“The most important lawmaker is fashion. But it’s temperamental, just like a beautiful woman.”
Lexicon of Modern Life, 1932
What did modern Estonian women wear in 1920–1940? We’re looking back with an exhibition mostly based around the textile collection of the Estonian History Museum, peeking into the wardrobe of a well-off city dweller on the most important occasions of her life.
The exhibition looks back at the time when the world’s fashion metropolises had been taken over by art deco, which left its impression on Estonians’ clothing choices as well. Once Estonia gained its independence and become more affluent, ladies were able to dress more fashionably and wear well-constructed clothes made from high-quality textiles.
Like in other walks of life, fashion also combined international trends with tradition. Handmade items were in high praise in both rural and urban settings, and allowed to keep up creatively with the newest directions that fashion took. Consumers looked to the clothes of cinematic heroines for inspiration and read up on the fashion columns of women’s magazines for practical tips.
Occasionwear has a lot to say about the society of the time. Christenings, confirmations, weddings, social gatherings and performances, bereavement – there were proper clothes for each of these occasions. Even though the etiquette of the time foresaw certain rules on how to dress for each occasion and time of day, people’s natural desire to get dolled up for special events could be expressed in a variety of ways – according to the fashion trends of the time.
The exhibition is a homage to the women of that generation who helped perpetuate our nationhood by creating values that stood the test of time and are still visible in our attire today.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue spiced up with photos of clothes and accessories belonging to the collection of the Estonian History Museum as well as original photos and illustrations from the decades discussed.
Curator: Marion Laev
Project manager: Laura Kipper
Team: Helle Avila, Maia Madar, Tiina Sakermaa, Krista Sarv
Designer: Ursula Sõber
Graphic design: Valter Jakovski and Martin Veisman / design agency Ruum 414
Photos: Vahur Lõhmus
Exhibition made and built by: Red Hat Group Design OÜ
Estonian Cultural Endowment