With women in the post-war era shoving aside restrictive corsets and precision-moulded couture in the hopes of winning body freedom, the designers knocked out waists, brought up hemlines and all but suppressed the bust.
The result, in the cabaret heyday of Josephine Baker and Maurice Chevalier, was the loose dropped-waist shift worn to dance the Charleston, Fox-Trot or Blackbottom.
With the new straight flapper-style came short sleek hair — a revolution after centuries in which a women’s hair was supposed to be her crowning glory — often crammed under a “cloche” hat pulled down over the eyes, meaning women had to to look up to see where they were going.
As hems went up, shoes became important. And as cosmetics took on, Chanel launched its No 5 in 1921 while in 1925 Guerlain produced Shalimar and Lanvin retailed My Sin.
The flappers smoked cigarettes, adopted pyjamas for lounging around at home, wore make-up, formerly associated with prostitutes, and at their most mannish and sexually unclear wore ties, suits, bowler hats and sported monocles.
The decade also marked the triumph of iconic 20s designer, Coco Chanel, whose easy-to-wear fluid jersey outfits in simple shapes and neutral tones were made for the comfort and ease of the new 20th century woman.
“The jersey outfits became a basic for women though jerseys until the previous decade had been used for sportswear,” said Grossiord. “Women would wear these until 4 or 5 in the afternoon when they’d change for the evening.”
Like today’s big-name designers, the exhibition also highlights the influences of the age on fashion — Art Deco prints and Egyptian and Asian touches following the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922 or an exhibit on Angkor Wat.
A Poiret jacket was even made out of a Russian embroidered table-cloth picked up by the couturier during a journey.
To top off the show, the Roaring 20s are also to be the theme of a series of other cultural events in Paris this autumn and winter, including film, song and even a display of crystal from the times at the Baccarat museum.
Commissaire scientifique de l’exposition
Sophie Grossiord, conservateur en chef au mus