HOLLYWOOD, YOU'RE SO ART DECO
Sunday, October 29, 2023
Glitz and glamor characterize old Hollywood as one of the most essential eras in fashion history. But, arguably, the most essential 'g' is the lesser-known – geometry. While sparkle, shine, and unique silhouettes were staples of this period, the strong geometric shapes of Art Deco-style jewelry firmly established this era in the annals of history.
Art Deco is a unique aesthetic that prioritizes geometric shapes in art, fashion, and especially jewelry. Representing luxury, modern flair, and glamor, this era embraced social and technological progress with bold lines, sharp angles, and patterns. Think Marilyn Monroe's striking Austrian Crystal Necklace in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – the eye-catching crystals danced in a line to form repeated arcs centered around an inconceivably large diamond. Or, think of the many tiaras Audrey Hepburn showcased with beautiful, symmetric kite-shaped diamonds. During the Golden Age, utilizing Art Deco to achieve iconic looks proved to be the winning formula for fashion success.
Initially, Art Deco's importance was evident, yet often overlooked in fashion. Before evolving into an artistic style that could be manipulated across mediums, Art Deco was a way of designing architecture. In France, Art Deco or "style moderne" was emphasized as a style with a clean, streamlined appearance that made use of geometric and stylized adornment; however, it was not widely utilized in fashion before its architectural debut. You may recognize these impressive examples, such as the Chrysler Building by William Van Alen or the Empire State Building by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon.
The Golden Age of Hollywood sparked a boom in the economy, specifically the entertainment industry. People began interacting with broadcast media at a higher level than ever before. On Sept. 7, 1927, the television was introduced to Americans, allowing them to engage with celebrities and their enviable wardrobe. When tuning into their regular channels, people could envision themselves wearing the statement pieces they saw on their television screens. Art Deco was integrated into American jewelry at this time of heightened wealth and idealization for fashion. In the search for a way to uniquely combine glamor and individualism, the extravagance and novelty of Art Deco revealed itself as the solution.
The cyclical relationship between Art Deco and the economy created a boom in jewelry sales. Competition within the jewelry industry began with the rise of Art Deco. Acclaimed jewelry and fashion houses such as Place Vendôme – Boucheron, Cartier, Chaumet, Van Cleef & Arpels" established a period in which enthusiasm ran high as everyone searched for ways to outdo one another to create the best rendition of the style. Revenues boomed, and Art Deco continued to flourish.
The intricate and jaw-dropping designs produced through the Art Deco style during the Golden Age helped cement its place in fashion despite mainly going unnoticed. The popularity of rectangular cut diamonds, layered bracelets, drop earrings, and even tiaras in the Golden Age cannot be separated from its stylistic influence. The legacy of Art Deco has not been short-lived. The Runways of Gucci and Vera Wang designs by Jean Paul Gaultier – and even Lana Del Rey songs – give reference and due credit to this iconic style.