Holiday Classics: The Art of Present Giving During Art Deco

by Kate

As the festive season slowly heats up and the winter darkness becomes more bearable in the anticipation of the magical event, we find ourselves growing in warmth and holiday optimism. The allure of beautifully adorned shop windows draws us while we contemplate potential gifts for our loved ones. Exploring the art of gifting during Art Deco era when modernity began to take off, showed us that gifting became quite an experience, like never before - mechanization brought creation of intricate and stylish products and catered to a new society that loved to shop and have fun.

The allure of beautifully adorned shop windows

Department stores like Bergdorf Goodman and Saks soared in prominence, while iconic shopping streets worldwide - Fifth Avenue, Piccadilly, Rue de la Paix, Corso in Rome, and the Bund in Shanghai - symbolized global commerce, hosting esteemed local and international brands in vibrant displays of color. Fashion magazines like Vogue, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Gazette du Bon Ton played a pivotal role in shaping their readers’ aesthetics, providing style tips and shoppers’ guides. Christmas editions saw gift suggestions, presented with decorative flair, integrating illustrations and descriptive texts. The spotlight on new evening attire heightened the festive atmosphere, contributing to a joyous atmosphere where everyone was bustling with holiday spirit.

Art Deco movement eclectically borrowed from a range of historical eras, creating a fervor for new stylized goods marked by simple lines, geometric shapes, and elaborate aesthetics. The enduring allure of Art Deco design adds a timeless and elegant touch to holiday celebrations and beyond.

Mastering the art of gift selection

In 1926, Vogue offered a timeless guide to choosing the perfect gift, with tips remaining relevant even today. The cautionary list included items such as "the gosh present" (not in a good way), "the gift that will do" (a little something from the last-minute counter), "the useful gift" (like socks or hoover), "the ostentatious gift" (overly giddy and lush gift, hinting at bribery), "the bromidic gift" (an utterly colorless gift peddled by inept salesmen) and "the puzzling gift" leaving you with questions like what to do with it. The key, according to Vogue, is infusing gifts with divine imagination and a sprinkle of charm “for almost nobody is too old or too practical to like luxury”. Understanding the recipients' tastes and aspirations is essential to get a gift both fitting and charming. A perfect gift, Vogue suggests, shows thoughtful consideration for the person's preferences with a touch of frivolity. Ideally, every Christmas gift should embody this spirit, fitting the recipient like a glove and recognizing the fine shadings of their uniqueness.

Mastering the art of gift selection

Women’s Fantasies

Exploring the realm of gift-giving for women during this era unveils a spotlight on high-quality silk hosiery, showcased in magazines as a luxurious and highly desirable present. Brands like McCallum Silk Hosiery, Phoenix Hosiery, and Corticelli were hyped as best-sellers, offering beautiful materials and craftsmanship. Daytime hues embraced soft tones such as rose beige, rose taupe, blonde, kasha, and mandarine, while evenings saw the emergence of shell, cherub nude, mauve, and light pink. The palette expanded to include lovely greys and browns for monotone ensemble, and sheer gold and silver to match the evening metal brocades and lamés.

Women’s Fantasies

In tandem with these refined hosiery choices, dazzling evening frocks designed by renowned designers like Lucien Lelong, Vionnet, Chanel, Patou, Paquin, Philippe et Gaston, Sally Milgrim, and Barbara Lee took the spotlight. The attire usually featured chiffon or crepe evening dresses of straight silhouettes with cascading and irregular adornments, swooping, drooping lines and curves, circular flounces placed diagonally, and abundant sparkling detailing.

Completing the ensemble were accessories that elevated the overall charm - jazzed-up shoes with cutouts and instep strap, furs like white ermine wraps or a fox scarf, and beaded jewelry.

Silk underthings and négligées paired with mules, like those made of soft baby leopard hair, added exotic touches. Luxurious perfumes such as Guerlain, Caron La Nuit de Noël, Coty, Chanel No 5, and notably extravagant Ybry packaged in a beautiful emerald-green cube, were all the rage. Noteworthy Christmas gifts included bags like alligator calf and natural calf bags for the day, and beaded bags for evenings. The selection at Marcus and Black, Starr & Frost showcased jewelry, while gloves and cloche hats like the one in shaved taupé velvet, with velvety wavy stripes on a satin-like background, added an elegant finishing touch.

What to Give to a Man

For those thinking “I never know what to give a man.”, Vogue has anticipated your concern, offering a range of cool and thoughtful suggestions that simplify decisions and provide trustworthy recommendations. Acknowledging that men, like women, appreciate variety in their wardrobe and lifestyle, adverts suggest fantastically printed custom shirts in gay color combinations, with floral prints and distinctive geometric designs.

 What to Give to a Man

The smart man's attire sees the rise of black ties for streetwear, pairing well against various color combinations in suits, shirts, and socks. Slip-on gloves with a gauntlet, eliminating buttons at the wrist, have become a popular choice for the fashionable man.

The well-dressed man is envisioned in a plain three-button jacket, taupe-colored flannel shirt, soft wool sweater, taupe stockings, and black shoes.

For winter sports enthusiasts, a comprehensive Winter Sport Kit is suggested, including skating boots, stockings, sweaters, flannel shirts, warm gloves, mufflers, and more. Other winterwear essentials like heavy mocha slip-on sheepskin gloves, racoon skin cap, black boots are deemed smart choices for the season.

Additional accessories include a small red Moroccan cigarette case, sheepskin slippers with natural fleece lining, golf accessories, suspenders for cuffless trousers, and cuff buttons. Vanity Fair of 1925 recommends gifts that every well-dressed man would truly appreciate, sourced from renowned locations like Bond Street in London, Avenue de l'Opera in Paris, and Scottish looms, covering items such as neckwear, scarfs, dressing gowns, and more, expertly curated by prominent department stores.

Other Gift Ideas

Beyond conventional options, the spectrum of gift suggestions extends to cruise trips, ingenious trifles, a brand-new motor car, a pedigreed dog reminiscent of a Chinese mandarin. Engaging media in the form of books and entertaining games, such as the mahogany poker rack and set, and chess set with its beautiful purple and white enamelled chessmen, accompanied by a board inlaid with dark and light hardwood.

 Other Gift Ideas

Final Thoughts

As we reflect on gift-giving traditions of the 1920s, we can see that they are not very different from the magic of today’s holiday atmosphere. The meticulous guidelines offered by Vogue in 1926 resonate across decades, reminding us to infuse our gifts with forethought and gold dust. The curated ensembles for women, men, and the wider range of gifts reflect an era that celebrated individuality, opulence, and pleasure.

So, as we embrace the holiday spirit and embark on the quest of that perfect gift, let’s elevate the experience by drawing inspiration from the Roaring Twenties, opting for truly lavish festivities.

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