Watch any episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot and it will scream the Art Deco period as it’s setting. But there is not one thing that labels it as such. The period is reflected not only in clothes fashions but also in architecture and transport. Almost always associated with the 1920’s the Art Deco style first appeared in pre World War I France. The term Art Deco (or in full Arts Décoratifs) was not used to describe this style until after the 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. The 1920’s and ’30’s were the heyday of the style that lasted until WWII finally moved style to a different focus.
So what is it that defines Art Deco style? To simply say it represents bold geometric shapes and rich colours does not completely define the concept. Post WWI the world was industrialising rapidly to restore a standard of living lost during the 5 years of conflict. Not only was this a time for excess after the austerity of the war years it was also the time for freedom via travel and property ownership. Industrialisation bought workers in from the countryside to the expanding city suburbs which were being built in an Art Deco style. Furnishing these new homes bought further influence as chevrons, zigzags, rectangles and sunburst designs were found on household accessories including rugs, china, textiles, table lamps, clocks and even telephones and radios. This was the ‘Roaring Twenties’ where night clubs and jazz venues flourished and young people made up for their lost years during the war and possibly celebrated surviving where friends and families had perished.
Many women had been employed in the factories during the war, giving them an independence and money which was unheard of before. Women now had social liberation that was reflected in the new fashions. Hair and hemlines were raised, ‘flappers’ appeared on the street, shocking society much as the mini skirted jet set were to do in the 1960’s or the Punks of the early eighties. This lifestyle and it’s daring fashions are often shown to epitomise the era, but in middle class homes life largely went on as before. New man made materials were being invented which revolutionised what was capable in design. With lower costs coming from busy factories, ready-to-wear manufacturers had affordable designs that could compete on style with haute couture houses.