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Darien Steps Back To The Jazz Age With History Exhibit

Babs White with some of the dresses currently on display at "Stepping Out in the Jazz Age" at the Darien Historical Society. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue
Some of the stylish black dresses Darien women would have worn back in the Roaring '20s. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue
Many styles of the day were inspired by Egyptian themes, which became popular after the discovery of King Tut's tomb. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue
How a Darien Wall Street executive would have dressed while receiving stock information from his ticker tape. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue

DARIEN, Conn. – If you’re curious how Darien dressed back in the Roaring '20s, Babs White and the Darien Historical Society have put together an exhibit of clothing from the age of jazz, F. Scott Fitzgerald and the flapper girl.

“Stepping Out in the Jazz Age” is now on display in the Darien Historical Society’s Scofield Barn and will continue until March 3. It features clothing and jewelry from 1920-29, much of it donated by Darien residents and carefully preserved by the society.

“Everyone was influenced by the flapper. She had short hair, rouged lips and danced as if there was no tomorrow,” White said of the free-spirited party girls who came to define the era. “Nothing was too daring, as long as it was new, young and fun.”

The dresses on display show off the most chic fashions of the day, including original works by French designer Jeanne Lanvin and works inspired by Coco Chanel. There are undergarments, gold lamé jazz dresses and black silk skirts. Black originally had been a color of mourning in Victorian times, but came to represent the height of fashion. Many of the clothing items also are inspired by Egyptian themes, which became all the rage after the 1922 discovery of King Tut’s tomb.

White has been curating exhibits at the society for 42 years. She received a bachelor's degree in art history from Smith College and worked as a fashion artist on Madison Avenue before moving to Darien. Throughout the years, she has put on many exhibits from the nearly 3,000 pieces of clothing the society has in its collection, dating all the way back to 1740.

“I think an artifact, such as a costume, is the best artifact you can have. It shows the essence of the times, the situation of the wearer and the taste of the day. It’s so much more realistic than a shovel or a chair.”

“Stepping Out in the Jazz Age” is supported by donations from patrons and corporate sponsors the Darien Rowayton Bank and Moffly Media. You can check it out from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and Sundays.

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