In the Spotlight: An Unofficial History of Fancy Dress

Amber Butchart: Fashion Historian


The below article by Cecil Beaton has to go down as one of my all time favourite Vogue moments. The piece is crammed full of Vreelandisms (is it any accident that her ‘Why Don’t You’ column in Harper’s Bazaar started the same year?), from “What about taking all your coloured handkerchiefs and bandaging your entire body?” to “What about pinning roses from your great aunt’s hat all over your cherry-coloured velvet evening jacket, and cutting white kid leggings above the knees, to go as a garden boy?” In somewhat Dadaist style, Beaton also champions the use of found objects, which again chimes perfectly with the times as the Surrealist Exhibition of Objects in Paris opened just the year before in 1936 and marked the crescendo of popular interest in the movement.

‘Suggestions for Fancy Dress’ by Cecil Beaton, British Vogue, Younger Generation Number, December 22, 1937; ‘Symphony in…

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Author: Camara Dia Holloway

I am an art historian specializing in early twentieth century American art with particular focus on the history of photography, race and representation, and transatlantic modernist networks. I earned my PhD at Yale University in the History of Art Department. Besides my leadership role as the Founding Co-Director of the Association for Critical Race Art History (ACRAH), I am recognized for my expertise on African American Art, particularly African American Photography, and as a seasoned consultant for exhibitions, museum collections, and symposia/lectures planning.

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