Roaring 20s | Clarke Museum exhibit focuses on fashion from a century ago – Times-Standard

A new exhibit at the Clarke Historical Museum in Eureka focuses on 1920s fashion, fabrics and ruffles.

The “Bobs and Beads” exhibition explores the social, cultural and economic changes taking place in the 1920s through the prism of fashion trends, clothing and accessories from the Clarke collection.

The long dresses of the 1910s became shorter and looser in the 1920s to accommodate women on the move in dance halls, for example. (Heather Shelton/The Times-Standard)

“The 1920s were a time of immense change in all facets of life. One of the most visual indicators of change in a society is clothing, and the 1920s is a prime example,” said Katie Buesch, executive director/curator of the museum, located at 240 E St.

She added: “Fashion is a really interesting mode to explore how human activities influence the creation, manufacture and widespread use of certain items to adapt to changes in culture, such as the increase in freedom and free time for women.”

The 1920s, especially for women’s fashion, were exciting, she says, because clothing changed so much during that time.

“The long dresses of the 1910s became shorter and looser to accommodate the moving women in the dance halls and in sports we see the shoes become more ornate because now people could see them.

“Fabrics were thin and flowing like voile, georgette (a type of silk) and a variety of natural and synthetic silks like rayon blended with cotton, which was gaining popularity for undergarments and could be dyed in bright colors . … Linen, knitwear, wool and cotton were also popular, with knitting being particularly visible in clothing worn while playing sports,” said Buesch, who has had a long-standing interest in fashion from the 1960s. 1920.

“This exhibition gave me the opportunity to do more research on the factors that contributed to the iconic fashion of the 1920s,” she said. “I was really blown away by the beading and I think it really shows in this exhibit because there are a lot of beaded dresses on display.”

Synthetic silks like rayon blended with cotton gained popularity for underwear in the 1920s. (Heather Shelton/The Times-Standard)

Rising household incomes, along with better access to cultural information from other parts of the world and a growing visual culture like movies and movie stars becoming fashion icons, were some of these factors. . Famous fashion icons of a century ago included Josephine Baker, Joan Crawford, Clara Bow, Greta Garbo, Gloria Swanson and many more.

“Coco Chanel comes to mind,” Buesch said. “She helped transform the color black from a color specifically worn during mourning, to a fashionable evening dress color, and finally an acceptable color for daytime wear. Anna May Wong, who is called the first Asian American actress in Hollywood, was also an icon who was frequently seen wearing the silk cheongsam, a dress that came to the United States from Shanghai, China, and became incredibly popular in the 1920s. »

The garments on display at the Clarke represent only a small segment of the museum’s extensive collection of textiles.

“The museum’s collection of textiles is extensive – from quilts to flags to coats, wedding dresses, children’s clothing, hats and more,” Buesch said. “We have stuff as old as the Civil War all the way through to the 1970s and 1980s. Luckily the items are organized by type (dress, shirts, etc.) and era, so finding items (for this exhibit) doesn’t wasn’t too difficult and was actually quite fun. The exhibits represent only a small portion of the collection, so there were pieces that were not held due to limited space.

Pictured is a 1920s swimsuit on display at the Clarke Museum. (Heather Shelton/The Times-Standard)

When it came to finding examples of women’s sportswear, Buesch said she was a bit puzzled at first, but then realized that the museum once had sportswear. worn by Elta Cartwright, a local athlete who competed in the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam.

“So some of his sportswear appears in the exhibit, including one of his Olympic uniforms,” Buesch said.

Also on display are fashion accessories from the 1920s era.

“We have hats, shoes, handbags, an ostrich fan, jewelry and underwear all on display,” Buesch said. “Hats include cloche hats, which were designed to cover the forehead and rest against the head of the wearer. They even encouraged the widespread adoption of the bob haircut, as women’s hair could not fit under fitted hats.

The Clarke Historical Museum’s 1920s Fashion Exhibit also features accessories from the era. Katie Buesch, Executive Director/Curator of the Clarke Museum, holds a shoe that is part of the exhibit. (Heather Shelton/The Times-Standard)

The 1920s fashion exhibit at the Clarke Museum officially opens February 5 from 6-9 p.m. during Arts Alive! However, parts of the exhibit are now available and the entire exhibit is expected to be completed by the end of the week. The Clarke Historical Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 per person or $10 for group entry. For more information, call 707-443-1947 or visit

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