I'm currently having a wonderful time rewatching the 1990s BBC TV series The House Of Eliott. Now that we're celebrating the '20s again, it's not only wonderful inspiration for 1920s fashion and great drama, it's also a reminder of how far we've come in 100 years.
If you've never seen the show and you love 1920s fashion you have to lay your hands on a copy.
Here's a trailer on Youtube:
The show is about two sisters Beatrice and Evangeline Eliott, who are suddenly left without means of support after the death of their father. It begins in 1920 and continues into the latter part of the decade. Determined and creative, they battle to get started as seamstresses and eventually have their own couture fashion house - The House Of Eliott.
Bea and Evie are stars and there are generally fine performances all round from the cast. It's not just a starry eyed view of the past with pretty fashions. Their friend Pen works for social justice and devotes her life to helping the poor. The obstacles in the way of the women trying to be independent and set up in business seem never ending. No banks would loan money to single women. Social stigmas still attached to women who didn't follow the rules in society. As the '20s progress, we see some of these restrictions relax a little.
The insights into a couture house with designers, seamstresses, a vendeuse, the interactions with clients are fascinating. And the clothes! All hand finished, hand beaded, the intricate trims and fastenings. The costume department must have had a wonderful time creating the fashions. Louise Lombard, who plays Evie, says they worked full time on the show for three years, and she saw more of her stage sister Stella Gonet (Bea) than she did of her own family at that time.
You also get a great view of how the fashions changed in the early '20s from the definitely Edwardian flavoured early '20s to the spectacular flapper style fashions of the mid 1920s.
The Edwardian flavour of the early 1920s
I love Evie's Bohemian style smocks
If only the BBC would sell us the costumes.
Note the piano shawl on the table and assuit dress Evie is wearing. Assuit is an egyptian inspired fabric embroidered with little metal discs and was popular in the 1920s during the craze for everything Egyptian after the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922.
In summary, it's constantly jaw dropping and stunning fashion. You can buy series 1-3 on DVD. It comes with a warning. The BBC cancelled the series after the end of series 3 in 1994, so there is no really final ending. But it doesn't really matter.