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May 26, 2018

Incredible Photographs Taken Nearly a Century Ago Show Some of the Top Fashion Choices of the Jazz Age

Women’s clothing in the 1920s reflected dizzying social change on an unprecedented scale. From Paris and London to New York and Hollywood, the period following the Great War offered the modern woman a completely new style of dressing.

But it was America in the 1920s that provided the creative inspiration for a Europe still staggering out of the fog of war. From the East coast to the West, the United States was producing icons on an industrial scale— from stars of the silver screen to skyscrapers, and it was the impact on women’s fashion that has left us with arguably the most tangible and enduring notion of what the Jazz Age was.

These incredible photos come via the archive of James Abbe (1883-1973). His photographs documented the world of Hollywood stars and he is credited with creating the modern-day concept of celebrity through his portraits of stage and screen stars such as Gilda Gray, the Dolly Sisters, and Louise Brooks.

One of the leading American celebrity photographers of the 1920s, Abbe moved to New York in 1917 and quickly established an international reputation as a stage and film photographer. His photographs were soon being published in Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Ladies Home Journal.

He visited Hollywood in 1920 and 1922 and took portraits of Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin and even found time to direct a film for silent film director and founder of Keystone Studios, Mack Sennett.

After working for seven months on location in Italy on the Ronald Colman – Lillian Gish film, The White Sister (1923), Abbe switched his base to Paris where he photographed French stage and revue stars, introducing them to a world-wide audience through his picture syndication. As the decade and its fashions waned he returned increasingly to photo-journalism, but left behind a body of work that defines classical Hollywood cinema and its fashions, tastes and imagery.

The Dolly Sisters (Jenny and Rosie), Paris, 1924, Modeling ‘Bulldog’ Collars by Marthe Regnier.

One woman can be seen wearing a snakeskin outfit coordinated with her car interior, circa 1927.

The Dolly Sisters (Jenny and Rosie), in ‘Paris Sans Voiles’ at the Ambassadeurs Theatre, Paris, 1923.

Mistinguett in ‘La Revue Mistinguett’, Moulin Rouge, 1925.

This window display at McCormick-Saeltzer department store in Redding, California, shows what bathing suits looked like circa 1925.

French tennis player Suzanne Lenglen can be seen wearing a Patou outfit and her trademark bandeau headwear, which became part of mainstream fashion in the 1920s.

French actress Andrée Spinelly can be seen in 1927 performing in Paris in a sparkly costume and headdress.

Rudolph Valentino and Natasha Rambova, New York, 1922.

Norma and Constance Talmadge, Motion Picture Classic, 1922.

A young woman in dress during the Jazz Age in America.

This Jean Patou dress, dating back to 1921, made out of georgette crepe and featuring a fringed waist, is modelled by the dancer Madame Lubovska.

Edward, Prince of Wales, is featured circa 1925 wearing an informal lounge suit along with a straw boater.

Showgirl Dolores Costello in 1919. She was a star of the Ziegfeld Follies and a leading influence on fashion.

These four men, photographed in America in 1921, illustrate the transitionary period in men's fashion; from the Edwardian-era high collars on the men in the middle to the less formal, waistcoat-less style of the man on the left.

These men and women can be seen in 1929 in America, wearing almost identical bathing suits.

Louise Brooks, Prix De Beaute, 1929.

Beatrice Pratt as Isis.

Bessie Love, 1925.

Fred and Adele Astaire on the set of Lady Be Good, 1926.

Gertrude Lawrence and Noel Coward in London Calling, 1923.

Gilda Gray. 1925.

Norma Talmadge, 1922.

(Photos by James Abbe Archive, via Museum Crush)



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