Cocktail Couture

My friend Ashley recently sent me a link to an NPR piece on Cocktail Couture, an exhibit currently showing at the Rhode Island School of Design. I’m not close enough to make a visit out to see the exhibit, but after listening to the short NPR piece about the exhibit and what inspired it, I’m jealous of anyone who gets to go!

I’ve been hearing more and more about the relationship between the Prohibition era in America and its influence on women’s fashion, and I think it’s fascinating. The idea is that before Prohibition, men and women would socialize separately, with women retiring to sitting rooms to enjoy tea and delicate conversation, while men could head to a smoking room to drink brandy and light cigars. With Prohibition, suddenly the sexes socialized together in underground speakeasies, and once the Prohibition Act was repealed, cocktail culture remained, and in fact, flourished (be sure to listen to the NPR piece for more details on this!). It’s also amazing to think that it was the terrible quality of homemade Prohibition era alcohols that spurred Americans to create the mixed drink — they needed the mixers to cover up the awful taste of the bathtub gin!

Lately with shows like Mad Men and the resurgent interest in early to mid-20th century American culture, I have been so inspired by pieces and exhibits like this. I go back and forth between which decade was my favorite, because they all really have something interesting and fabulous to offer. Do you have a favorite era or time period that inspires you? Are you partial to the sparkling, short hemlines of the 1920s flapper dresses? The full, flowing cocktail dresses of the 40s? Or the elegant, ladylike glamour of the 60s?

“The Cocktail Couture exhibit is as much about attitude as anything else. Are we so very different today? Even as economic times grow harder, we long for style.”

{Image Credits: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16}

Leave a Comment


  1. 6.27.11

    Oh definitely will have to take a listen! I don’t really have a favorite decade, but I am super excited for the Banana and Janie Bryant collaboration this fall!!

  2. 6.28.11

    I live close enough to visit! I need to make it down there to see it!

  3. 7.14.11

    Wow — those DRESSES! I’d give just about anything to live in an era that dressed like that.

    I realize vintage is cool right now, but there’s just something about a simple time and the constant sense of style that accompanied it…

    BEAUTIFUL!!! :)

    • 7.14.11
      Laura4NYC said:

      Is it “in” to comment on every fp post every single day?!

  4. 7.14.11

    Can’t say I’d wear half those dresses, but I’d wear those shoes in a heartbeat. Thanks for posting!

  5. 7.14.11

    These are fantastic! I’d done some research on how the war and prohibition affected fashion – never knew it had such an effect on cocktail culture. Definitely would love to see the exhibition.

  6. 7.14.11

    I don’t know about the dresses, but I want that shaker!

    • 7.14.11

      Isn’t it amazing? It’s supposed to emulate a city skyscraper.

  7. 7.14.11
    Abby said:

    I actually went to this exhibition because I live in RI! Some of those dresses that were on display are some that I would wear! Sort of Audrey Hepburnish. It was a great exhibit.

  8. 7.14.11

    I love dresses from the 1920s but they’re not very wearable. I recently saw the Capucci show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and it was well worth it.

    I hope the music at this show is my favorite cocktail tune, “Something Cool”:

  9. 7.14.11
    Vannerz said:

    Those shoes are gorgeous! And I love these dresses.

  10. 7.14.11

    I love the show called Boardwalk Empire and how the women dressed in the era – the underclothing looks amazing as well as that most women wore dresses – need to bring the dress back in a big way! Thanks for sharing – great post. Love the photos, especially the 1st photo. Congrats on being FP!

  11. 7.14.11

    Stunning. I’ve always though I was born80 years too late. I’d have loved occktails in the 20’s or 30’2. But I don’t think it would have been a good time to be poor.

  12. 7.14.11


  13. 7.14.11

    This exhibit looks great, fortunately I live within reasonable distance to it. Boardwalk Empire got me REALLY super hardcore into 1920’s fashion, it seems like we’ve gotten so casual with our frumpy happy hours, we don’t rock an uber-chic aperitivo anymore.

    • 7.14.11

      Same with travel. What if people still got dressed up for flights and it was still
      super glamorous??

  14. 7.14.11

    Certainly , I have listenned to the link you suggested to us.
    It is said that some changes need to be made in order to let things stay still. Likewise it happens in other stages of life,fashion is another field that makes progress whenever difficulties are occurring. I consider this post really interesting. Congrats

  15. 7.14.11
    sarahnsh said:

    I really think it was a really fascinating age and time with the 20’s too. Some of the clothes are just so fabulous, though I could never pull it off myself!

  16. 7.14.11

    What a great topic! The collection is beautiful. I will definitely listen to the piece, there is something about the 1920s that gets me every time in movies. I think its because it was one of the times women showed their sexuality and sassiness.

    -Bianca at

  17. 7.14.11
    Jenny said:


    The twentieth century certainly had style. I, too, love 20s/30s fashion and decor. But, I also adore the hats and shoes of the 40s, the a-line skirts of the 50s, the textures of the 60s…

  18. 7.14.11

    What a lovely post! (Thank you FP for cluing me in to your blog! ♥)

    On a day to day basis, I’m a 50s/60s housewife kind of gal, I love the nipped waists and fluffy huge skirts…but I love fashion from just about any era – the Victorians, Rococo, the 20s, the 40s…I think fashion is such an interesting and beautiful expression of each era and culture, and (frankly) I wish I could dress in “costume” every day!! ♥

  19. 7.14.11

    love those pictures! the long green dress with orange detail is phenomenal. thanks for sharing!

    • 7.14.11

      I read (maybe heard?) in one of the articles that it’s supposed to represent an
      olive and pimiento…the perfect martini garnish. So awesome!

  20. 7.14.11

    What I think is fascinating is that history often runs in tandem with fashion. What we are seeing recycled is in fact a form of politics. And the current state of the country mental health and delusionary reactionism. Which is not to take away from the beauty of a previous era but goes to show that people will still wrap themselves in delusionjs when the harshness of the present is too much to comprehend or to bear.

  21. 7.14.11

    I love this! I’ve always been fascinated with women’s clothing, as was Alfred Hitchcock, which is one reason why I thoroughly enjoy his movies. There are other reasons why his movies are amazing, but of course, I should make notable mention of Grace Kelly in Rear Window. The woman was absolutely stunning and quite frankly, if I were to model my wardrobe off any woman or time period not of my own (25) I’d follow her in a heart beat! Though, I do love cocktail dresses and I do love dressing up :)
    Great post!

  22. 7.14.11

    those dresses are fabulous!!!!

    my blog:
    faith journal:

  23. 7.14.11

    Interesting history and exhibit. I’m not really partial to any time period at this point, so I take what I like from all of them.

  24. 7.14.11

    I have to say, I am a huge fan of the cocktail dress!

  25. 7.14.11
    Jonathan said:

    This article inspires me.
    Feel the vibe.

  26. 7.14.11

    I don’t have a favorite era that I subscribe to. But I love that red party gown :)

  27. 7.14.11
    lad3r said:

    I love the 20’s and 30’s the jazz era, sometimes i feel as tho i was born in the wrong decade with the music and the sophistication of he clothes the woman wore… i really enjoyed your article…

  28. 7.14.11
    Kara said:

    Wow!!! I love these, so much. Too bad I’m not in Providence anymore for the summer!! Gr, I’d love to go to the exhibit. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

  29. 7.14.11
    foodyrach said:

    This is all very interesting. I’m about to listen to the NPR piece. I personally like to borrow from all of the 20s, 40s, and 50s. Beautiful dresses in the post, as well.

  30. 7.14.11
    newsy1 said:

    I particularly like the 1950’s the whole era, the clothes, movies, decor and even TV, was I think, very classy. Terrific photos and idea.

  31. 7.14.11

    My wife would really like if wearing this outfit

  32. 7.15.11

    These are fantastic

  33. 7.15.11

    Wow! Simple and stylish :)

  34. 7.15.11


  35. 7.15.11

    OMG Amazing collection, my wife would kill to buy these.

  36. 7.15.11

    those are such cute dresses i loooove the blue at the bottom

  37. 7.15.11
    Joanna said:

    I love those dresses. They’re so pretty and generally elegant.

  38. 7.17.11

    All of those dresses are beautiful! Especially the cream one on the right end, row 4!
    If I could have been growing up in any other era, it would have to be the 60’s.
    I love the whole 60’s fashion.

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed by the way – lovely post (:

  39. 7.18.11
    wiibii said:


  40. 8.10.11

    Beautiful blog post x