Exhibition of fashion from 1918-1939

  • 2011-03-02
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

SEXUALITY BETWEEN WWI AND WWII: Photo from the exhibition of Art Deco Style.

VILNIUS - The exhibition Art Deco Style (1918-1939), in the Vilnius Museum of Applied Art, which is a branch of the Lithuanian Art Museum, will be on show until Aug. 20. The exhibition came from Riga, where it was attended by 35,000 visitors. In the fall, it will be presented in Venice. The exhibition is the collection of Alexandre Vassiliev, the Moscow-born 53-year old fashion historian and costume designer, who now shares his life between his two homes, an apartment in Paris and a house in Vilnius. He said that he brought to Vilnius many more items than were on show in Riga. This is an opportunity to find out what our grandmothers used to wear.

The exhibition presents 80 women’s dresses as well as accessories, such as handbags, hats, bijouterie, and shoes. Photos and paintings of that era are also presented. Vassiliev enjoys attending the flea markets of Paris where he finds for his collection some interesting items, which have survived attacks of clothes-eating moths. Art Deco is an artistically cheerful design style that blossomed in Paris in the 1920s and flourished in the Western world throughout the 1930s, although there were some changes in fashion during that period.

During WWI, millions of men perished and this provoked fierce competition among women. Corsets were abandoned and women started to show a lot of their naked body. Dresses were hardly reaching women’s knees. At the same time, it was a period of social liberation of women, although this process in Lithuania was sometimes speedier than in the Art Deco center, France: after WWI, Lithuania was among the first countries in the world that introduced the right for women to vote in the parliamentary elections, while in France, women could vote only after WWII. However, the culture of dance floors, cafes, brothels, and cabarets, which inspired the Art Deco fashion style, was not so developed in pre-WWII Lithuania as it was in France at that time.

While the 1920s were the time of cheerful and colorful fashion of vamp women, the fashion of the 1930s was less sexy due to the start of the economic depression of 1929 in the USA and the strengthening of totalitarian ideologies in Europe in the 1930s, when some men started to look at women only as their political party comrades. The dresses in the 1930s became longer and less colorful. The popularity of black and white colors in the 1930s was also partially caused by the influence of the black-and-white movie productions of Hollywood.

The Museum of Applied Art (Arsenalo Street 3A) is open from Tuesdays – Saturdays from 11:00 to 18:00; on Sundays and the eve of national holidays from 11:00 to 16:00. Closed on Mondays and national holidays.