The 1920s look recreated in 'Boardwalk Empire'
Bairbre Power dives into a flapper fashion fest
Published 12/02/2011 | 05:00
'Boardwalk Empire' is going to do for 1920s fashion what 'Mad Men' did for the 1960s. But in a curious twist, it's all about the boyish, cylindrical shape as opposed to curves and hips.
The new HBO series, set in Atlantic City during the Prohibition era, chronicles the life, and eye-catching wardrobe, of gangster Enoch 'Nucky' Johnson. And if you think his loud plaid suits and fancy-pancy shirts are something, wait 'til you see the fashionable women in his life!
The series has been pulling in huge audiences since it debuted in the States last September, and it's compelling viewing every Tuesday night (9pm, Sky Atlantic) for anyone with an eye for vintage style.
The 1920s was a fascinating period for fashion and the decade marked the start of the modern silhouette, when women dispensed with restrictive corseting. More relaxed flapper dresses, with their dropped waists, became all the rage, and the flat-chested, boyish looks of the 1920s gave way to the more girly looks of the 1930s.
The latter was captured in glamorous movies such as 'The Great Gatsby', based on F Scott Fitzgerald's novel. Coming fast on the heels of 'Boardwalk Empire', with all its eye candy, Baz Luhrmann is making a version of Gatsby, with actress Carey Mulligan playing Daisy -- a role made famous by Mia Farrow in the 1970s.
Anyone who enjoyed the recent re-run of the BBC's 'The House of Eliott', a rich homage to vintage fashion and style, will eat up the costumes in 'Boardwalk Empire'. Be warned, the show is guaranteed to spark a niggling temptation to copy the clothes and accessories from a decade when women found a new place in a man's world: boyish, bobbed hair under cloche hats; trousers inspired by Coco Chanel in Paris.
Your first port of call for vintage clothes should begin close to home, in your granny's attic. I was incredibly fortunate because my maternal grandmother, Mary Crowley (nee Hosford), trained to make her own clothes in her native Cork and I was lucky enough to inherit many wonderful pieces: lace-trimmed diaphanous blouses, paste jewellery and a musquash fur coat with shawl collar -- more speakeasy than student wear, but I didn't care. However, I never uncovered a swishing flapper dress or the embellished top she wore in the 1920s family portrait (opposite page) with her mother and first daughter.
Watching 'Boardwalk Empire', I was transfixed by the image of Margaret, played by Kelly Macdonald, surrounded by beautiful clothes in The Ritz hotel. I ran for the sepia photograph on the mantlepiece and compared the similarly styled, embellished tunics.
In the show, Margaret's wardrobe is rich in detail and features classic elements which are relatively easy to recreate today, both on the high street (in stores such as Brown Thomas, Monsoon, alwear, and New Look) and in specialist vintage shops. Second-hand stores are good too. For this feature, I uncovered great vintage-feel pieces in Green With Envy boutique on Upper Rathmines Road.
A good starting point to accessorise existing pieces might be to acquire Art Deco paste clips, which you place in the corner of your square-necked LBD, finishing the look with cute Mary Jane shoes. The paste clips featured here cost €80 from Jenny Vander on Drury Street, a gem of a store run by Marian Sullivan, who is a great source of advice -- as is Marie Little from A Store is Born.
This pop-up store opens every Saturday on Clarendon Street, opposite Costelloe & Costelloe, and it is a must-see for your fashion diary. During the week, the shop space is the entrance to a small office carpark, but on Saturdays the space is transformed into an atmospheric store, full of authentic vintage pieces from the past 10 decades. Marie reminded me that there was a 1920s revival in the 1960s, so make sure that, if you are forking out serious money for a 'vintage' flapper dress, it is the real thing.
The shoe pictured right looks like a vintage croc skin, but it is, in fact, a printed leather, costing €205 from LK Bennett. They also come in black suede, but I lost my heart to the Prada black suede slingbacks (far right). Their triangular, circular cutwork reminds me of the ribbed, terraced steel crown sitting on the top of New York's Chrysler building which, in my book, is the finest Art Deco building of all.
My hunt for 1920s jewellery took me to Jenny Vander and then to Rhinestones on South Andrew Street, where sisters Bernadette and Catherine Butler are only too happy to point out collectibles. A virtual Aladdin's cave that magpies with an eye for jewellery, china and accessories will adore, I made straight for a mesmerising display of paste and bakelite pieces that cried out "buy me". I left this wonderland with the sisters' advice: "Never, ever let your paste jewellery touch water because it will loosen the glue."
Mother-and-daughter team Suzanne and Fiona Smyth at Harlequin on Castle Market, linking Drury and South William streets, have some very affordable pieces to create a 1920s look, starting with great cloche hats for €39. Bargain of the day had to be the €15 paste and feathers clip.
The thrill of finding authentic vintage clothing is one of the joys that propels me around the country, and my latest find is Gladys antique, interiors and clothing store in Tullamore's Riverview Commercial Park (057 934 1516). I was very taken by Gladys' personal vintage style when I met her at the recent wedding of Irish designer Yasmin Velloza.
Enthralled by her headpiece and jewellery, I was on the road to Tullamore once the snow vanished and was rewarded with a jaw-dropping collection of vintage clothing and furniture in excellent condition.
Tempt your eyes on her website, www.gladystyle.com.