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A Powerful Appearance

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 Robe D'Aprés - Midi, De Beer., Digital ID 824748, New York Public LibraryWhat did the modern woman gain from the development of feminine clothing in the Art Deco era? Two looks surface in particular. If the 1920s were the age of elegance with couture-inspired dress silhouettes, then the1930s brought a new pragmatism to fashion. Social conditions dictated that women exercise their personal power in both private and public spheres. The freedoms granted to women in those decades were still limited, however, despite the machinations of a Wallis Simpson or a Marlene Dietrich.

The Moor., Digital ID 1599873, New York Public LibraryThe trappings of feminine power are most evident in the two extremes shown in the illustrations in this post. Those of us in future generations should be grateful that these looks evolved as they did. Contemporary fashion magazines and photo shoots most often go for the elegant couture look, but the sensible suit that took form in the 30s enabled women to get ahead in public venues, whether they were workplaces, colleges, or urban streets. The skirt suit would be naturally augmented by the trouser suit, making the widest variety of dress options for women by the 1970s.

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