Thursday, April 13, 2017

Dressing for ‘Death on the Nile’

This post was prepared for the Art Deco Society of California's April 2017 newsletter. Learn more about the Art Deco Society and become a member here. Shop for the ADSC's 33rd Annual Art Deco Preservation Ball at some of the Bay Area's finest vintage shops, listed here.

Young Agatha, setting off on a world tour. Aboard HMS Kildonan Castle in January 1922. Credit: BBC


Experience the ancient aesthetic that captured Agatha Christie’s imagination at this year’s 33rd Annual Art Deco Preservation Ball.   This year's theme, "Death on the Nile," pays homage to that prolific mystery writer as well as the decorative style known as Egyptian Revival. Also known as Egyptomania or Tutmania, this trend initially swept the West after Napoleon’s 1798 invasion of Egypt. The obsession for all things Egyptian grew to new heights after the 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. That landmark find made headlines around the world, fueling a growing trend toward exotic “orientalism” in fashion, architecture, the decorative arts and more.



The Egyptian Look
The Egyptian Look was incorporated in everything from detergent ads to exotic stage costumes. Couture designers from Souers to Poiret incorporated motifs from temple and tomb paintings, sculpture and other surviving examples of ancient Egyptian art. Some Deco-era frocks went full Pharaoh, embellished with scarabs, pyramids and sphinxes and snake-adorned headdresses. Gowns, coats, gloves, jewelry, shoes, headbands and more incorporated bold geometric or tribal patterns, gold trim or Egyptian lotus and papyrus flowers. Embroidered Egyptian designs or beads of lapis lazuli, carnelian, coral, turquoise or faience were popular as well.




A Time to Shine
Shimmering, metallic-woven fabrics evoking the golden treasure found in ancient tombs were popular. Look for gold lamé and assuit, a fabulous metal-embellished net originating in ancient times in the eponymous region of Egypt. Very popular as evening wear gowns, coats or shawls during the Deco era, you can still find it today. 



Just a Touch of Tut
Accessories are an easy way to get in the spirit. In addition to shopping at local vintage shops that have curated perfect ensembles for the event, a search on “Egyptian Revival” or “Vintage Egyptian” via Etsy, Ebay and other online sellers will turn up an array of jewelry, handbags, wraps, ties and tie pins, cufflinks, cigarette cases and other accessories that will add ancient flair to your ensemble.




Grand Tour Couture
If hieroglyphs and serpents aren't your style, simply go with classic attire that might have been worn by visitors stopping in Egypt as part of The Grand Tour. Formal evening dress of that era was de rigour from the ballrooms of Cairo's finest hotels to the dining rooms of the Dahabiyas transporting travelers along the Nile.






See more examples of Egyptian Revival fashion, architecture and decorative arts from the 18th century to today on Pinterest at: @EgyptomaniacSF.

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