The exciting, novel fashions of Sonia Delauney, a member of the avant-garde movement in Paris in the early twentieth century, heralded the advent of a radically new concept in clothing design. Like many champions of Modernism, Sonia Delauney believed that art should be used to redecorate modern life, and that design should be truly artistic. By applying the bright colours of the peasant costumes from her native Russia to the elegant silhouettes that were currently in vogue in Paris, she translated theory into practice and produced a stunning series of clothes for the Jazz Age. Like the contemporary Orphist paintings created by her husband Robert, Sonia Delauney's designs are characterised by their vibrant colours and sharply patterned geometric collages. They were worn by starlets Gloria Swanson and Gaby; her imaginative theatre costumes were commissioned by another great advocate of Modernism, Diaghilev, for the Bullet Russes. Indeed, Sonia Delauney's clothing, as exalted in the poetry of Tristan Tzara and Guillaume Apollinaire, epitomised the spirit of the new age.
Elizabeth Morano is an Associate Editor at the New York Review of Books, and also works in the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of art in New York. Diana Vreeland, a leading authority in the international fashion and design world, is Special Consultant to the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.