Yes, Paris is still abounding in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA) continues to celebrate early 20th century Parisian arts in our city. One aspect of the festival is fashion, and I was able to attend an ongoing gallery event titled, Brave New World: Fashion & Freedom. Held in the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, part of Drexel University’s Nesbit Hall, the fashion event features English, French, and American designed garments and shoes from 1900-1920.
I was surprised at the gallery’s small size, but as I strolled through I saw how bold the collection was. The exhibition was drawn from the Drexel Historic Costume Collection and made possible by Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design, as well as PIFA. The exhibition was drawn from a bold era containing a revolution of the arts, society, and politics.
Women’s fashion was restrictive and outlandish, but freedom was on the horizon during this time period, thanks to designers such as Mariano Fortuny and Paul Poiret. These two designers were throwing out tradition and liberating women’s fashion. More radical upheavals in fashion displayed exoticism and sensuality inspired by the stars of the Ballets Russes (the Russian Ballet).
Traditional social values were breaking down as well with the introduction of more physically close dancing, like the Foxtrot and Tango. These popular dances of the time were another inspiration for fashion that allowed mobility. Shorter skirts were embraced by the young, the physically active, and supporters of women’s suffrage; more masculine styles and colors were introduced as a practicality for women. All of these radical changes in fashion acted as a slap in the face to previous traditional Victorian feminine values.
Now you can see how an exhibition so small can be so bold.
Roberta H. Gruber (Head-Fashion, Product and Design & Merchandising Department) comments in the exhibit brochure: “Without a doubt, the heart of the Drexel Historic Costume Collection comes from the 20th Century “teens,” and from the moment I was introduced to the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA); I knew our notable treasury of historic fashions had to be a part of the celebration.”
April 7- May 7, 2011
Monday-Friday 11 am to 5 pm.
Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, Nesbitt Hall
3215 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Ph. 215- 895-2548