Modern and free

By National Museum of Costume in Portugal

Get familiar with a true woman of 20's - Maria Luísa Cabral Metelo - painted by Jean-Gabriel Domergue

The young women of the 1920’s rejected the generous and curvy body lines of the early 20th century.

With an androgynous silhouette they personified the modern and free woman with short hair and strong make up.

Women had their hair cut short, from the practical Bobbed style or Garçonne (1922) to the more radical Eton style (1926), clearly revealing women’s new attitudes and values towards society.

In the 1920’s new technologies allowed cosmetics to innovate and to become more complex. Powders, vanishing creams, mascaras, lipsticks retractable tubes and containers were designed to appeal the new consumers.

A great innovation is the nail polish, especially in shades of red. The perfume is also the essential and invisible fashion accessory. New cosmetics convey new attitudes. Women began to touch up their make-up in public, an inconceivable and private gesture until then.

Ample necklines and bare arms are attributes of both evening and everyday dresses.

Women favoured light fabrics such as satin, crepe, chiffon or muslin. For the evening these were embroidered with beads and sequins and with lace trimmings.
Colours were preferably vivid ones, although black was also appreciated.

The skirts hemline height varied throughout the decade and only from 1926 onwards did it show the legs above the knees, becoming one of the strongest features of its time.

Stockings and shoes were relevant elements to fit the short dresses. Shoes featured slightly pointed toe-boxes and shaped high heels, more decorated for the evening in golden or silvered material and often embroidered with bright sequins. Cream stockings were common for the day, although vivid colours and patterns were also appreciated, always made of silk or artificial silk.

Jean-Gabriel Domergue (Bordeaux, 4th March 1889 – Paris, 16th November 1962) was a French painter who dedicated himself to fashion iconography in the 1920’s.

He had as patrons and clientele ladies of the French aristocracy, as well as renowned couturiers such as Paul Poiret. Domergue, who was named as the "peintre des beautés" (painter of the beauties), had a special painting trait while elongated women’s figures.

Portrait of Maria Luísa Cabral Metelo by Jean-Gabriel DomergueNational Museum of Costume in Portugal

Credits: Story

Texts: Xénia Flores Ribeiro
Online exhibition: Cândida Caldeira e Xénia Flores Ribeiro

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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