Glimmer and Glamour
Sparkle, shine and lengths of beaded fringe lend themselves to moving image and moving bodies. The end of the silent film heyday in the late 1920s saw dramatically different fashions: a tubular silhouette, shorter skirts, fewer layers of fabric, and much more decorative detailing using rhinestones, gems, embroidery and beads of glass, silver, jet and gun metal. The two dresses featured here are both from the mid-1920s and feature exquisite beadwork with set rhinestones in an Art Deco aesthetic.
Irene Castle and Philipsborn’s Catalog
In 1917, at the height of her fame, Irene Castle signed an endorsement contract with
Philipsborn’s, a catalogue company based in Chicago. Specific clothing designs in the catalog
were “Castle Approved.” In 1920 her role changed and she began designing the clothes. “It is
Irene Castle’s ambition to give the greatest number of women in the smaller towns an
opportunity to wear ‘Castle Designed’ styles – whereas, should she associate herself with a large
retail store, the number of women who benefit by her designs would be necessarily very
limited,” explained one advertisement. By working with Philipsborn and Corticelli she cornered
both ends of the apparel market. The Philipsborn line was economically priced, while the
Corticelli dresses sold for much higher. The average cost of an Irene Castle Corticelli Fashions
dress in 1924 was $50 (approximately $690 in 2016 dollars) whereas the Philipsborn dresses sold
for $2.98 (approximately $40 in 2016 dollars). Castle’s professional relationship with
Philipsborn’s lasted until 1922.