COLLECTIONS NEWS: Dresses from the roaring twenties!

In 2007, the Henry launched a project funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to provide online access to the museum’s permanent collection. Through this initiative, the Henry implemented new collections database software, produced digital documentation of collection objects, and launched a web-based visual interface. To date, the Henry’s online collections database includes 22,514 object records and displays images for 15,288 objects.

In an ongoing effort to digitize and provide access to the museum’s collection, images of 1920s dresses from the collection have just been added to the online collections database.

Woman’s evening dress. 1922. Silk velvet; Crepe chiffon; Seed and bugle beads; Valenciennes lace (imitation). Henry Art Gallery, School of Drama Collection, 82.1-585.

By the 1920s, women had achieved some freedom from the restrictive corseted dress of previous eras. In the surging post-World War I economy, more women worked outside the home, and increased their participation in sports. Fashions emphasized youth, freedom, and activity.

The silhouette of the period featured a lowered waistline and a straight boyish tubular silhouette. At the beginning of the decade, hemlines nearly touched the ankle. By 1926 they had risen to knee length, only to descend again in 1929. Women bobbed their hair and topped it with a close-fitting cloche hat. For an evening out, a woman might wear a sleeveless dress decorated with beads, sequins, fringe, bows, layers, and godets that would emphasize the Charleston’s dance movements or reflect light.

Click here to see a selection of 1920s evening dresses decorated with beads and sequins in the Henry’s permanent collection.

You can explore other types of costumes and textile from the museum’s collection in the Costume & Textile Digital Interactive Gallery or search for something specific  in the online collections database.

– Diana Ryesky, Collection Volunteer & Independent Researcher

Detail of woman's evening dress, 82.1-585

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