Dec. 2, 2021

Female art déco

The interwar period was a time of dynamic changes in social, cultural, and moral matters. Progress in the democratization process and the increase in women's life opportunities was one of the greatest achievements of that years. Thanks to full suffrage, women gained greater independence, and wide access to education contributed to the growth of women's ambitions and professional aspirations. Following Western patterns of emancipation, Polish women freed themselves from limiting conventions by wearing bold outfits, driving fast cars, and smoking cigarettes.

Everyone smoked then, both men and emancipated women, although ladies with cigarettes were still unacceptable for some. Therefore, a considerable scandal was caused by Eleanor Roosevelt, who was the first president's wife to publicly smoke. The sight of men smoking was not surprising and did not raise any moral doubts. Until World War I, smoking was considered a manifestation of male freedom, and a cigarette in women's hands became a true sign of a moral revolution.

Smoking socialites supplied themselves with fashionable accessories, cigarette holders, lighters, ashtrays, and sophisticated cigarette cases. Decorative boxes for storing cigarettes were usually made of silver and personalized with family crests, badges, or names of relatives. Subtle cigarette cases in neat shapes were designed for women. We present you with an example of such a cigarette case at the upcoming auction.

Cigarette manufacturers quickly adapted to the new situation. The brand Marlboro was established in 1924. Initially, it targeted the products exclusively at women. Cigarettes of this brand were advertised to be "soft as May" and had red mouthpieces, which were supposed to cover up lipstick smudges. The brand Złota Pani (Gold Lady) was the most popular among Polish female smokers. It offered stylish cigarettes with gold edges, designed for elegant ladies. Women's magazines encouraged people to hand cigarettes in the form of gifts, "Which beautiful blonde would not accept ‘Gold Lady', as the name itself sounds like a compliment? Or ‘Sphinx' and ‘Mermaid'? After all, there is a game called ‘flower flirting', maybe we could introduce the more modern ‘cigarette flirting'." Cigarettes packed in elegant metal boxes were to be a perfect substitute for "banal" flowers.

In the interwar period, glass with bold colors and modern shapes enjoyed great prominence. It was a time of remarkable development of the glass market. The number of manufacturing and ornamental techniques increased thanks to technological progress. The cooperation of glassworks with designers resulted in many projects which were not only utility items but also started to turn into real works of art. Glass pieces of this period were characterized by typical art deco features. Decanters, glasses, plates, perfume bottles were formed into geometric shapes. At that time, the most famous were products made from pressed glass, the invention of which significantly accelerated the production process. The manufacturing of pressed glass allowed to skip the grinding, engraving, and sandblasting stages, and the tableware made of it became a great counterpart to crystal glass.

In the interwar period, glass with bold colors and modern shapes enjoyed great prominence. It was a time of remarkable development of the glass market. The number of manufacturing and ornamental techniques increased thanks to technological progress. The cooperation of glassworks with designers resulted in many projects which were not only utility items but also started to turn into real works of art. Glass pieces of this period were characterized by typical art deco features. Decanters, glasses, plates, perfume bottles were formed into geometric shapes. At that time, the most famous were products made from pressed glass, the invention of which significantly accelerated the production process. The manufacturing of pressed glass allowed to skip the grinding, engraving, and sandblasting stages, and the tableware made of it became a great counterpart to crystal glass.

The dressing tables of fashionable women were adorned with glass bathroom sets in which they stored small jewelry or make-up accessories. The glassware decorating the dressing tables also included ornamental perfume bottles. One of the most prominent perfume bottle producers was the French glassworks Baccarat, which cooperated with the most famous perfume houses and perfumes,  such as Guerlain, Lenthéric, Jean Patou, and Elizabeth Arden. Luxurious bottles were produced using only the highest-quality crystal, as the perfumes were supposed to impress not only with their scent but also with the design of the flacons. Baccarat perfume bottles were also distinguished by their look, characterized by architectural patterns and angular forms in the shape of prisms or diamonds.

 

The art déco style was related to various forms of art, from painting to architecture and applied art. It fully flourished also in jewelry design. Sophisticated in its simplicity, elegant jewelry was a response to unconstrained curves, soft lines, and pastel colors of the Art Nouveau movement, the style that dominated art at the turn of the century. In the 1920s, pastels gave way to vivid colors and combinations of bold shades. Wavy lines were turned into rigid geometric forms, and asymmetrical designs were replaced by symmetrical motifs. Due to cubist and geometric shapes of art déco jewelry, new diamond cuts were discovered and popularized, e.g. baguette, pear, marquise.

Colored stones were an important element of jewelry from that era. The most popular were the already mentioned sapphires, rubies, and emeralds, nonetheless, almost every type of colored stone was used, such as quartz, jade, coral, pearl. Pearls, both natural and cultured, also played a significant role in art déco jewelry. Cultured pearls were first introduced to the market on a bigger scale in the 1920s and quickly became very fashionable. They complemented diamonds or contrasted with colored stones.

In the 1920s, women's outfits commenced showing much more body than in earlier eras. The choice of jewelry forms began to be adapted to the prevailing fashion. Long pendants with geometric shapes matched perfectly with deep necklines. Sautoir, a long necklace made of numerous strands of pearls or colored stones and trimmed with one or two tassels, became particularly fashionable. Short hairstyles, which were popular at the time, revealed ears and earrings clipped on them. Dresses with short or no sleeves presented decorative bracelets that were also worn on the upper arms. Fingers were adorned with massive rings.

Art déco jewelry was also distinguished by new, innovative materials. The largest jewelry houses used high-quality ores and gemstones in their designs, but such pieces were available only to the richest. Thanks to technological advances in the field of artificial materials, jewelry started to be more affordable. Bakelite, which perfectly imitated stones, bones, and pearls, was used on a large scale by the jewelry industry.

ART DÉCO. STYLE AND EPOCH
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