29 October 2012

What Would Sarah Wear?

One of the things I enjoyed most about writing my novel "Sarah & Gerald" was the research into 1920s fashions. I already knew a lot about those fashions having written about them several times for various newspapers; however, it's a different story when writing about real(ish) people who wore real clothes decades before I was even born.

Early on, my research took me to Los Angeles and the 2012 exhibition of costumes from Academy Award-nominated films (including the 1920s-set "The Artist"). I wrote about that exhibition here.

Matt and I recently took in a marvelous fashion exhibition called "Modern Spirit: Fashion of the 1920s" at the Phoenix Art Museum. It features more than 40 ensembles and accessories by more than a dozen iconic fashion designers including Gabrielle Chanel (pictured, top), Jean Patou (center) and Madeleine Vionnet (bottom). While it was neat seeing the fashions up close, it was even neater knowing that these are the very outfits that would have been worn by my characters. On several occasions I pointed out something to Matt and said "I describe a dress just like this for Sarah in one scene." It was an eerie occurrence of life imitating art.

The Phoenix Art Museum has a very long tradition of interest in fashion, with a collection that was founded in 1966. It comprises more than 5,000 objects of American and European clothing and accessories dating from the late 17th century to the present. I strongly urge you to check out this exceptional exhibition if you live in the Phoenix Metro area, or plan on being in town before the exhibition closes in February 2013. You can find out more about the exhibition at the Museum's website.  

All photographs by Ken Howie. Copyright and courtesy of The Phoenix Art Museum.

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