues such as Kerry green, purple, pink and orange.

The era's simple lines and emphasis on elegance are a recipe for timeless looks. Countless Art Deco revivals have popped up in fashion over the years, such as when famed supermodel Iman wore a flowing silver geometric gown on the red carpet.

What Does Art Deco Mean?

The name Art Deco came from the French Societé des Artistes Décorateurs, a collection of furniture artists, fashion designers and architects who had tired of the nostalgic Art Nouveau style. The Décorateurs threw away Art Nouveau's heavy ornamentation and allusions to the classical past of Greece and Medieval Europe. They saw the new direction of art as simple shapes and lines with a big visual impact.

After sweeping France, the style caught on in America so much that it became quintessentially American. Art Deco spanned the late Gilded Age, the end of the First World War and even the Great Depression. It shaped the cultural ideal of Old Hollywood glamour and left a lasting impression of luxury.

How Can You Incorporate Art Deco Fashion Into Your Wardrobe?

Fringe is fabulous, but there are so many other ways to incorporate the Art Deco aesthetic into your closet. Here are a few of the fashion innovations of this era and ways to style them today.

Geometric Lines

The Art Deco movement swapped out flowing natural patterns for bold geometric ones. Common motifs included the straight lines of a starburst, diagonal lines stretching out from a focal point, repeated arches or a checkerboard pattern.

The checkerboard was a popular graphic print in fashion. Style a modern pair of geometric checkerboard pants with a solid crop top and a square-shaped bag to introduce even more angular shapes.

Silhouettes That Make a Statement

The most recognizable facet of Art Deco fashion is its silhouettes. For hundreds of years, popular clothing for both women and men strived to create a fashionably heightened version of the body's natural curves and swerves. Corsets, padding and structured crinoline skirts began their reign in the 17th century, and various forms of each had dominated fashion until the late 1910s.

With the end of the Great War, that all changed. Postwar scarcity and the Art Deco movement's propensity for the new and modern brought about a new silhouette. It de-emphasized curves and didn't seek to mold the body into any particular shape.

That doesn't mean these clothes abandoned structure entirely, though. Silhouettes often skimmed the body but included a dramatic element such as large sleeves or a low neckline. Check out these three hallmarks of the Art Deco silhouette on actress Naomi Watts: the plunging neck, the loose bias cut and the dropped waist.

The fun part of Art Deco fashion is that these unusual silhouettes stand out today, as form-fitting gowns and bodycon dresses remain popular. Work a daring batwing sleeve cocktail dress into your wardrobe to play with big silhouettes.

Bold Color

Saturated and bold colors were a huge part of Art Deco, carried over from the French fauvist movement in art. Contrasting wild colors with black or white was a popular fashion choice in this era. A dress with a contrasting print and a looser silhouette instantly evokes Art Deco, especially when styled with a long string necklace or two.

Big Jewelry and Accessories

Artistic jewelry was a huge part of the Art Deco fashion revolution. Just like the architects and interior designers, jewelry designers were throwing off the conventions of previous centuries and experimenting with new shapes and ideas. Adding a large geometric ring to your Art Deco look is an essential finishing touch.

Woven Metallics

There's no separating the Art Deco period from all things metallic and glittery. Gold, diamonds, platinum and silver were all prominent fashion choices throughout the era.

A dress made of woven metallic fabric brings together shine and straight lines. Style it with geometric drop earrings and a small metal clutch for maximum Art Deco flair.

Where Can You Find Modern Art Deco Fashion and Other Glam Styles?

If you're looking for a new aesthetic to experiment with, you can't go wrong with Art Deco fashion. Try geometric repeating patterns, bright colors, shine, jewelry and unusual silhouettes to get the glamorous early 20th-century look.

At Kate Hewko, we believe that anyone can play with this style, whether you go for the artistic French side of the movement, Old Hollywood vibes or flapper fringe and pearls. Check out our dress collection for inspiration.


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