women

All That Jazz (part 2)

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“We think Board walk Empire is influential,” says Shannon Davenport, head of the women’s editorial team at New York-based fashion trend fore casting firm Stylesight. But the Mark Wahlberg-produced hit is only one of the recent dramatic interpretations of the era. Runaway British hit Downton Abbey’s second season was set in a lush ‘20s milieu; Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris portrayed the French capital in the ‘20s; Martin Scorsese’s art-deco Hugo, released last year, won five Oscars; and The Artist a sweeping silent film set in Jazz Age Hollywood received  massive critical acclaim and swept the Academy Awards as well.

“These movies and shows remind us of a certain inspiration that hasn’t been revisited for a while,” explains Davenport. 1974’s The Great Gatsby, for example, starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, “spawned a mini trend of clothes from the ‘20s,” she adds. This December Baz Luhrmann’s 3-D version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel starring Carey Mulligan is set to hit theatres and fashion circles are already buzzing.

Description: “These movies and shows remind us of a certain inspiration that hasn’t been revisited for a while,” explains Davenport.

“These movies and shows remind us of a certain inspiration that hasn’t been revisited for a while,” explains Davenport.

“We seem to have become fascinated with a time when people were really well dressed,” says Dunn. But beyond the glamour, parties and indulgence, the decade was also a period of incredible social change and conflict because of modernization. It was, in essence, a decade-long party ultimately extinguished by the stock-market crash in 1929, which wiped out billions of dollars in wealth overnight and hurled much of the West into the worst economic downturn in modern history.

“There are a lot of parallels in what we are undergoing today,” says Kevin Boyle, a professor of history at Ohio State University and author of Arc of justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the jazz Age. “There was tremendous prosperity for segments of society and also a period of profound economic inequality. There was a profound expression of new culture, of new forms of expression and of new behaviours, so a lot of people got scared of that. It was an incredibly vibrant time, which is one of the reasons why there was conflict.”

Description: “There are a lot of parallels in what we are undergoing today,”

“There are a lot of parallels in what we are undergoing today.”

Blacks, Catholics and Jews faced heightened discrimination. Prohibition, which went into effect in the United States at the beginning of the decade, was “driven by cultural conservatism and class conflict”: Protestant factions saw banning alcohol as a way of controlling immigrant working classes. There was also great technological change. Radios made their way into almost every house hold. People started buying cars. Charles Lindbergh took his first flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Mechanization resulted in job losses for farmers and, at the same time, opened up new employment in a burgeoning mass production manufacturing industry. For the first time, most people had electricity.

Description: Protestant factions saw banning alcohol as a way of controlling immigrant working classes.

Protestant factions saw banning alcohol as a way of controlling immigrant working classes.

Today, most people are connected to the Internet. Jobs have been lost to emerging markets which are now vast epicenters of manufacturing and cheap labour. Minorities and women have only continued to embrace greater freedoms, and this has garnered a conservative political backlash. Unfortunately, the gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow.

So, while there are certainly some generations who have experienced as much turmoil as my own, the change we’ve gone through has been frenetic. We remember a not so distant child hood without mobile phones or the Internet, when places like London or Paris seemed very far away when safe paths extended out before us, leading to a home and the proverbial white picket fence.

Description: Unfortunately, the gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow.

Unfortunately, the gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow.

But instead, our coming of age experience has been defined by watching wars being waged in far off places from the comfort of our living rooms and on strangely isolating social networks. We can’t find employment, and financial security is fleeting, at best. It feels as if a crash may be right around the corner. So, we’re learning to live for today because tomorrow has never been guaranteed. That’s the very mindset that launched the Roaring Twenties, before the age was idolized for its glitz and glamour, freedom and flippancy and creativity and optimism. As it turns out, we’re looking hack to this decade because, well, we can relate.

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