Decades of Style
Clothes tell the story of an age.
A dress can reveal the defining spirit of a particular period, or capture the preoccupations of a historical moment. For example, Yves Saint Laurent’s “Refrain” dress for House of Dior (above) can be seen as a harbinger of the “youthquake” culture of the 60’s, and a predecessor of the A-line silhouette that helped to define the era. High Style: The Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection, on view at the Legion of Honor through July 19, traces the evolution of fashion over the twentieth century, with stops in every decade. We call out a few below.
As the 20's roared, the drop waist tubular silhouette shirked the traditional corset, an article of clothing that represented stricter social customs. Lanvin's dress serves as sartorial symbol of women’s new freedoms during this era of flappers and bathtub gin.
By the mid-1940's, American working women and housewives were eager to shake off the austerity of the war years and enjoy clothes that offered easy comfort with panache. McCardell designed for a multi-faceted lifestyle while creating ensembles for the bustling ready-to-wear garments industry.
As the idealism of the 60's waned and the "Me Decade" began, Halston updated the tie-dye technique that had helped to define the hippie generation. His new upscale approach is represented by this caftan, created from a single length of fabric.
The Reagan era ushered in a renaissance of upscale dressing, and the opulence of the 80’s reached its zenith in this profusion of poppies rendered in silk organza lavishly applied to taffeta skirt and cape. Lavish, sumptuous, and magical, Scaasi's evening gowns are worn for making a sensational entrance.