MASTERS OF ART,
MISTRESSES OF MONEY
LONG-ESTABLISHED SOCIAL STRUCTURES that had tottered during the First World War finally collapsed in its aftermath. Largely thanks to war work, women had achieved an unprecedented level of independence and fashion rapidly evolved into the fluid, simple shapes that suited the way women now wanted to live their lives. Layers of restrictive clothing were peeled away, along with the layers of restrictive practices against women, the most objectionable of which was refusing them the right to vote which ended, in America at least, in 1920. Women in England had to wait until 1928 until they could vote equally with men, but freedom in fashion, with the elimination of corsets and petticoats, and finally servant-starched blouses, long skirts and buttoned boots, had long been achieved.
There was however one layer they added willingly – make-up. Cosmetics were perfectly positioned to capture the mood of women hungry for change. The face they displayed, carefully made-up, blushed and powdered, was a pleasurable way of signalling their newly gained personal freedom. The 1920s is probably the time in the twentieth century that women had the most unfettered fun.
Elizabeth and Tommy travelled to Europe in 1920, partly on belated honeymoon (although her sister Gladys travelled with them), but more significantly, to investigate competition and scout locations. In London, without hesitation, she chose Bond Street. Lobbying the stores to buy her product was unsuccessful, with the exception of Harrods, where a small order was placed. It wasn’t actually that order that launched Arden into Britain, but rather the man who placed it, Edward ‘Teddy’ Haslam, a trained