The Art Deco period encompasses a time that began in the early 1920’s and ended in 1941 with the beginning of World War II. It then resurged in 1965 or so and continued into the 1980’s. The period began with the death of Queen Victoria in 1901.
Queen Victoria had ruled for over 60 years, and her death, the turn of the century and the rise of technology allowed for a new fresher, streamlined way of thinking to pervade almost every area of design. Architecture, clothing, jewelry, and home decor were affected by this transition.
The name, “Art Deco”, was first used in 1926, but was made popular in 1965 after the publishing of a book by Bevis Hillier who wrote a book on the subject.
Art Deco architecture was a mixture Egyptian, Mayan, Aztec and classical elements. It used clean lines and strong colors, with patterns and machine elements. The Chrysler building, built in 1930 in New York, is considered a premium example of this period.
Women’s clothing moved to a narrower and semi fitted style, so the wearing of corsets was no longer needed. The hemlines started to climb, and by the mid 20’s it was at the knee. Waistlines moved up and down as styles vary.
As the period continued, and the depression hit, the hemlines dropped back to the ankle, and long dresses were worn. New materials and and open backs on dresses were introduced.
Costume jewelry was introduced as World War I came to an end. The mindset throughout the war had been to be thrifty, so expensive jewelry was looked down upon. Now people wanted jewelry that looked nice, as opposed to just expensive. Pieces were produced that would play upon the new clothing styles that were introduced at the time. Pins to hold up lingerie, since the corset was no longer worn, and sautoirs to wear with dresses with lower waistlines, were among the innovations.
As in architecture, home decor incorporated modern materials and new industrial trends into the designs. The furniture became more streamlined and sleek, but comfortable. The furniture and many indoor surfaces used more manmade materials, like stainless steel and chrome, and used inlaid wood for its colors and contrasts. Floors were black, white, or checkered, with rugs of dark earth colors and nature motifs or geometric patterns. Shiny fabrics and mirrors were used for contrast.
While most people loved this design period, many critics, especially in the architecture arena, dismissed the designs as gaudy and cheap. It is only in recent years that it has truly been appreciated.
The Art Deco of the 20’s and 30’s gave rise to many other movements, as individual elements of the period were emphasized and developed. Today, Art Deco has seen a resurgence in recent years, as many of the home decor ideas are appreciated, while others are looking for that retro look. Since a lot of the old movies were made at the height of the Art Deco era, these looks copied and sought after with nostalgia for those elegant, courtly times.
The Art Deco Period was result of the transition from the Victorian Age to the modern age, as technology took off, and it was reflected in our designs. It makes one wonder what our grandchildren will be looking back on in our times.