The Gilded Age, the term for the period of economic boom which began after the American Civil War and ended at the turn of the century was applied to the era by historians in the 1920s, who took the term from one of Mark Twain's lesser-known novels, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873). The book (co-written with Charles Dudley Warner) satirized the promised "golden age" after the Civil War, portrayed as an era of serious social problems masked by a thin gold gilding of economic expansion. In the 1920s and 1930s the metaphor "Gilded Age" began to be applied to a designated period in American history. The term was adopted by literary and cultural critics as well as historians, including Van Wyck Brooks, Lewis Mumford, Charles Austin Beard, Mary Ritter Beard, Vernon Louis Parrington, and Matthew Josephson. For them, Gilded Age was a pejorative term for a time of materialistic excesses combined with extreme poverty.
I know what you're thinking: Megan gets higher billing than Peggy, than Joan?! Quel scandale! Yet if the thesis of Matthew Weiner's series is that people never change, this certified look queen reminds us that fashions always do. Her Quebecois heritage draws in influences from the French New Wave, and nowhere is that more evident than in the eye-popping fruit print she whips out on her and Don's trip to Hawaii. The whimsy of Lisa Says Gah's Pia mini dress ($159) makes it the perfect modern-day counterpart, an equally hip take on your trip to the farmers' market.
I won't spoil who Stan ends up with in the finale, but like all good rom-com suitors, Stan starts off as the dude you love to hate. He may not even win you over by Season 7, but there's no denying he can rock some earth tones. A sharp counterpoint to the suit-and-tie crowd, Stan represents the changing tide of men's fashion, especially as the show inches towards the '70s. We have a feeling the corduroy work jacket ($165) from Alex Mill would get the Rizzo seal of approval -- it certainly has ours -- with a Stag Provisions leather bolo tie ($58) as the icing on the cake.
The year 1920 also marked the start of the Prohibition era and the rise of nightclubs, speakeasies, and notorious gangsters like Al Capone. All in all, there was a huge shift from previous decades, not just in society but in fashion. The Roaring 20s dress brought about iconic and timeless styles, many of which helped shape those that exist today.
The circus, with its wild animals, daring performers and sideshow freaks, was popular with all. Since the first-classcircuses could be staged only in or near large cities, railroads ran special excursions to bringthe country people intotown, where many of them camped out. The golden age of the circus followed the 1881 merger by Phineas T. Barnum, thenation's best-known showman, and James A. Bailey, of their two circuses. Their tent was the largest canvas-covered areain the world; they boasted of sixty elephants; and the street parade which preceded the performance had small boysbeside themselves with anticipation. Barnum's greatest coup was the purchase of jumbo, billed as the world's largestelephant, from a zoo in London in 1882. Jumbo was twelve-feet high and weighed about six tons.
Looking forward to the four-hundredth anniversary of the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus, Congressin 1890 authorized a fair, officially known as the World's Columbian Exposition, but soon more popularly called theChicago World's Fair because that growing inland city, far from any imaginable connection with Columbus, was the chosensite. All the nation's leading architects and designers joined in planning and building the "White City" of '50buildings that arose on more than 600 acres along the shore of Lake Michigan. Mostly neoclassical in style, theglistening buildings were somewhat reminiscent of imperial Rome, except for Louis Sullivan's Transportation buildingwith its different style and great golden door. More than 7,000 workmen labored on the Fair, but it did not open untilMay, 1893, some months after the anniversary of the event it celebrated. It stayed open until November and drew morethan 27,000,000 visitors.
The material and the fit set apart suit fashion from that time period. Before, suits were heavy, uncomfortable things from fabrics that were expensive and difficult to clean. Although suits now are far more comfortable than those of the 20s, the suits from that decade were a huge improvement in terms of material and fit.
Aside from hats, which were required in fashion, other accessories included suspenders in brighter colors, and around this time waist belts became more popular. As pants slimmed, men preferred these belts to hold them in place. 781b155fdc