Fashion & Textile Museum 1920s Jazz Age Exhibition

At the weekend my Mum and I did our annual pre-Christmas trip to London. We decided to make a real break of it and stay over for two nights and chose an incredibly central hotel to rest our heads. The location of it was great, just opposite Marble Arch, but the service was appalling and we definitely won’t be going back there again. The only thing we had planned was to go to the Fashion & Textile Museum to explore their Jazz Age exhibition, other than that it was just shopping!

Vintage bloggers

Whenever we go to London something surreal always happens and this time it happened almost immediately. We’d literally checked in, dumped our stuff and hopped onto the tube, then as we were heading to the escalator to come out of the tube station someone called my name. It totally freaked me out! Then the voice was joined by someone tugging on my arm and low and behold it was Elaine from the Black Tulip blog! We started following each others blogs earlier in the year and it was such an amazing coincidence that we’d both chosen exactly the same day and time to head to the Jazz Age exhibition!

Black & White ensemble 1920s

Pleat detail on 1920s jacket

The Fashion & Textile Museum is very unlike other big London museums, it’s small, tucked away and has no permanent collection. Instead it hosts one entire exhibition throughout the museum, allowing the curators to really focus. It also gives it a lovely relaxed and personal feeling to your visit and the staff are always on hand to answer any questions you may have.

The 1920s Jazz Age exhibition flows beautifully as you walk through, starting off with a collection of fashion illustrations by American designer, Gordon Conway and a small cinema room showing clips from 1920s films. We decided to join a group going around with a tour guide, which was great as it gave us an even more in-depth look at everything.

1920s embroidery

1930s beach pyjamas

The main room features a whole plethora of different garments, from opera coats to lingerie and from afternoon dresses to beach pyjamas, each one in amazing condition. None of them are behind glass so you can lean in and get really close to see all the wonderful detailing. Each section tells a story about how life changed dramatically from the stiff pre-war era to a life of leisure, luxury, frivolity and innovation. Many garments feature new techniques and fabrics that had never been seen before.

1920s moon

Diamante trim Jazz Age dress

1920s Egyptian coat

Upstairs was more about evening wear and the dresses were just incredible. My two favourites are pictured above. The stunning swoop of diamantés across the front and waist of the brown silk velvet dress was just beautiful and incredibly eye-catching. You can just imagine how it picked up the light and drew attention to the wearer on the dance floor.

The Egyptian embroidered coat was absolutely exquisite and was obviously inspired by the discovery of Tutankhamun or Tut-mania as one of my 1930s sewing books refers to it. It looked practically brand new!

1920s lounge pyjamas

1920s hair remover

The device above caught my eye buried at the bottom of one of the very few glass cases. It’s a 1920s hair removing device called the Tweaker with the original instructions. It’s basically like threading and you’d attach rubber bands to the four different posts and then run it along your legs (or wherever you wanted to remove hair from!) using a scissor motion. It sounds painful but probably not any worse than modern day epilating!

1930s Women's Suit

And of course I had to take a billion photographs of the one 1930s outfit on show! This suit is even more stunning in real life, even my mum was going gaga over it and said I just had to make my own version. Well, it would be rude not to, right? I already know the fabric I want to use, it’s a vintage wool in purple and ivory houndstooth I picked up at a vintage jumble sale. I just hope I have enough, otherwise it’ll be back to the drawing board.

1930s shoes

These are the stunning shoes they had paired with the suit. They’re incredibly narrow, much more the style of the 1920s than the mid to late 1930s and have a Louis XV heel. However, I love the colour, a completely neutral biscuit colour, which I bet would go with just about everything. If only Royal Vintage Shoes would reproduce them! 😉

At the end of the tour Elaine joined us for a late lunch in the cafe and we had a good old natter. It was lovely to sit and talk about sewing, vintage and life in general with such a lovely like-minded lady. Hope to meet you again some day Elaine!

Carnaby Street Christmas

House of Fraser lights

After we had finished, Mum and I headed up to Oxford Street to have a good look at all the beautiful Christmas lights. It was just getting dark by that point so it was lovely to just stand and have a look around. We then headed down Argyll Street towards Liberty and suddenly it was as if it was snowing! It was such a magical movie moment and everyone was Ooooing and Ahhhing, trying desperately to catch the flakes. Anyway it turned out to be fake snow being blasted out from one of the buildings above, but it was magical none the less!

Vintage Gal blogger

The next day was another surreal day where we first headed to Alfie’s Antique Market in Church Street (the same road as Joel & Son Fabrics – I resisted!). There we met a seller of the most stunning 1930s homewares who turned out to be the lady who supplied the entire Poirot series with home props! It was absolutely fascinating talking to her and I could’ve spent an absolute fortune with her. However, as most of it was breakable I only ended up buying a beautiful pink Davidson vase for my bedroom.

Once we left there we headed for Portobello Road where I ended up buying a ton of Christmas presents. Yay! I also got stopped about 15 times by foreign tourists wanting to have their photo taken with me!! One lady even asked if I was royalty!! I was dressed similarly to the outfit above but with my brown skirt and navy 1930s shoes, so I guess I stood out rather a lot.

The photo above was taken about 5 minutes before we left the hotel to go home and I said that seeing as everyone else had taken my photo, I probably should too! (I’m rubbish at remembering to take photos!) And yes, that is my completed 1930s jacket. I will feature it properly on the blog at some point, although it’s more likely to be next year now.

Cate

Just a vintage gal suffering from the Golden Age syndrome. Lover of all things old, lingerie obsessive, crafter and enjoys rummaging at flea markets.

25 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing the tour. Glad you had a good time and met Elaine.
    Marilyn

    • Thank you Norma! I really hope it does too. I’m going to check it this weekend, so if you hear lots of swearing you’ll know who it is 🙂 xx

  2. Nice!…the last photo is very lovely and this outfit is Great on you…the jacket is fabolous!…what a charisma you shine!
    happy festive season!

    • Thanks Aure! I felt quite a mess at that point after several days of walking around London. xx

  3. that exhibition looks amazing – thanks for sharing those photos, there is such beautiful detailing, and it sounds like you had a fantastic trip overall!

    • Thanks Eimear! Yes, we had a really wonderful time and the exhibition was definitely the highlight. xx

  4. You’re looking fab, Cate! No wonder you were stopped so many times to have your photo taken. And what a coincidence you bumped into Elaine. I would have loved going to that exhibition and it must have been really hard tearing yourself away from all that loveliness. That Tweaker does look and sound very painful, but I guess you’re right that it probably isn’t worse than modern day epilating. Ouch! xxx

    • Thank you Ann, that’s very sweet of you! Yes, it was such an amazing exhibition, I wanted to take everything home. xx

  5. Thanks for sharing your trip ,need to add a visit to the fabric and textile museum soon ,love that diamanté sash -beautiful.
    You look fab am not surprised you were photographed

    • Thank you Emma! The Jazz Age exhibition ends on the 15th of January, so if you want to catch that one you’ll need to be quick. I may have to go back later in the year because there’s going to be an Anna Sui exhibition and I was a massive fan of hers in the 1990s. xx

  6. I have been dithering over going to that exhibition, I’m mad! it looks amazing so why the dither?? That velvet dress and Egyptian coat *swoon*

    • Yes go, there’s not a lot of time left as it finishes on the 15th of January. Don’t miss it! xx

  7. The exhibition really does look wonderful! How nice that you got to meet up with Elaine, and had such a good trip overall. I must try and see the Poirot-prop seller next time I’m in London! x

    • Oh you really must Sarah! The lady’s name is Beth and she’s on the ground floor, just as you enter through what I think is the farthest left hand door, if you’re looking straight at it whilst standing in Church Street. Her stuff is amazing and she offered me really good discount. I honestly could’ve bought her entire unit! xx

  8. What a fun exhibition! Your jacket is so lovely I can’t wait to see more of it <3 I so wish I could visit London again, all the photos I've been seeing on the city decked out for Christmas are making my heart cry out to be there!

    • Thank you Bianca! There’s nothing quite like London at Christmas, it really does feel like you’re in a movie! xx

  9. *Curtseys to Her Highness*

    Such a shame the hotel gave bad service, as it sounds as though everything else was fab. Those beach pyjamas (?) are stunning. I love the ‘punch’ of those jazz age prints – the very opposite of twee.

    Get making that suit, we all want to see it! 😉

    • Hahaha, yeah hardly!!

      I will definitely be making that suit at some point, that’s for sure. There’s just not enough hours in the day to make everything I want to. Can you believe I done a single bit of sewing since I finished my jacket? I have withdrawal! xx

  10. I thought the 1930’s suit was a stunner too so I look forward to seeing your version. I liked being reminded of the exhibition through your photos, so many wonderful outfits. I really must finish up my post about it. I’m so behind! I have not made it to Alfie’s Antiques yet but hope to one day. Probably need to save up! Your jacket looks gorgeous, what an achievement!

    • It really was a wonderful exhibition, so much inspiration! The suit is a definite must and I’m already on the search for some fab buttons and buckle. xx

  11. Of all the odd comments from strangers that people in vintage or retro clothes get, “Are you royalty” would have to be the best!!

    • I know, right? And it’s the second time this year! Okay, so the first one was from a five year old girl who thought I was the Queen, but the second was a grown up! xx

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