Boardwalk Empire was my gateway drug to the 1920s but it was Underbelly Razor; an Australian television series, that really made me fall in love with the styles of the twenties. Although both of these shows are set in the same period, there is a stark contrast in the fashion the characters wear despite the fact that both shows center around underworld figures. I admit that I turn my nose up at Australian television so when I first watched Razor I scoffed at the costumes and wrote the show off for a few years. Critics have panned the wardrobe department of the series as cheap and tacky, but as I later realized – of course the clothing worn by Australians in this period was going to be far less lavish than that or their contemporaries in America.
Whereas America was enjoying an economic boom and period of prosperity during the twenties, Australia was a young country that had lost a massive percentage of it’s countrymen to the Great War and times were tough. This was reflected in the fashion worn by every day people and there was a far lesser degree of decadence in the styles worn and what was available. Therefore of course the wardrobes of the characters in Razor were going to be less luxurious and more grungy with a lived in look. Looking at the historical context made me realize that my snobbery towards the show had been uncalled for.
One of my favorite characters in Razor is brothel entrepreneur Tilly Devine and this outfit is a sort of homage to the stylish underworld queen. Tilly’s wardrobe is the most lavish of the characters in the series as she is one of the few who can afford to drape herself in velvet and silk, with the trademarks of her style being various shades of purple worn with single strand beaded necklaces. I believe this beaded dress would definitely not look out of place hanging in Tilly’s wardrobe, especially as it is quite a luxurious piece covered all over in beading.
As a result of all of the beading it actually is quite a heavy dress to wear and my first impression on trying it on was that it was almost akin to putting on chain mail! So it will amuse you to know that the first time I wore this dress I got caught in a downpour on my way to dinner and was thoroughly drenched to the bone, you can imagine how much heavier that made the dress feel! The main thing about this story though is that I remembered to wrap my head in a scarf so although I was soaked from the neck down, my hair remained unscathed – thank goodness. It was but a small consolation prize as I drank my cocktails while sitting in a puddle of rain water.
Modcloth slip worn under the dress