Fashion Drawing & Illustration: 1920s
Developments in fashion following the war were greatly influenced by the changing attitudes of women. Younger women were empowered by their wartime independence and deliberately flouted the style preferences of their mothers' generation for flounces, frills and lace. They cropped their hair and wore skirts to the knee, with simple, linear dresses that gave them a boyish silhouette.
London-born Norman Hartnell(1901–79) set up his fashion house in 1923 and soon became famous for his lavish and romantic evening and bridal gowns. Hartnell is credited with introducing the longer-length skirts that would mark the end of the flapper era and his designs were sought after by the sophisticated British 'elite'.
Very much a 'society' dressmaker, Hartnell is, however, perhaps best known for his long-standing association with the English Royal family. He designed the dress worn by Queen Elizabeth for her wedding to Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh in 1947, as well as her coronation robes in 1953. In 1977, Hartnell was appointed KCVO, the first knighthood conferred for services to fashion.
1) Hartnell designed this dress with two materials in mind: the under dress is of solid material and is covered from shoulder to hem with chiffon. The dress has a boat neck line with tight sleeves up to the elbow where they fan out with 'scollop' edging. This matches the hem of the dress. Hartnell supplemented the design with a beaded belt with tassels, matched with a band of beads on the sleeves. The design also shows a large head band with sparkling embroidery. The simplicity and grace of this dress would have been perfect for the fashionable cocktail parties of the era.
Nothing much is known about Hilda Steward apart from her drawings, from which we can see that she produced elegant high-end fashions. Many hundreds of now-anonymous dressmakers and designers like her existed in towns and cities across the country until the middle of the 20th century, when mass-market ready-to-wear clothing came to dominate fashion.
2) This sleeveless evening dress was designed by Hilda Steward in 1920 appears to be made in satin with a short lace three layer overskirt hanging from the belt. The belt is slightly higher than the waist in the front and supports the overskirt only from the side to the back - leaving the front completely free.
The figure is wearing a bracelet above the elbow and a large head band typical of the 1920s to hold the new short fashionable hair cut. The designer's signature appears in the bottom right hand corner in the form of her two initials overlapped, including the date running alongside it in a vertical strip.
3) This is a design for an orange day dress with an overskirt made by two pleated panels. The figure is holding a fur wrap which looks like Sable; it matches some fur details on the dress including those on the hem. The large brim black hat has two Ostrich feathers.
The belt is to be held by a gold ornament. The designer's signature appears in the bottom right hand corner in the form of her two initials overlapped, including the date running alongside it in a vertical strip.
Victor Stiebel (1907–73) was born in South Africa in 1907 but settled in England in 1924. After working for three years at the House of Reville, he opened his own fashion house in 1932. A founding member of the Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers, Stiebel was appointed its Chairman in 1946. Stiebel was highly successful and his clientele included the leading actresses of the day, but also royalty and members of the aristocracy. He created the going-away outfit for Princess Margaret on her marriage to Lord Snowdon in 1960.
The designs by Victor Stiebel in the V&A collections cover the period from 1927 to 1935.
4) The face of the model in this drawing, with the heavily emphasised eyes, follows the tradition established by silent-screen star Theda Bara, who popularised the word 'vamp' (a contraction of vampire, which she played in one of her films) to mean a predatory female, whose heavily khol-encircled eyes were her most memorable feature.
The combination of hair and neckband throw emphasis onto the eyes and blood red lips. The bare left shoulder is balanced by the weight of the hair being also on the left, while the bare shoulder and leg, at once revealed and concealed by the fabric strips, hint at intention and concealed delights.
5) This is a Stiebel design for an evening gown in black and silver with an appliqué or embroidered snaked coiled round it from an uneven hem to bodice. It is striking and original in all its details. The inside of the dress is lined in green - this contrasts the black exterior.
The dress has a square neck line with large shoulder straps. The model is wearing a pearl chocker with matching earrings and bracelet. The short bob hair cut with a fringe was typical of this era. There is a slight sketch for a dress on the mount of this design.